Obama Cabinet’s Limited Private Experience

Nick Schultz points us to this interesting graphic on the private sector experience of presidential cabinets:

Obama Cabinet Private Experience vs. Other PresidentsThe 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.”

If this is accurate, it is indeed truly “remarkable.” Schultz notes that “public sector employment has ranged since the 1950s at between 15 percent and 19 percent of the population,” so this isn’t the explanation. Yes, Democratic presidents have tended toward people with public sector backgrounds — for reasons perfectly understandable given their ideology — but only by a somewhat higher margin than Republicans.

But it’s almost incomprehensible that 90 percent of Obama’s administration would have no private sector experience. What in the world have they been doing the last eight years, when they presumably weren’t in appointed positions?

Katherine Mangu-Ward offers a plausible explanation: “Part of the reason for the dramatic dip could be Obama’s “no revolving door” policy. The new rules aim to keep lobbyists out of his government but may wind up functioning as a screen for all manner of folks with private sector experience on the CVs.”

Story link via memeorandum.

Full disclosure: I published, and was paid for, a goodly number of pieces at Tech Central Station/TCS Daily when Nick was editor.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. mrgone says:

    Well, it’s not as if the “private sector experience” has proven itself so valuable. Keep in mind that Rumsfeld had a boat load of this so called experience.

  2. Pete says:

    How reassuring that some nit wit would posit a single anecdote to refute overwhelming evidence. I also don’t consider Wall Street experience to be preferred private sector experience as that game is played in private consultation with government.

  3. JKB says:

    Well, just when would Obama have met associates who made a living off something other than government salary or grant? Okay, he probably met some but to the community organizer there called marks or targets.

    We definitely know he’s not been associated with individuals who ate or starved by the vagaries of the market like small business people do.

  4. G.A.Phillips says:

    We definitely know he’s not been associated with individuals who ate or starved by the vagaries of the market like small business people do.

    Nope, he has surrounded himself with the eaters, starver’s, and the vagaries.

    But only to expose their worthlessness and then run them over with a bus so they can do no more harm.

    I’m starting to think that he and Glen Beck are working together and had this planned all along. You know, to once and for all weed out what is wrong with America, and bring true hope and change buy showing us knowing that we would not listen.

    Why else would you make a racist idiot moron who pretty much called you the first intelligent,hygienic,and educated ***** this country has ever known your V.P..

    And then hire every half *** communist and tree huger we have have in this country to expose them to the light of day like so many roaches, and run them over with a giant can of Raid that has many,many truck tires on it.

    And then when they crawl back to the crumb whole they came from all broken bodied and leaking yellow pus, Beck runs them over again.

    Our new president is smart:)

  5. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Not hard to check that the “stats” aren’t true. All the “counted” Cabinet secretaries except for Vilsack and Solis had careers in the private sector (most as lawyers at private firms, but also a scientist at a private lab, a teacher at a private school, nonprofit heads, etc.).

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Considering that, off the top of my head, I can think of the private sector experience of over 50% of the current cabinet, I’m inclined to disbelieve this chart.

  7. Mithras says:

    Um, yeah.