Kiplinger Today

Washington Matters

No Seat at Cabinet Table for Business

Notice what's missing from Barack Obama's new Cabinet? He's gotten a heap of praise for putting together a smart, experienced and diverse group of advisers, but one important element is absent, and that could make it harder to achieve his No. 1 goal -- jump-starting the economy.

There are no business executives in Obama's Cabinet. None. Obama has chosen three who have served in the Senate, three who are governors or ex-governors, several congressmen and lots of people who served in the  Clinton administration, but no one with any business leadership experience (unless you count being a partner in a law firm and we don't). Even for secretary of commerce, a slot that almost always goes to business, Obama has chosen New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has spent almost his entire adult life in government.

The lack of a businessman in the Cabinet is a sharp difference from President George W. Bush, who boasted six titans of industry in his original Cabinet (and one in the vice presidency). Even Bill Clinton had five if you count Lloyd Bentsen, who worked in insurance before being elected to the Senate from Texas.

The lack of business acumen may not be a surprise, and it doesn't mean that business won't have a way to make its views known. Business groups have been meeting regularly with transition officials and they're devoting a boatload of money to stepped-up lobbying with both the incoming administration and Democratic leaders in Congress. But that's certainly not the same as having someone in the room when the big decisions are made.  

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