Bill Bonner

And here’s an interesting item that is going around the Internet: If July has ides, this is it.

Ever Had A Job?

A chart that showed past presidents and the percentage of each president’s cabinet appointees who had previously worked in the private sector – you know, a real life business, not a government job? Remember what that is? A private business?

  • Roosevelt – 38%
  • Taft – 40%
  • Wilson – 52%
  • Harding – 49%
  • Coolidge – 48%
  • Hoover – 42%
  • FDR – 50%
  • Truman – 50%
  • Eisenhower – 57%
  • Kennedy – 30%
  • LBJ – 47%
  • Nixon – 53%
  • Ford – 42%
  • Carter – 32%
  • Reagan – 56%
  • GHWB – 51%
  • Clinton – 39%
  • GWB – 55%

And the Chicken Dinner Winner is…………………….

  • Obama – 8%*

This is the guy who wants to tell YOU how to run YOUR life!



And these are the guys holding a “job summit”; going to tell us how to
run our businesses, make our decisions for us? Do you want to trust them
with every aspect of your life?


Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success in numerous industries. His unique writing style, philanthropic undertakings and preservationist activities have been recognized by some of America's most respected authorities. With his friend and colleague Addison Wiggin, he co-founded The Daily Reckoning in 1999, and together they co-wrote the New York Times best-selling books Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. His other works include Mobs, Messiahs and Markets (with Lila Rajiva), Dice Have No Memory, and most recently, Hormegeddon: How Too Much of a Good Thing Leads to Disaster. His most recent project is The Bill Bonner Letter.

  • jason

    I don’t agree with this column–so, let me get this straight–someone who has worked all of their life in a government job gains no experience from it? In the past, the litmus test of presidents was military service; the military is the ultimate government job. And so, professors at state universities, social workers, police officers, judges, doctors at the VA and all of these others don’t have “real jobs?” Just what is a real job? And, all of the people in those occupations that I listed–don’t they gain valuable experience from their unreal jobs? And let’s not forget that the private industry capitalists are the first ones who came to the government with their sad faces to ask for a bailout.

  • Joe

    Jason, the point is working in the private sector gives you a better understanding of earning what you make because you have to sell business or serve clients or make products and compete to keep your job and grow your business. Working in the public sector teaches you nothing of the economy

  • IOU

    Jason, what is it exactly that politicians produce?

  • InvestorsFriend

    Problem is in government and in economics we can’t easily tell who is good.

    In sports it is clear to all who the top runners are, the top golfers, the top basketball players etc.

    As an athelete you just can’t fool others about how good you are. And, perhaps more importantly, you can’t fool yourself.

    In government leadership and in economics you most certainly can fool (most) people into thinking you are good, even great, or the best ever. And you can (always)fool yourself. All of these people are legends in their own simple minds.

    The result is complete idiots running the government and many popular economists as well are complete idiots.

    And certainly 99% of the posters to message boards like this are complete morons (as I am sure some moron will say I am).

    I halt now for a gratuitous compliment…

    Not Bill though, he is a very smart guy, and if nothing else he is damn entertaining.

    Well Bill, give us “more on” this issue tomorrow please.

  • Model T

    “And let’s not forget that the private industry capitalists are the first ones who came to the government with their sad faces to ask for a bailout.”

    And let’s not forget who gave it to them: Politicians and bureaucrats. Not police cops, not firemen, not VA doctors.

  • CommonCents

    Does the tail wag the dog?

  • Fred

    If you don’t want a president like Obama, don’t give us presidents like Bush.

  • jason

    Joe: I agree to a point. But what does the manager of a corporate grocery store learn about the larger economy? What about an assembly line worker in a private factory? Or a waiter/waitress at Chili’s? Sure, if you own a small business you have to be competitive, market yourself and produce a quality product or service that people want.

    IOU: lots of people work for government; only a small number of them are politicians. To answer your question: politicians produce words meant to persuade, obfuscate, confuse and confound. Now what do investment bankers produce?

