Still catching up from the holidays…
Nick Schulz at the American Enterprise Institute’s blog presents this graph:
I don’t think it will shock anyone that the top people in Democratic administrations tend to have less private-sector experience than their GOP counterparts. Yet the previous low-water mark for private-sector experience since 1900, the JFK administration, was still three times higher than the Obama Cabinet’s level.
Here’s what makes this background information about the Obama team even more interesting:
As Schulz notes, “public sector employment has ranged since the 1950s at between 15 percent and 19 percent of the population,” yet the Obama Cabinet got more than 90 percent of its prior experience in this relatively thin slice of America. So, the current Cabinet largely lacks a practical understanding of the country and companies which it now regulates — understanding that might come in handy now that our government is more enmeshed than ever with banks and auto makers, and is pushing for radically different rules for energy and health-care producers and consumers.
And I think it means more than just that. If the members of the Cabinet have gotten more than 90 percent of their experience from a sector that makes up less than 20 percent of the work force, they represent a relatively small pool of people. These are people who have been working with one another, and others who are like-minded and have had similar experiences, for the vast majority of their careers. They almost have to have a very narrow perspective on the world. Despite the early talk about the Obama Cabinet mimicking Lincoln’s “team of rivals,” they are far less likely to challenge each other’s ideas outside of a fairly narrow frame of thinking than if they had a broader range of experience. They may be political rivals, but that’s the extent of it.
Does this narrowness of experience and understanding outside the Beltway explain why the administration has displayed a tin ear so many times in these first 10 months?