Saturday, December 12, 2009

Business Experience in President Obama's Cabinet

It's Still Too Early to Worry Too Much by Michael Santoli at Barron's (link may require subscription) contains a table that shows the percentage of cabinet appointees with private sector experience going back to 1900. President Obama's cabinet is the lowest at 8%. Next lowest were President Kennedy's at 28%, President Carter's at 31% and President Clinton's and President T. Roosevelt's at 36%. Presidents George W. Bush's was at 53% and President F. D. Roosevelt's was at 50%.

On the surface, the level of business experience in the current cabinet seems to be cause for concern. However, I could argue there isn't much correlation between private sector cabinet experience and economic performance. While the economy faltered under President Carter (31%), the economy prospered under Presidents Kennedy (28%) and Clinton (36%). The economy did well initially under President Bush (53%) and then crashed at the end. Under President F. D. Roosevelt (50%), the economy languished for years, until World War II helped end the Depression. In addition, poor government regulation during the Bush years may have made the economic crisis worse, which would support having more people with primarily public sector experience.

To me, it really doesn't matter what percentage of a cabinet has business experience. In the end, the administration will be judge on results, with economic results being the major factor. At this point, it's still not clear to me on whether this administration will be a positive or negative for the long term economy.

For more on Reflections and Musings, check back every Saturday for a new segment.

This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2009 Achievement Catalyst, LLC


Edwin said...

While I value academic experience over business experience in our government, I would prefer at least some business experience.

I think it would give people a more thorough viewpoint when it comes to the economy.

Super Saver said...


I would also prefer more business experience in the President's cabinet. However, this evidence shows the level of business experience (at least in the range from 28% to 58%) doesn't seem to have much effect on economic results.

Edwin said...

Indeed it's not surprising that it has real significance. I think academic economics has much more impact on economic performance than business experience would. It just gives the economists a more complete viewpoint IMO than if they had none.

Anonymous said...

Edwin..what are you? Twelve? Or is it that you work in your academic ivory tower and are clueless (like 99.9% of university employees)? If those people really knew how to create wealth, they'd do it. Those who can, do...those who can't, teach. Period. If someone hasn't had real world experience, they have no right to teach children how to do ANYTHING. It should be a pre-req that you've worked in the private sector in order to be qualified to teach higer ed. Enough already with the theory.

Edwin said...


Actually I have a bachelors in business marketing and one in economics. I've never actually worked in an academic setting but have been in business for about 5 years.

In my experience (at my university) the professors who are actually good and do the research at schools (note: not the ones who teach the 101 classes, they are generally just grad students or crap professors) actually make an insanely good living.

My favorite marketing professor was making 20mill a year from consulting. Many economics professors do industry based studies.

You need to get out in the world and figure out how it works rather than having an irrational fear of those academics and their ivory towers. They know how the real world works through good scientific process not through listening to pundits and their gut.