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The Power Elite And Nepotism In America

Nepotism in America. From the political elite to the boardroom suite, we’ll look at the rise of family ties. Plus, we’ll look at the new shape of the SAT exam, and what it will mean for young college applicants.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., taks on his phone just off the Senate floor following lunch with fellow Democrats, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. His daughter's M.B.A. was determined to have been incorrectly granted in 2008 after a lengthy investigation. (AP)

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., taks on his phone just off the Senate floor following lunch with fellow Democrats, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. His daughter’s M.B.A. was determined to have been incorrectly granted in 2008 after a lengthy investigation. (AP)

Parents look out for their kids.  It’s the way of the world.  But in a time of sharply heightened inequality in America, those connections – call it nepotism – can have eye-popping results.  Europe long assumed inherited advantage.  Took it for granted.  The U.S. has prided itself as the land of merit.  Get ahead on your merits.  But advantage is concentrating.  And, says, a new report, linking to politics. This hour On Point:  the power elite and nepotism in America.  Plus, we’ll look at the new shape of the SAT exam, and what it will mean for young college applicants.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Clare Malone, web editor at The American Prospect. (@claremalone)

Katherine Newman, dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Author of “No Shame In My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City.” Co-author of  “Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage To the Truly Disadvantaged.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The Daily Beast: Get Elected, Get Your Kids Rich: Washington Is Spoiled Rotten — “Connected children of political families catching a break is something we Americans are plenty used to—there would be no Kennedy or Bush dynasties without the public’s acceptance that some people just raise their kids up all square-jawed and rolled shirtsleeves, ready to run for office. But the nexus of private business and politics is always one that’s skated over lightly in high school civics classes. Perhaps that’s why there was so much consternation over the recent revelations that Wall Street banks had hired the children of prominent Chinese politicians with hopes of currying favor with those who wield power over business decisions in the rising economic superpower.”

The Atlantic: In Praise of Nepotism — “The widespread perception of a tilt toward nepotism is correct: the American political class, along with other sectors of our society, is increasingly filled with the offspring of established parents. This phenomenon has gone largely unnoticed or has been apprehended in a piecemeal fashion. The few who have commented on it have voiced alarm that we are returning to a society based on hereditary status, complete with a corporate aristocracy and a political House of Lords. ”

Washington Post: Are we becoming more tolerant of nepotism? –”Now, the public (or at least the press) seems to me much less likely to discount the accomplishments of the well-connected children of the rich and powerful. Along similar lines, though you can certainly still find jokes about the boss’s son/nephew/brother-in-law, but they don’t seem nearly as pervasive as they were through most of the 20th Century.”

College Board Announces Big Changes To The SAT

Chronicle of Higher Education: College Board Unveils Plans for New SAT — “Unlike the current SAT essay, the new version will measure students’ ability to analyze source material. How, the prompt might ask, has the author built a persuasive argument? Responses will be scored on the strength of the analysis as well as the coherence of the writing. In short, students will no longer be able to get by writing about their personal experiences.”

Eric Hoover, senior writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education. (@erichoov)

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  • Markus6

    I’m less worried about nepotism in the private sector. HIre relatives who don’t know what they’re doing and the company will suffer and shrink or die. Wang is an obvious example. That US banks hire children of chinese politicians seems more of an example of buying political power, not nepotism. Not much different than contributing to politicians, which is a huge problem, but not nepotism.

    In the public sector it’s a bigger problem as people have no choice but to use government services. Hire your deadbeat nephew to work at the DMV and it’s not like people can go to a competitor. And as it get’s increasingly inefficient with more nephews, money will be moved there from more visible departments to hire even more nephews and then you’ll hear that government needs more money to hire more police, firefighters, teachers or whatever the government thinks will tug at the heart strings.

    I live in a state where I see this frequently. And my own relatives, who I love dearly but wouldn’t trust to run a lemonade stand, have benefitted greatly from both nepotism and being friends with the right people in government. So, I’m ambivalent.. As long as there is widespread nepotism in government, my deadbeat nephews will have jobs and I won’t have to hire them.

  • HonestDebate1

    Obviously the coronation of Hillary without a single accomplishment will be a major focus of today’s show.

    • Ray in VT

      I’d be seeking to tear her down early too, seeing as how she’s beating every GOP potential in the battleground states where they’re already doing such polling.

      I think that a better focus would be how Bushes ride on the family name, and how even a Quayle got in on the act.

      • HonestDebate1

        That’s what I mean by coronation. She’s got no positive record. Nepotism explains a lot.

