No Private Sector Experience Necessary


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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12 Responses

  1. Barry says:

    I’m old enough to remember when pundits praised Bush’s cabinet for having the highest percentage of CEO’s ever/or in a very long time. Perhaps you aren’t.Report

  2. Nob Akimoto says:

    I’m not entirely convinced the selection of agencies represented in the sample is actually a useful barometer of “private sector relevant” areas anyway. For example, why State, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation or Interior? Treasury and Commerce I can see, but even with Energy…what’s good for existing private sector interests isn’t necessarily what’s good for the private sector writ large.Report

  3. Clint says:

    Although this chart only reflects the cabinet, I imagine a similar one with all political appointees would show a very similar disparity. While obviously not the whole explanation (I think a preference for academics over executives accounts for a good percentage), the combination of a lobbying ban and expanded registration requirements significantly affected the availability of private sector talent for the administration. Although there were a few highly publicized deviations from this ban (Bill Lynn as indispensable at DOD), the policy deterred a number of experienced Clinton-era types from pursuing positions, even if they had not been formally registered with the scarlet “L.” It is even more striking that in some of the most of the most business-intensive positions in the upper echelons of the administration- Commerce, USTR- you have a lawyer-turned-career-politician types.Report

  4. Joe says:

    This chart is useless without the definition of “private sector” the creator is using. Does that include non-profits? Think tanks? Academia? Public-private partnerships?Report

    • Will in reply to Joe says:

      Joe –

      Not sure (there’s no link to the original report), but I assume the definition is consistent throughout every Administration. So I think you can use this as a visual comparison if nothing else.Report

  5. AEI should have titled their blog post- When Snark Goes Horribly Wrong.

    As already noted, GWB was touted as having the highest number of CEOs and managed the drive the economy over a fucking cliff and enter into an entirely misguided war. And there is no underlying information about where data even come from or the rationale for selecting these particular Cab Secs.

    Then again, the hacks at AEI are not particularly noted for their intellectual rigor.Report

  6. Kyle says:

    President Bush (43) was the worst and totally discredits private sector experience. Done.

    I mean as compelling as the GWB rejoinder might have been, still his percentages are far, far, far closer to FDR and L. Johnson. Bush (43) is within 10% of every President in the last 100 years except Carter, Kennedy, Hoover, and TR; whereas, the Obama cabinet is within 10% of none and 20% away from the next closest should prove well absolutely nothing.

    Without a correlation to which departments and a clear definition of what counts as private sector experience versus public sector, this chart is useless. Not to mention we’re comparing the first 10 months of the Obama presidency to 108 years of Cabinets…including Warren Harding’s.

    That said, I would presume thinking people could agree that public nor private sector experience are reliable predictors of administrative excellence or failure. The most compelling argument would be for both, experience with the subjects ones department regulates or is tasked to work with as well as experience with the unique work environment that is the executive branch. The proof is in the pudding not the pedigree.Report

  7. Ed Darrell says:

    The chart’s useless without a lot of things. Since Eisenhower, we’ve added several departments: Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Veterans Affairs, Energy. For several of those, private sector experience might not be all that useful. But at energy, we have Steven Chu, who competed successfully in the world of research for many years. There is no tougher competition in any enterprise. Is that counted as private sector, since it’s not necessarily government?

    In any case, this Obama bunch is as talented as any cabinet we’ve had in the past 120 years, maybe since Lincoln. I suppose if one is determined to find something to grouse about, one can find it. Few of them speak French fluently, for example. And there is a bias towards graduates of Ivy League schools. I don’t think any are graduates of community colleges, and I don’t think any of them have ever been plumbers.

    For that matter, few of them are skilled cabinet makers. What is it you think really sticks in the craw of the American Enterprise Institute? Few of them are idiots? None of them have a history of Brown Shirt involvement? None of them have sucked on the sugar teat of the American Enterprise Institute? What?Report

  8. Ed Darrell says:

    I’m not done yet, but with the first three Obama cabinet members I checked — in order of succession — I’ve got 13.5% with prior business experience. . .[later] I’ve found two without business experience about halfway through . . . I think the chart is not an outlier, it’s just a liar.Report