A fascinating chart, said to be from a JP Morgan research report, breaks down the percentage of presidential cabinet members who had experience in the private sector, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt’s administration in 1900 up to the Obama administration today. As is expected, presidents do not know everything. Therefore, they surround themselves with advisors to whom they can turn for advice on everything from defense issues to how to keep the economy humming. According to The Enterprise Blog, the chart includes … secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy, and Housing & Urban Development, and excludes Postmaster General, Navy, War, Health, Education & Welfare, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security – 432 cabinet members in all.
As you can see, since 1900, John F. Kennedy had the lowest percentage, coming in between 25 and 30 percent – until today, with the Obama administration not even hitting 10 percent. What does this tell us?
Kenneth Anderson, writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, notes that it is not clear whether the Defense Secretary is included in this accounting, nor can we be sure what constitutes private sector experience.
Yet with our economy in a tail spin, it’s fascinating to note the extremely small percentage of private sector advisors surrounding President Obama. Obama himself has no private experience either, unless there is some burger flipping in his past we don’t know about. He went from college to law school, to community organizing, to the state senate, to the national senate, to the White House. In one sense, people who have spent their entire careers either in academia or government sectors don’t have to live in the “real world.” Protected by tenure once they get through the probationary period, it doesn’t matter if their ideas don’t always pan out or if their work is sub-par. They still get paid, they still receive scheduled bonuses, and when they retire, they receive the pensions they were promised. They may have lots of great ideas, but whether or not those ideas actually work is another story.
Think of the DMV: despite employees who provide poor service with poor attitudes, they are there until the pension kicks in. The upset customer is merely a blip in their existence, nothing to get too worried about.
Not so in the private sector (not counting unionized labor). Thomas Sowell notes, “people…are paid for productivity.” If you don’t produce, you aren’t kept on the payroll. This applies to the “lowly” cashier as well as to the corporate CEO.
Let us not forget that politicians are not trying to solve our problems, but theirs: “of which getting elected and re-elected are No. 1 and No. 2. Whatever is No. 3 is far behind.”
Sowell also notes that a result of tenure at universities is that “the faculty can run the university for its own best interests, regardless of what that does to students.” If business owners completely disregarded the needs and wants of their customers, they would soon be out of business. Does it not then make sense that academics who make the move to government see government as a playground for their ideas and policies regardless of what that does for the citizen and taxpayer? Not to mention that in the world of academia, failed hypotheses and ideas have little impact on real life. But those same hypotheses applied to the general public have very real consequences.
Are these the kind of people we want overpopulating high positions in government?