        I see no reason to tear her down (ala Christie), I even voted for her in the 2008 primary. I am simply asking what she has done. IMO that is not unreasonable.

        http://www.mrctv.org/videos/dnc-members-cant-think-single-hillary-achievement

        • Ray in VT

          Yes, Christie is getting torn down. How dare there be an investigation into potentially illegal actions of his inner circle, which caused traffic havoc as a form of payback. I smell a conspiracy. Probably the same people are behind it as are persecuting Dinesh D’Souza.

          “She’s got no positive record”. That’s your opinion. The writer of this piece thinks otherwise: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/leslie-marshall/2014/02/19/hillary-clintons-accomplishments-speak-for-themselves

          She’s got name recognition, she was the runner up for the nomination in 2008, and the only other player from that field who might run, Joe Biden, doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell in my view. I’m sure that she’s not getting too far ahead of herself, considering that she was also favored in much of 2006 and 2007.

          • HonestDebate1

            She sought this and supported that, fine. What has she done? What legislation has her name on it? What is her record as Secretary of State, frequent flyer miles are not a record. Russia is. Benghazi is. Iran is.

            But she has name recognition, so…

          • Ray in VT

            One can do quite a bit to create, sponsor and get legislation passed without getting one’s name on the front page of the bill or in the title.

            I guess that not fixing our problems with hostile or difficult nations and having been the Secretary of State when a deadly attack occurred does prove that she didn’t do anything of note. Thanks for setting the record straight.

            Where would Rand Paul be if his father hadn’t been who he is? I would be willing to bet not a Senator or a 2016 presidential hopeful.

      • Leonard Bast

        Dear is the fuel that the right wingers run on, and it’s becoming more obvious by the day that their prime electoral fear is Hillary Clinton. They’re already wetting their pants, and the election cycle has hardly begun.

        • HonestDebate1

          What are her qualifications? What is her record of success?

          • Leonard Bast

            She was a successful United States senator, a successful Secretary of State, and has proven herself to be an able and talented politician, both in supporting her husband’s campaigns and in conducting her own. She’s at least as successful as anyone you’ve got . . . oh, wait, you haven’t got anyone! Sorry, my mistake. Remember your guiding right-wing mantra: be scared, be very scared.

          • HonestDebate1

            You have a low bar for success.

          • Leonard Bast

            Yeah, you’re right, being Secretary of State of the United States of America is really setting the bar low. I’m sure such secretaries of state as Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, Edmund Randolph, James Madison, James Monroe, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, William Seward, and John Foster Dulles, and George Marshall would all agree with you. That’s a really low bar.

          • HonestDebate1

            What about her tenure at Secretary of State was successful?

    • J__o__h__n

      At least Hillary was elected a senator. Bill didn’t get elected without substantial work on her part. I have more of a problem with offspring getting unfair advantages: George W Bush, George P Bush, and Joe Kennedy III. Why was Chelsea Clinton in the front row of Mandela’s funeral?

    • StilllHere

      Look at Obama. No accomplishments as a state or national senator. A clean slate. All he needed was for the media to embrace him and Hillary to be herself. Done and done.

  • AC

    i know this is bad but at the same time, i think it’s somewhat accidental. it’s natural to want to take care of ‘you and yours’. i personally haven’t done this for family, but i did it for 2 close friends.
    plus, i trust that if i help them, they won’t make me look bad for recommending them either…..
    tho now that i think of it, i did know an owner who hired his brother and the guy was a total slacker. i was appalled, if my brother gave me a much-needed job, i’d do everything to make his company look good!

    • Leonard Bast

      So, what you’re saying is that it’s okay to practice nepotism and hire your friends or your family so long as they don’t make you look bad. I think you’ve both summed up and illustrated the problem. Here’s an idea to consider: what if you conducted a thorough and fair job search, considering all qualified applicants equally and then choosing the best person?

      • John Cedar

        There is no way to be as certain of a random job applicant, as you can be with someone you know personally or that comes recommended from people you trust.

        • Leonard Bast

          There’s also the problem, in some cases, where no one wants to work for the person, so they have to hire their relatives.

      • AC

        i understand what you’re saying; i do get to push new graduates i meet at job fairs, i have helped dozens of them, but i don’t feel this reflects on my own judgement if they end up stinking. & yes, i do have to care about the quality of people i would recomend to a project. i don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, given that we often work on public projects with tax payer money – i don’t want to get tied to any slackers, as well as if their skills are poor and cause loss of life or property – i can’t help it, i really don’t see an argument that would cause me to change completely…maybe the show will help.

