The great paradox of the great recession
According to President Obama's new chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, the jobless rate in the United States is likely to remain high for a long time.
But there's one place where there are plenty of jobs open to fill, and that's the President's economic policy and financial regulatory team. There are at least a half dozen unfilled presidentially appointed jobs, according to this story, which are vacant despite their essential role in making critical economic decisions. The reason: the political obstacles and potential conflicts of interest particular to government regulatory jobs, but also a lack of qualified people experienced and willing enough to serve in these roles.
President Obama is faced with a dilemma that many leaders are coping with today. Despite record high unemployment, there are plenty of jobs that are still going begging, either because there are a lack of skilled candidates or a dearth of interested leaders for the role. Call it the great paradox of the great recession: even with nearly 10 percent unemployment, there are still an astonishing number of jobs to fill. As the Wall Street Journal reported in early August, the number of job openings has risen more than twice as fast as actual hires since mid-2009, a phenomenon that happened much later in the last recovery.
Of course, Obama is facing issues that many leaders don't have to deal with in making these top hires. For one, most leaders don't have an army of people in an opposing party ready to swat down any suggestion they make for political sport. In addition, regulatory jobs like these are rife with potential, or perceived conflicts: the very people who are most qualified to fill the job typically have a long history working for the very firms they'll be charged with keeping in check. Finally, the number of people qualified to take on such complex topics as fixing our current economy is extremely limited, making the candidate pool "quite thin," Vanderbilt University political scientist David Lewis told The New York Times. ''There are fewer loyalists available for these positions than people think."
The White House defends the vacancies partly as a result of the President's deliberative selection process, and surely no one wants the wrong people in the jobs. But a slow approach to filling economic jobs is not a new problem. Thanks to an audit-like scrubbing that goes on during the vetting process--some candidates have been asked to find a travel receipt for $20 from three years prior--there are many who simply don't want to go through with it. (And you thought your corporate H.R. vetting process was hard.) And that's all before they're met with the obstruction of the opposing party charged with approving the nominees.
While it does not appear that Obama is dragging his feet on these appointments, filling them should remain his utmost priority. The number one job of a leader is to set the overall direction and then quickly put the right people in place to execute it. Without those people in place, the President will not succeed, no matter how many ideas he may have for moving the economy forward.
September 13, 2010; 10:42 AM ET |
Federal government leadership
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