I’ve cited the work, ideas, and opinions of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber on the blog. So have a lot of other folks like Ezra Klein, Merrill Goozner, and Jonathan Cohn. And why not? Gruber’s a sharp guy and he has made some really strong arguments in support of health reform. However, now that it’s been made public knowledge that Gruber has a $300,000 contract to work for the Obama administration, many people–especially health reform opponents–are up in arms.
While I don’t think it’s surprising that an academic is receiving government funding–heck, the federal government is funding my pre-doctoral fellowship as I write–Gruber probably should’ve been a little more upfront about things. It’s not that the contract has influenced what he’s been saying, it’s that any time there’s the perception of a conflict of interest, that’s sufficient for being called into question.
Klein and Cohn vow to mention Gruber’s contract status in all future references to the man. I don’t. This is my acknowledgment that Gruber is an academic who is partially funded by the federal government. It’s also my acknowledgment that I am an academic who is partially funded by the federal government. Believe me when I say that they aren’t paying me nearly enough to change my personal opinion on anything.