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Who’s In Charge?
04.03.09

Obama team and key Congressional players lack business and financial experience needed to solve country’s economic crisis

By Penny Wise
 
Again, it is very clear that we have an administration that does not understand business, in fact their tone is at odds with much of the business world, and has not learned how to move beyond campaigning and actually learning to manage.
 
The guy gives a hell of a speech, but what has he ever run?
 
                                                                                                -jb
 
With trillions of taxpayer dollars being committed to the bailouts and economic stimulus packages, the comment above (in response to a post by Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic) can easily be applied not only to President Obama and members of his administration, but also to members of Congress.
 
What business experience or financial expertise do the key administration and Congressional players bring to the financial crisis? Not much.
 
·         President Barack Obama is an attorney, law professor, community organizer, and professional legislator with 12 years experience in the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate. The president has no business experience.
 
·         Vice President Joe Biden is an attorney and professional legislator having spent over 36 years in the United States Senate after being elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 29. He has no business experience.
 
·         Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner is a professional bureaucrat, working for the United States government or the International Monetary Fund since 1988. He worked for international consultants Kissinger Associates, Inc. prior to joining the Treasury Department in 1988.
 
·         Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, is an attorney and professional legislator, having been elected to the US House of Representatives in 1974 and the US Senate in 1980. He has no business experience.
 
·         Senator Richard Shelby, the ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, is an attorney and professional legislator, having been elected to the Alabama State Senate in 1970, the US House of Representative in 1978, and the US Senate in 1986. He has no business experience.
 
·         Congressman Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is an attorney and professional legislator, serving 8 years in the Massachusetts House of Representatives before being elected to the US House of Representatives in 1980. He has no business experience.
 
·         Congressman Spencer Bachus, the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, is an attorney, former sawmill owner, and professional legislator, having served one term in the Alabama State Senate, two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives, and now his ninth term in the US House of Representatives. He had experience running a sawmill while he was a trial lawyer.
 
The total business experience of these seven most influential leaders in the current financial crisis consists of a former sawmill owner. This group’s lack of expertise in dealing with complex financial issues has become painfully obvious during their missteps and mishandling of our current economic situation, and in some cases, in their creating situations that led to the crisis. Unfortunately, this group is not alone.
 
A lack of business experience or a financial background is common among elected officials. In the 110th Congress (information is not yet available for the current 111th Congress), law and politics/public service topped the list for Senators, while politics/public service topped the list for Representatives. A total of 58 Senators and 159 Representatives in the 110th Congress were lawyers, 31 Senators and 172 Representatives were in public service/politics, and 39 Senators and 231 Representatives were former state legislators.
 
A total of 26 Senators and 162 Representatives did list their occupations as business, with business experience ranging from carpentry to fruit orchard worker, not especially impressive experience for a group charged with solving our country’s financial woes.
 
On the bright side, first-term Representative Walt Minnick, a Democrat from the 1st Congressional District in Idaho, spent 35 years in business before being elected to Congress. Minnick voted against the stimulus bill saying, “I agree with the need to put money into the system immediately, help people stay in their homes, get the banking system working again and put Americans back to work. But this bill is too much spending with too little investment in the jobs we need right now.” On the AIG bonuses, Minnick said, “It is my hope that this Congress and the administration will learn from this incident and see that we cannot continue to allow private companies to run amok with taxpayer dollars.”
 
Considering the makeup of Congress and the Obama administration, Representative Minnick’s advice will probably be ignored. Commonsense business solutions that will lead to a real recovery without bankrupting America are just not part of the experience of the political leaders in charge of solving the crisis.
 
More than ever, our country needs decision-makers with a financial background that allows them to thoroughly understand the short- and long-term economic ramifications of their actions.
 
 
 

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