The outcry over corporate executives joining the Biden administration is silly

  • Some of Biden's administration appointees have been facing harsh criticism for their ties to corporate money.
  • Despite the negative connotation it carries, experience in the corporate world can be helpful.
  • Boosting growth in our economy will require an embracing of business experience.
  • Brett Bruen is the president of the Global Situation Room.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Let's get one thing clear: when it comes to public service, business experience is not at all a bad thing. 

As President-elect Joe Biden fills senior positions in his administration, there are loud calls on the left for a ban on anyone who spent even part of their career at a corporation. While they might not succeed in getting all executives excluded from appointments in this administration, their attacks certainly serve to dissuade many from considering public service. 

This is a big problem. The country, especially at this moment, needs people in government who bring a variety of skills, including experience running  big companies. Additionally, the deep divisions and economic difficulties of the moment make governing inclusively an absolute imperative.

Corporate experience shouldn't be off limits

Corporate America has been a popular political target for years, so it's no surprise that former executives are again getting targeted

Both parties use Wall Street as a convenient punching bag when they are trying to drum up support. There certainly is no shortage of cases where banks and behemoths of business abused their power in the past. Nonetheless, there are far more examples of CEOs and the companies they lead investing in communities and people. This past year has put on full display the variety of ways that they can and do make significant contributions, especially during crises. 

Amazon provided $100 million for food banks in the early days of the pandemic. Johnson & Johnson put up $50 million to support frontline healthcare workers. 3M also contributed $20 million in financial assistance to healthcare workers. This has come on top of the substantial in kind donations, matching grants, and public information campaigns large companies funded.

The skeptics will say, "Sure, but big firms have also seen stock prices soar as millions lost their jobs." Their contributions are dismissed as insufficient and intended as only to provide cover for corporate greed.  The thinking goes that these firms have too often profited at the expense of workers or the public. That argument either belies a major misunderstanding of economics or a willing disregard for the facts.  In fact, companies have acted faster and farther than many government initiatives in the past year.

I ran President Obama's global entrepreneurship programs and considered myself then to be a pretty savvy public official when it came to business matters. But my own perspective completely changed when I launched a startup. When I became the one who had to make each month's payroll and spent days navigating through complex government regulations, I realized there were a slew of pressure points I had missed while in government. There are a lot of things I would do differently, were I to go back into the public sector. 

Corporate leaders can bring valuable experience

A return to public service is not in fact in my future. But, I do believe we desperately need those who know how to do more than tax and spend dollars. 

Some will read those words and interpret my ideological perspective as being conservative or at least centrist. The fact of the matter is, I also strongly believe in a lot of the same social programs being advanced by my Democratic colleagues. At the same time, we have to build them back better than we have done in the past. This requires embracing, not rejecting those who know firsthand how to grow our economy.

And growing the economy is imperative during the Biden administration. Not only is the country trying to recover from a devastating pandemic, but Donald Trump is clearly not planning like his predecessors on taking a dignified retirement from public life. He will undoubtedly complain constantly about the Biden administration harming "his" economy. Retaining the confidence of business leaders and working with the private sector to boost growth will help to prove the former occupant of the Oval Office and his diehard supporters wrong.  

Joe Biden has a lot of jobs to fill in the coming months. Liberal activists will continue to pressure him and his cabinet to apply a purity test to potential candidates. If they want to get the economy moving again, not to mention avoid heavy losses in 2024, these efforts need to be roundly and rapidly rejected by most Democratic leaders. 

Trump thrived on labeling and dividing people. To be successful for those who most need the help these days, the next administration needs to focus on building back, with better bridges – including to business.

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