🎁'Tis the season to support public service journalism Donate Now

Looking for jobs with ‘President’ Obama

Marketplace Staff Oct 28, 2008

Looking for jobs with ‘President’ Obama

Marketplace Staff Oct 28, 2008


Kai Ryssdal:
A week from today it’s all over.
No more debates. No more campaign ads. No more nothing, because the only thing left will be the voting. Unless, you’re one of the Republican or Democratic faithful looking for a job.
The young people Barack Obama’s has made a point of reaching out to are reaching back to him With resumes in hand.
From Washington, Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer reports.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer:
It’s a chilly October evening in Washington.
A perfect night for cool jazz at a downtown Obama fundraiser. Young, starry-eyed Obama supporters dream of their perfect job in an Obama administration.

Millie Lee: If they had a manager of entertainment that would be fun–hosting the White House parties and that kind of stuff.

Russ Ballard: I would want to work in some sort of foreign affairs committee and try to improve our relations with countries like China.

That was Georgetown University student Russ Ballard. Before him you heard from Millie Lee.

They’re both young and enthusiastic. But, unfortunately, somewhat clueless. If Obama is elected, they’ll be at the back of a very long line of job seekers.

Paul Light: They’re stacked up like aircraft over O’Hare.

Paul Light teaches government management at New York University. He says Obama fans need to have at least volunteered for the campaign. But that’s no guarantee of a job. Your resume has to get into the hands of a well-connected high flyer.

Light: It’s really a political process in which your connections matter most.

That doesn’t sit right with Teddy Ky Nam Miller. The recent law school graduate owes about a hundred thousand dollars in student loans. No matter–Miller is working for the Obama campaign in Florida, for free. He stresses the election isn’t over, and says his main goal right now is getting Obama elected.

Teddy Ky Nam Miller: They’ve always taught us in graduate school about the importance of networking. But I guess I have kind of a distaste for the angling aspect of it.

Robert Shapiro says Miller will never get anywhere with that attitude. Shapiro was Bill Clinton’s chief economic adviser during Clinton’s first presidential run. He became Undersecretary of Commerce in the second Clinton administration after Clinton called and offered him the job. Shapiro says in a first administration, presidents are so overwhelmed, they rely on advisors for hiring recommendations. Only the fiercest job anglers get attention and Shapiro didn’t want to swim with them.

Robert Shapiro: Yes. There are certainly sharks, I’m afraid I was a porpoise. I was eaten by the sharks initially.

Some people expect a President Obama would hire more porpoises–less aggressive professionals. They think he’d break with sharks, like lobbyists and former White House staffers. But Paul Light says, no dice.

Light: You draw on people who are inside the Washington, DC Beltway. A significant majority of the Obama appointees will have served in the Clinton administration.

What about rich sharks? Would Obama be less beholden to them because he collected a lot of small donations? Paul Light says no. Obama would pay special attention to wealthy donors. But Shapiro says they wouldn’t get the top White House jobs.

Shapiro: You know look, fundraisers have traditionally gotten some ambassadorial positions. Who cares–frankly.

Shapiro says Obama has so many donors, the impact of individuals is diluted. Even if they’re sharks.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.