"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Thought Experiment on Grubergate

Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online recently offered this observation on what has become known as Grubergate:
In a lot of ways, this spectacle represents not just everything’s that’s wrong with the Obama administration, it’s everything wrong with liberalism and a lot that’s wrong with America itself.  You’ve got this guy who is pretending to be an objective independent analyst, who’s got huge amounts of skin in the game in terms of money he can make off of consulting fees, but also of the prestige being involved and the speeches he could do which haven’t been tallied into these numbers — anyway, it’s millions of dollars – being touted around through a transmission belt of liberal journalists, who all are all pretending to be objective analysts too, quoting each other, reaffirming each other, all with the help of the White House which went along with this soup to nuts – a process which this guy says was all about lies and misleading the American people. And then when caught about it, the same administration tries to dismiss him as if he was just some sort of random White House intruder. The whole thing stinks.

Let's play a thought experiment.  

Imagine there is a University of Chicago economist.   They tend to be somewhat more free market oriented than the Harvard-MIT ilk represented by Gruber.   And imagine there's a Republican President.   A policy is proposed to ratchet back the minimum wage from wherever it ends up at the end of Obama's administration-by-fiat to $5 for teenagers 17 and under who are enrolled full-time in high school.   The policy is touted as a way to permit young people without any skills, particularly poor inner city youths,to gain work experience.   The University of Chicago economist presents "objective" testimony about his studies of the proposal to Congress suggesting that the proposal will have wonderful positive effects on inner city youths.  The President and his Administration make a year-long effort in speeches and other events to "sell" the program to the communities it would affect the most, relatively poor African-American and Hispanic communities in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, New York, St. Louis, Baltimore, D.C., Oakland, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Detroit.   In their speeches they laud the U of C economist's credentials and expertise, arguing that objective economic "science" supports their proposal.  

Imagine it passes.  

Now imagine that the "research" the U of C economist presented was not just wrong, but consciously misleading.   And imagine that, in a light-hearted but revealing moment at an academic conference, he referred to the communities to whom the program was sold as being "stupid" or "ignorant."

Now imagine too that the same U of C economist was secretly being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Republican President's Department of Commerce, and then also getting millions more from private employers (say, McDonalds) who supported the idea because it will allow them much lower labor costs and higher profits.  

Do you think that the media would think that was a news story?  

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