  • jess

    The other aspect of govt vs private sector jobs: the different view of money. In govt, money isn’t usually limiting-funds can be moved around to make something happen or a deficit can be run. So, if you tell a govie there’s no money to do something, he will likely respond with disbelief and anger. In the private sector, money is more absolute-no money means no bonus, no project, no job. This is our economic reality-most govies don’t seem to understand this.

  • Just Wondering

    Does the chicken dinner come with watermelon?

  • tony bonn

    obama is an egg-headed arrogant f-tard who is not even half as smart as which his severest critics give him credit….

    the 8% number is not surprising given the interminable whining lecturing hectoring admonitions he gives to the little people.

    obama is like a 3d world dictator who has his face plastered over every electron of broadcast space….

  • Lucien Wagner

    Very cheap shot. I was a public employee, a teacher, and worked diligently and caringly all my life. You mean to tell me that the banksters in private business are better and more competent people than government employees. Shame on you for this VERY stupid presumption!.

  • Brad Harris

    Remember when the once candid John McCain capitulated and said “Campaign finance reform is dead”?
    Right about the time the nations balance sheets started to look
    like the job of a crony corporatist hostile takeover with the taxpayers used to finance the entire fraud.

  • Lost & Found

    There is a point you may not have been thinking about. Maybe we are at a crossroads in the economy where the matter of things is such that it may be even better not to have people who had “real” jobs, whatever that is (!), in government as the economy of today does not have a lot to do anymore with thrift, hard work, competition, diligence, etc.
    Another angle of the story is that democrats historically came from the not so wealthy families. They could only rise up to be politicians when they had “jobs” in which they didn’t have much to do, like civil servants and so on, whereas republicans came from welathy families. But that is history. Look what you get, by the way, when a guy from the supposedly private sector becomes president. Just dig into the bio of George W. and you’ll find out that he never really worked either. And he never got a job without his dad letting his connections play.

  • Lost & Found

    And I disagree strongly with the notion that “As an athelete you just can’t fool others about how good you are. And, perhaps more importantly, you can’t fool yourself.”
    Corruption and doping in sports today as corruption and foolishness in politics have both clearly reached a top. When that goes on for some time longer it permeates in depth into the whole society so that in the end it becomes culture. There will be a rude awakening going on forwards from that point if ever reached.

  • GimmeSomeGov

    Why do the extremes come out in these conversations? Politicians, Private industry capitalists how about the lady at the DMV counter or the mobile mechanic for Frito-Lay?

    For those of you defending government workers keep in mind a big difference is in the private sector, historically, if something gets to inefficient it can crumble and new, more agile businesses take their place. In the case of government (or in some cases mega-corps) they can enforce their revenues through jail sentences or fines and change the rules at any point. What _real_ recourse do we have? So 10% of the population is fed up but since we are no longer republic it is about what the masses think. Extend unemployment, robust public employee pensions and benefits…Molly wants more!

    @Lucien, no doubt you did those things but does that mean that most public sector employees have the same appreciation for people and are willing to cut back their benefits and pay when the people cannot afford it at those levels anymore? There are nearly riots by public employees when they can’t get their 100K-in 2M-out pensions anymore. Cut the government workforce by 10%?!? The problem is people in Obama’s cabinet (or most any presidential cabinet for that matter) do not understand financial sacrifice on a large scale. Most government entities have no idea of the law of diminishing returns, there comes a time where it becomes necessary to make really hard decisions.

  • Christian Ferraro

    Please tell me you did research on this and just didn’t forward some BS internet rubbish. I have come to respect your point of view and website please don’t let me down.

  • Harry Tuttle

    By actual count, 10 out of 22 of Obama’s cabinet appointees had private sector jobs. 9 if you don’t count teaching high school. 11 if you do count lobbying, which is private sector but which is basically a public sector job.

  • ducdorleans

    have a look at … as has been read here many times, numbers can hardly be believed … :-)

  • Daniam

    It isn’t whether you have a private or government job that matters it’s how wisely the money collected is managed.To him that has,the more will be given.To him that doesn’t have even what he seems to have will be taken from him.The poor you will have always.The rich you will have always. It is a spiritual law.

