Paul Krugman took a strange swipe at Glenn Greenwald when Glenn wrote tangentially about the Gruber disclosure brouhaha. Glenn's response is a winner:

Nobody suggests that there's anything wrong with hiring Gruber to perform modeling analyses and paying him to do so. That's all perfectly appropriate; I'm all in favor of the Government's retaining genuine experts (as Gruber is) for analysis. Nor has anyone claimed that Gruber changed his views because of these payments. The issue is the non-disclosure, and -- most serious of all -- the misleading attempts by the White House and others to depict him as being "objective" and independent rather than disclosing that he was being paid a significant amount of money by the very party whose interests his advocacy was advancing[.]

I can not believe anyone disagrees with Glenn's point here. Krugman seems to be flailing here. Note, as someone accused of not disclosing conflicts of interest in the past, I am pretty averse to these types of charges. But Gruber's failure to disclose in this instance seems pretty direct. He should have disclosed.

Speaking for me only

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    One gets the sense that ... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Robot Porter on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 10:38:11 AM EST
    Krugman somehow views credible economists as being immune from conflicts of interest.

    And one wonders if Gruber had come from a different academic discipline would Krugman have bent over backwards to defend him?

    I agree with Krugman that this isn't a huge scandal.  But to say there was merely "insufficient care about disclosure" is rather silly.  What does that even mean?

    This story seems to have gotten Krugman's professional hackles up.  And I think he should have thought twice before hitting the "publish" button on that blog post.  In the long run, he would have been better off just ignoring Greenwald's comments.  

    Wonder what Krugman does and (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 11:31:11 AM EST
    does not disclose.

    I just read Greenwald's piece, and I'm actually (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 08:44:42 AM EST
    not sure this is so obvious. I agree that it would be nice to know, as an informed person, who is getting paid by whom. But here's the sentence I'd like to see completed: "if we had know he was getting paid by the White House, __________."

    It is quite obvious to me (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 08:48:30 AM EST
    In essence, he was defending a plan he was paid to, in some part, shape.

    He was anything but independent.

    As I wrote before, in these cases, people generally get hired because of WHAT they believe, not to adopt beliefs that are not there own. But that is significant too.

    Sunshine is the best policy.

    Let the people know.

    That said, I have always said argument rise or fall on their own merits. However, in areas of arcane expertise especially, the more disclosure the better. It is an area where people appeal to authority more than any other.



    Especially as (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by jbindc on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 09:50:24 AM EST
    Obama specifically campaigned on "bringing transparency" to not only this health care bill, but to how things were going to be run in general. See also Obama's promise to "change the way things in Washington get done."

    Your last paragraph is the problem I'm stuck on (none / 0) (#5)
    by andgarden on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 09:14:01 AM EST
    I am not a healthcare economics expert, but if I were, would knowing that Gruber was getting paid by the WH for his work give me more or less reason to accept his claims? I think not. Indeed, it seems like the other experts in the field who could have questioned his claims already knew that he was paid.

    As a non-expert, I agree that disclosure of this sort might be a good shortcut to skepticism, but we should always be skeptical, right?


    You're not an economics expert (none / 0) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 09:36:35 AM EST
    Most people are not.

    That is the point.


    But if the people who are (none / 0) (#8)
    by andgarden on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 09:39:08 AM EST
    see wrong information and don't say anything, what am I supposed to do? I agree that disclosure is desirable, but I don't see it as a means to any particular end.

    And to complete your sentence (none / 0) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 08:49:42 AM EST
    If I had known he was being paid by the White House, I would have looked more skeptically at his pronouncements.

    This is obvious don't you think?


    why, yes it is. (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 09:08:08 AM EST
    This is obvious don't you think?

    and also the reason for the non-disclosure. it was not simply an oversight, it was, i believe, intentional, for the very reason you stated.

