But the Biden transition made some questionable choices even earlier. Our organizations raised concerns last month about Jeffrey Zients co-chairing the Biden transition team, despite once calling corporate CEOs the “customers” of Obama-era economic policy. Our criticisms prompted a furious response in The Hill, in which Albert Hunt melodramatically argued “establishing ideological litmus tests for appointments would be politically suicidal.”
But why, exactly? What possible horrible consequence would there be to locking the revolving door, an issue that attracts bipartisan fury and erodes faith in government, which is already at dangerously low levels?
There’s no shortage of brilliant academics, community organizers, public-interest lawyers, local and state officials, and so on who would flourish in the federal government. In fact, appointing them to top jobs over the usual slate of K Streeters, BigLaw lawyers, and corporate executives would produce an executive branch far more representative of the actual country. By definition, if one actually cares about diversity of life experience, geography, educational attainment, race, and socioeconomic class, one must look beyond the usual suspects. These appointees would apply fresh perspectives and bring the creative ideas that every candidate promises, but few ever deliver.
Likewise, the prior experiences of many corporate elites rarely have much to do with the managerial skills and institutional knowledge required to run the government. Imagine if, upon committing to a career change, Weiss had applied to be a mid-level manager at, say, the Transportation Department. He could push papers for a few years, learn the ins and outs of the federal bureaucracy, and support himself on a comfortable, middle-class salary (and his generous Wall Street nest egg). Maybe, if he had a taste and talent for it, he could then try to net a major appointment. This is the way people without Weiss’s connections are forced to enter the halls of power and earn their keep—but the revolving door lets others bypass things like experience and qualification.