  • Steve_in_Vermont

    This has been going on in every culture since civilization began. It’s in local communities, state and federal governments, and certainly politics. I have noticed, however, that there is a general “weeding out” process that occurs when an incompetent person is hired/elected. In politics they are either not re-elected or do not run for office again and are placed somewhere benign by their party. In government, and private business, they are “reassigned” to a position where their “lack of competence” can be managed (their banished to the companies equivalent of “Siberia” with a paycheck but no authority to harm anyone). It’s human nature and not likely to change so let’s not get to excited about it, there are other more important things to worry about.

    • Markus6

      It’s a matter of degree. I live in what I think is an efficiently run town with a small amount of nepotism. I used to live in a city in NY with tremendous natural gifts. Government was largely a family business – just rampant nepotism and hiring of friends. Lots of projects never started, very high taxes, few businesses were left, crime, all the rest. Reform mayor number 3 gave up just like all the others. Nepotism wasn’t the only problem, but it was a big factor.

      So, it may be human nature, but that’s not much of an argument for ignoring it. And there are always more important things, but again, we should fix what we can.

  • John Cedar

    Thanks to things such as a quota based affirmative action, surly more than ever before, Americans are resigned and more tolerant to the idea that we are not a meritocracy.

    But as with virtually every topic, their is an implication that America suffers more from nepotism than other countries do, when it probably does not.

  • John Cedar

    Some of the brightest, most honest and prolific young talents I know, are my relatives. I have hired a few of them over the years and would hire more if they would work for me.

  • J__o__h__n

    We need to cap inheritances and revise the copyright laws to only protect a creation until 20 years after the death of the creator. Entrenched unearned wealth is incompatible with a democratic society.

    • John Cedar

      Copyrights should expire five years after the material is created.

      • J__o__h__n

        I don’t mind a writer or artist getting it for their lifetime (or capped at 20 years) as so often they will only get one best seller or hit and that has to subsidize the rest of their career. I don’t see why years later their grand children are living off it.

        • John Cedar

          The purpose of intellectual property rights is to ensure that people are motivated to creative. I don’t believe it takes a lifetime, or anywhere close to 20 years of copyrights, to ensure people are motivated to create. Look at the pharmaceuticals as an example. Only 20 year patents but they invest magnitudes more than most artists spend on product development and testing and on top of that are exposed legally to a much greater extent than Bono is for the songs he puts his name to.

          • HonestDebate1

            The purpose is to establish ownership. Artist are not capable of not creating, no motivation necessary.

          • John Cedar

            That would be a strange definition of ownership, if it expired after some time such as 20 years.

            All people are artists and inventors. Some are just more famous and prolific than others. This On Point comment section is chocked full of the works of people who offered their works for free.

            “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for
            limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their
            respective Writings and Discoveries.”

          • HonestDebate1

            I was thinking it was 75 years.

            If bloggers could write a book and sell it in the marketplace they wouldn’t be here.

            I just think the artist owns their work. It is the same thing whether you can hold the product in your hand or not. And even then there are different types of copyrights. Regarding music, form PA copyrights the music you hear in the air but form SR protects the sound recording you hold in your hand including the artwork. So I am working on my own recording an Overture written in the early 1800s. It’s public domain so the producer does not need pay the estate. I will own the copyright for my sound recording however. I will license it to the film. This is only right as I have spent months working my craft and gambling on the outcome. If I have a payday it will be from the deal I negotiated for my copyrighted work.

  • J__o__h__n

    My former boss’s grandson served as an intern when I was running her legislative office. He sent out a mass response letter where the “Dear _____,” didn’t match the “______, thanks for your letter” on page two. Apparently this was my fault as I had only thought to instruct him to make sure he put the right letters in the right envelopes.

    • TFRX

      “Nepotism? That’s when your nephew is a damned fool!”

      –taken from memory from “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”.

  • John Cedar

    In cases concerning politicians, the voters or the SCOTUS are the ones that make the final decision, not Friends In High Places.

  • Shag_Wevera

    Nepotism is natural and unavoidable.
    A job opened up at a local county park. This park consisted of a golf course and a sled hill. It was a caretaker position that required residence in a “caretaker house”. I told a friend about the opening. It would have been absolutely perfect for he and his family. He had extensive experience, including a tenure at TPC Sawgrass. He didn’t get even an interview. Not a call. Months later he received a thanks but no thanks letter. I have no doubt that that position went to an insider. What can be done? NOTHING. This is the world in which we live.

    • Ray in VT

      I think that things can be done to minimize such things, but I think that it will continue to happen. In some ways or instances I can see why people might want to bring in people who are close to them, with blood being thicker than water. Perhaps sometimes it is a loyalty issue, or the person knows exactly how a job is to be done. In terms of public service roles, I think that all attempts should be made to stamp it out and to make people go through a process to ensure that qualified people are brought in, but in some arenas I think that it is, has, and will continue to be the way that it is done. My brother gave me a job on his farm, and a bit of it was probably because I am his brother, which also meant that he knew a great deal about me that compared favorably against other potential workers.

