George W. Bush? Or maybe Ronald Reagan? Quit guessing. You’re wrong.
A recent analysis by Pew Research took a deep dive into the Cabinets of every U.S. Presidential administration in history to see his how much of an outlier the Trump cabinet is. The President’s choices for key positions have been criticized by lawmakers and the press for their lack of experience in public office and their business ties to the private sector. The Cabinet, if fully confirmed, will have a total net worth that tops $8 billion. What Pew found, though, is that Trump’s Cabinet is actually not the most business-heavy cabinet in American history. That title belongs to William McKinley. Here’s how it breaks down.
A full third of the Trump administration’s department heads (five of 15) will have never held public office prior to their appointment. That’s the second-highest percentage after McKinley, whose administration’s top spots were 38% filled (three of eight) by private-sector appointees.
For context, President Obama’s administration had the highest percentage of non-bureaucrat appointees among Democratic presidents, at 20% (tying Franklin D. Roosevelt). Each of the Bush (W. and H.W.) Cabinets came in at a lower-than-average 7% and the Clinton White House appointed zero Cabinet members lacking public sector gigs on their resume.
Which Cabinet Role Is Most Likely to Be Held By Businesspeople?
Unsurprisingly, the Pew analysis found that Commerce Secretary was far and away the most likely position to be filled by a businessperson appointee. Second to that was Treasury Secretary.
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Interestingly, President Trump is setting some records in his appointees. His recently-confirmed appointees for Education Secretary, billionaire Amway heiress Betsy DeVos, and Secretary of State, former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, will be the first businesspeople with no public service background to serve in those positions.
What Does This Mean?
There’s no statistical backing for whether business-heavy White Houses perform better or worse than those filled with public sector employees, and you can see from the historical analysis from Pew that there are Republicans and Democrats alike who have run the gamut when it comes to Cabinet makeup.
One of the more prominent businessmen in McKinley’s Cabinet, Lyman J. Gage, served as Secretary of the Treasury and was influential in enacting the Gold Standard Act, the effects of which would eventually lead to the creation of the Federal Reserve. So, undoubtedly, the private-sector appointments still had a major impact on government operation and structure in their roles.
What do you think? Should there be more business leaders in the Cabinet? Weigh in below in the comments section.
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