    Yes, the non-disclosure draws (none / 0) (#9)
    by KeysDan on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 09:40:30 AM EST
    the cloak of indisputable authority around an argument that is, in fact, disputable.  Fixing the facts around the a priori hypothesis that forcing employers to cut benefits will lead to cheaper, better care as well as the suggestion that insurance premium reductions will be passed on (l:l) is hardly a slam dunk.  Even in today's NYT editorial supporting the Cadillac Plans, "a vast majority of economists" and "eminent economists" are cited perpetuating, the Rand "gold standard" of Jonathan Gruber.  In fairness to the NYT they do add a side bar to the effect that there is "some risk, nobody knows how large", that higher deductibles and co-pays would discourage some people from seeking needed care.  But a monitoring system, they continue, should be set up to check on this experiment. The dangers would seem to suggest that this is upside down, but, no, we will go with a different set of theories.

    I thought they were smarter (none / 0) (#6)
    by mmc9431 on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 09:35:54 AM EST
    It was a dumb decision. There was nothing to gain by holding the info back and everything to lose... Credibility.

    This is an administration that held the Bush administration to fault for their secrecy throughout the campaign. We were assured the we were going to have an "open" administration. This gives the impression (whether true or not) that they cooked the books.

    Krugman's not accepting comment on that post... (none / 0) (#10)
    by NealB on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 09:49:20 AM EST
    ...either. It's been up since yesterday, and there are still no comments. Flailing is kind, and it looks like Krugman knows it.

    Professor Krugman's (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by KeysDan on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 10:03:31 AM EST
    voice is one to be listened to and respected, but, on this issue, he is unrelenting and unpersuasive.  He is clearly on the Gruber team on this one, and it is  a curiosity--maybe an MIT connection suggests its own disclosure.

    Did Gruber do due disclosure to MIT (none / 0) (#14)
    by Cream City on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 10:11:48 AM EST
    as required?  Is there internal discussion at MIT about his research and whether he adhered to its code?  These are questions whose answers would be interesting to know.  But reporters so rarely try to get to know how research, especially sponsored research and especially federally sponsored research, she is required to be done in reputable academic institutions -- if they want to keep those reputations.

    Your right, and, (none / 0) (#16)
    by KeysDan on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 10:53:36 AM EST
    not only to keep their reputations, but their grants.  Gruber's academic department surely requires disclosure on out-side commitments, unless he was on leave during his highly remunerative public service.  

    It still applies when we are on leave (none / 0) (#18)
    by Cream City on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 12:14:26 PM EST
    as that status means we still are employed by our institutions -- and still in the profession, of course.

    Thanks, you are right. (none / 0) (#19)
    by KeysDan on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 12:34:35 PM EST
    I guess I was thinking that base was covered in the justification request for a leave.

    Understood. We still can get benefits (none / 0) (#20)
    by Cream City on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 01:00:41 PM EST
    for example, if not salary (in an unpaid leave; of course, more common are paid leaves, i.e., sabbaticals).  It may mean paying the employer part of some benefits, such as health insurance, but other benefits still can accrue.

    I don't know if Gruber was on leave.  But again, as MIT notes in its requirements for faculty, federal funding -- as for Gruber -- especially comes with elevated requirements for disclosure, on leave or not, as long as the funds are flowing.


    Their code of ethics applies to both (none / 0) (#12)
    by Cream City on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 10:01:39 AM EST
    Gruber and Krugman -- the AAUP (American Assn. of University Professors) Statement on Professional Ethics.  Gruber did not follow it, and Krugman ought to know it and say so.  Several portions apply, starting with the very start of it:

    Professors, guided by a deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge, recognize the special responsibilities placed upon them. Their primary responsibility to their subject is to seek and to state the truth as they see it. To this end professors devote their energies to developing and improving their scholarly competence. They accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge. They practice intellectual honesty. Although professors may follow subsidiary interests, these interests must never seriously hamper or compromise their freedom of inquiry."

    Of course, another involved in this comes to mind as well -- the "professor" in the White House. . . .