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Newly surfaced documents show that the White House quietly placed 20 social and behavioral experts on the federal government’s payroll in an effort to find ways to make Americans more likely to sign up for government programs.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2015 demanding that federal agency directors find ways to use behavioral science to better sell government programs to the public.
The government contracted “20 leading social and behavioral research experts” and carried out “more than 75 agency collaborations” with the newly formed Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) to find ways to better sell federal programs to Americans.
Judicial Watch, which obtained information about the program via the Freedom of Information Act, reported:
A memo sent from SBST chair Maya Shankar, a neuroscientist, to OSTP Director John Holdren offers agencies guidance and information about available government support for using behavioral insights to improve federal forms. Sent electronically, the memo is titled “Behavioral Science Insights and Federal Forms.”
The records, obtained from the OSTP under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), also include a delivery by Holdren in which he insists that the social and behavioral sciences “are real science, with immensely valuable practical applications—the views of a few members of Congress to the contrary notwithstanding—and that these sciences abundantly warrant continuing support in the Federal science and technology budget.” Holdren, a Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate is a peculiar character who worked as an environmental professor at Harvard and the University of California Berkeley before becoming Obama’s science advisor. In the late 70s he co-authored a book with doomsayer Paul Ehrlich advocating for mandatory sterilization of the American people and forced abortions in order to depopulate the country. A head of the OSTP Holdren technically oversees the SBST.
Despite the FOIA request, there’s still much Americans don’t know about the administration’s secretive efforts to make federal programs more appealing and signing up easier.
That’s because the Obama White House withheld more than 100 pages of information on the program, saying it was exempt from having to provide the information under deliberative process. Deliberative process privilege is an often-abused transparency loophole which allows government officials to discuss policy without having to make the discussions public.