Way back in 1988, George McGovern decided to open a 150-room inn in Connecticut. Two years later, the property was in bankruptcy.
Mr. McGovern, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972 and a staunch progressive long before the term came into vogue, had been forcibly retired from the Senate in 1980 after representing South Dakota for 18 years. He had spent most of his adult life in politics advocating for big government. His failed foray into the private sector provided him with a perspective on the bureaucracy that he had previously not appreciated.
In a 1992 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Mr. McGovern wrote, “In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business. … I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.”
He went on to decry rigid government regulatory schemes that “ignore the reality of the marketplace” and disregard factors such as “profit margins … and local market economics.”
Mr. McGovern comes to mind as President Joe Biden and his administration founder while confronted by economic forces — soaring inflation, supply chain disruptions, lagging labor participation rates — they never saw coming. Mr. Biden has been a Washington mainstay for five decades, his service even overlapping with Mr. McGovern’s tenure. As a career politician, the president’s unfamiliarity with the private sector should come as no surprise. But that inexperience also extends to his economic team.
According to a new study by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity — which espouses the virtues of supply-side economics — “62 percent of Biden appointees who deal with economic policy, regulation, commerce, energy and finance have virtually no business experience.” In addition, “Only one in eight has extensive business experience,” with the average appointee having worked in the private sector for just 2.4 years. “The vast majority of the Biden economic/commerce team members are professional politicians, lawyers, community organizers, lobbyists or government employees,” the report found.
In contrast, during Donald Trump’s final year in office, his average appointee in these areas had 13 years of business experience.
Mr. McGovern’s epiphany taught him that politicians need to respect the entrepreneurs, risk-takers and job creators who drive economic growth — that an appreciation for marketplace dynamics might help elected officials and regulators make better, more productive decisions. Mr. Biden and his progressive allies, however, remain blissfully immune to such insight — and the American economy is worse for it.