  • Bloomer

    Hello Bill, welcome to Vancouver. If I knew your were coming, I would of brought you over some canned salmon. Point taken, on cabinet members being out of touch with business. But does business know what is good for business?
    For years, we have heard how government should deregulate and get out of the way of business. And the result, a huge financial meltdown, oily marshes, soiled beaches, destruction to marine life and the loss of livelihood of residents along the Gulf. Government has an important role to play, which is to serve everyones’ best interest not just the big corporations.

  • Glen L.

    Jason and some others are completely missing the point. Yes, there are plenty of people both in and out of government who are economic ignorami, and a few in both places that are not. There are people that work hard in both the private and public sectors (although most public sector employees have never worked nearly as hard as us in the private sector, I can assure you). The point is that the private sector does not make public policy (it can only hope to influence it, which has its own set of problems), but the public sector most definitely can use the power of taxman and the police to pervert the markets, and they do it all the time.

    The only hope we in the private sector have of protecting our legitimate interests is for the politicians to appoint experienced, successful businessmen to important cabinet and bureaucratic posts. Obama’s cabinet, his plethora of “czars”, and his own words and actions are indisputable evidence of his disdain for capitalism and businessmen in general.

    Government manipulation and gamesmanship inevitably leads to the crony capitalism that some of you are complaining about. Contra Bloomer, the only role that government ever plays is to enrich itself at the expense of everyone else. So, dear government employees out there, you damn well should be working your butts off, just to justify your lifetime employment guarantee, and your bloated tax-eating salaries and benefits. And stop whining when someone like Bill Bonner offers even the mildest of criticisms. Grow up, if you still can.

  • clairesolt

    comparing Clinton to Bush is a little bit deceptive. In fact, Clinton got unemployment so low that businesses ran into problems for hiring ex felons. Therefore, there was no need for Bush to emphasize that as much. Everyone had a job.

    On the other hand, if Clinton had chased Bin Laden instead of Lewinski, our economy could have been spared the cost of 911 and the War on Terror. To be fair, few saw al Queda as the existential threat it turned out to be.

  • jason

    Glen L.: the private sector, specifically big business, makes the public policy. Who got the big bailout? Obama loves big business, make no mistake. Government workers don’t make policy, it is the elected elites of are two party/one party system who do that, based on the money that flows from the big companies.

  • Lost & Found

    Well observed, Jason, well observed.

  • David Taylor

    i was very disappointed that bill didn’t check this out.
    Herewith a (longish) explanation old bean.

    These articles refers to a graph by a chap called Michael Cembalist, a finance guy at JP Morgan who was using a very narrow interpretation of “private sector” experience, and it was meant for a very different purpose. It was a measurement per administration against the experience that he (Cembalist) felt was important in one area – job creation.

    (However, in my opinion the concept of “job creation” is idiotic and impossible. No jobs are “created”, they create themselves through economic activity, and the US has destroyed it’s economic base anyway. Jobs won’t just happen. I really don’t see the point.)

    However, back to the list and the graph. Without the back up story and the interpretation of “private sector” and “job creation” that should have been quoted with it, the Obama bashers, Glenn Beck in particular, pushed it as some sort of “proof” that Obama’s administration is hopeless (again).. They stuck their own spin on it. That’s why there are so many articles. They love it.

    I must admit I was taken aback with it at first as well. l thought a bit more about it and dug into it more because the impression I got from this very simple email (with no other supporting materials or attributed source) was that Obama’s advisors had NEVER had jobs outside Government institutions. I was suspicious of the discrepancy of 8% versus 39% for Clinton. It is too big. Then my baloney detector light went on.

    “Cembalest said that he did discount the corporate experience of the three lawyers we identified — Clinton, Vilsack and Locke — and added that he awarded nothing for Donovan, Chu or Salazar, even though we found they had a fair amount private sector experience. Cembalest acknowledged fault in missing Salazar’s business background, saying he would have given him a full point if he had it to do over again. But he added that the kind of private-sector experiences Chu and Donovan had (managing scientific research and handling community development lending, respectively) did not represent the kind of private-sector business experience he was looking for when doing his study.

