The Corner

Slow News Day

It must be, if the Washington Post is running this story on its front page:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an assortment of national business groups opposed to President Obama’s health-care reform effort are collecting money to finance an economic study that could be used to portray the legislation as a job killer and threat to the nation’s economy, according to an e-mail solicitation from a top Chamber official.

The e-mail, written by the Chamber’s senior health policy manager and obtained by The Washington Post, proposes spending $50,000 to hire a “respected economist” to study the impact of health-care legislation, which is expected to come to the Senate floor this week, would have on jobs and the economy.

Step two, according to the e-mail, appears to assume the outcome of the economic review: “The economist will then circulate a sign-on letter to hundreds of other economists saying that the bill will kill jobs and hurt the economy. We will then be able to use this open letter to produce advertisements, and as a powerful lobbying and grass-roots document.”

This is news, to be sure, since reporters don’t usually get their hands on these emails. But does anyone doubt that groups on both sides of this debate, as in other debates, regularly commission studies that they expect will confirm their point of view? The Economic Policy Institute’s next study on a proposed trade pact is not going to conclude that it will create jobs. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities is not going to be titled “Welfare Recipients Find Budget Cuts Surprisingly Bearable.” You can certainly make an argument that business as usual in Washington is an ongoing scandal. But Michael Shear presents the Chamber’s behavior not as a case study of how policy analysis is frequently done, but as a particular outrage–which it just isn’t.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.