    “What I was really trying to get at was some kind of completely, 100 percent subjective assessment of whether or not a person had had enough control of payroll, dealing with shareholders, hiring, firing and risk-taking that they’d be in a position to have had a meaningful seat at the table when the issue being discussed is job creation,” Cembalest said.

    Cembalest said he has “written 250,000 words in research over the last decade, and every single thing I’ve ever done — except this one chart — was empirically based on data from the Federal Reserve” or another official source. “This is the one time I stepped out into making judgment calls, and I assure you I won’t do it again. … The frightening thing about the Internet is that people copy one chart from what you write and then it goes viral. So I’ve learned a lesson here that these kinds of issues are best left addressed by the people who practice them day in and day out.”

    If you just use the top 9 of Obama’s closest team out of the top 22; Shu was head of a big part of AT & T and is a Nobel prize winner, Donovan was MD of Prudential, and Salazar is a farmer who also owns some shops and some radio stations. That’s a third of 9. The next three are lawyers – including Hilary Clinton – with private sector experience as well. Even the Treasury guy Geithner had his own consulting firm earlier (not that that is a recommendation) so if you add him in it gets higher.That’s more than 2 thirds of 9 (more than 70%) and 7 out of 22 is about 30%, a lot more than the graph indicates. So these people do have private sector experience, just not in the area that Cembalist thought relevant. And this is what the Right conveniently ignored to push their own agenda. They are a little economical with the facts.

    When you dig further into it and go to the full 22 members you find more; at least as many than Bush may have had. It all depends on your interpretation of “private sector” and type of experience. That’s why I can say at least 70% – which can stir it up a bit.. And there are other opinions like mine as well.

    Beck has his own barrow to push to keep his ratings up. Beck reported the chart. That’s all he did. He led people to infer from it what they might. And that was wrong, false and misleading. I don’t trust anything he says and haven’t for a long time.
    Actually, for all the so called “private sector” experience the previous lot had they led the US and the world into never ending wars and a huge economic screwup. They were real pricks. I don’t like the apologists for them. And I certainly don’t buy that “private sector” experience should be seen automatically as a qualification for government success. Bush was a farmer and oil man, and his mates were of the same stripe. You can’t get much more business oriented than that in the US.
    I remember that criticism was levelled at Bush and his cronies for actually cheating in the election. Gore most likely actually won it.(Maybe – we’ll never know now.) Obama may have issues about his birth but Bush was accused of cheating the US constitutional process and it was brushed under the table The Right, who say they are supporters of the Constitution and are the real patriots, conveniently ignored what was a blatant assault on the Constitution and never even asked for a proper enquiry! Who is the real cheat between Obama and Bush?

    The real reason, I suspect, for the constant criticsm is that it is racist at the base, they don’t like a black man. Simple. Obama’s mob are at least trying to fix something that is broken with broken tools. This is really dumb but I can’t yet think of any alternative either and it’s really easy to be a critic. I don’t like him much anyway but I will at least try to be a little more objective than Beck, Madsen, and their mates. They are only critics, and it’s not constructive. And I must give him marks for trying.

    He’s at 47% approval rating now, versus 53% disapproval but what the fark does the average US voter/citizen really know, as opposed to what they think they know – especially when their thinking is influenced by the media and the blogosphere/internet and they have no idea of how to check what’s crap and what isn’t.?

    The US has a large population of people who have the ability to read and use the internet, to form opinions, have “tastes” etc, but who are not educated to think analytically. They fall prey to anything that confirms a prejudice they already hold.

  • David Taylor

    The source of this email with the percentages biased against Obama is a Right wing hijack of a Michael Cembalist article. They omit to say that Cembalist was looking for the number of people who, in his (Cembalist’s)opinion, had experience enough to sit on a job creation panel as an advisor! Cembalist himself admits he made subjective errors in this and complains of the hijack…..!

  • Herb1949

    David Taylor,
    Why throw in the race card? Just to muddy the water? Race has NOTHING to do with this discussion.
    The fact is that BO and his minions are socialist to the core. Their final goal is complete government control of everything.
    They hate private enterprise, except for what they can get out of it.
    The bailouts, both Bush and BO should never have happened.

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