  • georgepotts

    The FCC, FannieMae, and FreddieMac are filled with the children of politicians.

  • MOFYC

    It always amazes me that if a college wants to consider ethnic/racial background as one characteristic of many in admissions, we get howls of outrage. But if a college admits you because Mom is a famous alumna or Grandpa is a big enough donor to have a building named after him, this is barely noticed, par for the course.

    • John Cedar

      Our Constitution had an amendment added to it that clearly forbids the first case you describe but allows for the second. Another difference is that the college receives no benefit for enrolling an under qualified minority but receives immense benefits for enrolling the under qualified child of a big donor.

      • MOFYC

        I read the Constitution and did not see any language regulating universities.

        Furthermore, universities don’t admit “underqualified” minorities. They admit qualified
        minorities… as well as qualified non-minorities. Ethnic background is one of many factors they use when the number of qualified applicants is greater than the number of available places.

        • Ray in VT

          Information that came out in Abigail Fisher’s case showed that quite a few more highly qualified minority students were denied admission as well.

  • Coastghost

    Please please please: don’t restrict the conversation to politics and finance, at least not without also adducing the “nepotism of talent” that lives in the theatre, film, music, sports, entertainment, journalism, and literary worlds, with all the crossovers that routinely occur (Hollywood activism, rock ‘n’ roll politics, big publishing contracts for ghost-written memoirs and coffee-table opinions, ad nauseam).
    PLUS: how can you POSSIBLY fail to treat the Kennedys? (I have to assume you won’t neglect the Bushes.)

    • J__o__h__n

      Politics and business have more of an impact on society than someone in Hollywood. The marketplace generally sorts out the truly untalented there as there is more visibility than there is in the boardroom. Will Smith’s untalented son is unlikely to star in another horrible movie.

    • StilllHere

      Hollywood is business, but it’s cultural impact is significantly out of proportion to its size. Rap tells kids how to treat women and aging rockers tell kids who their parents should vote for. Movies create images of the US for the globe’s citizens.

    • brettearle

      But it also redowns to Technology and the speed of software applications, updates and modifications–which ultimately affect the bottomed-out manufacturing base from the Middle Class and its economic opportunities….as opposed to the incestuous elitism of inside contacts–of the high-brow with specialized training, in Technology Industries–who hire from their own.

      THIS is what is contributing, noticeably, to the Plutocracy. I have been published, nationally, about this matter.

    • twenty_niner

      Nepotism and cronyism are baked in the DNA, so they’re always going to exist. The problem is when it involves public money and employment. If you want to open a shoe store and hire your idiot son to run it, that’s your problem. If you want to give a no-bid contract to build a government website to a former Princeton classmate, that’s another story.

  • StilllHere

    I’ve heard Durbin’s wife and kids are lobbyists in Washington, where Durbin works as a legislator. Wasn’t there a story in Delaware about a relative of Biden’s getting a significant Federal contract?

    • brettearle

      If what you say about Durbin’s family is true, it is fully unacceptable.

      I don’t see how they can do it.

      But doesn’t Justice Clarence Thomas also have the same problem, relatively speaking?

      • TFRX

        Now Brett, Repubilcans don’t know the meaning of the word “recuse”.

        • brettearle

          Nor the meaning of the phrase, `Double-Standard’.

      • StilllHere

        Really? How much taxpayer money was involved?

        • Ray in VT

          So connections and associations that may prejudice the ruling of a judge doesn’t matter just so long as money isn’t directly involved? Good to know.

          • StilllHere

            “May prejudice” is incredibly subjective, whereas cash flow isn’t. Always happy to help clarify the obvious.

          • Ray in VT

            Good to know that when one’s wife or friend is a party to an action that we should expect total impartiality, at least when it is a conservative judge. What is obvious is the shallow level of thought that you have put into these comments. Thanks for making that clear.

          • StilllHere

            Pathetic, even for you. Where were you on Kagan on ACA and Ginsberg’s husband’s financial holdings? Clearly, you put no thought in whatsoever.

          • Ray in VT

            I was likely either at home or at work when those cases were argued.

            Perhaps I’m holding you to too high of a standard in this instance, as most of your comments don’t show much in the way of thought being put into them whatsoever, so I don’t know why this time should be any different. The overly simplistic nature of most of your posts is extremely boring to anyone seeking to see the complexity and nuance that often exists on an issue.

          • StilllHere

            Seriously pathetic. So connections and associations that may prejudice the ruling of a judge doesn’t matter when it’s a liberal judge.

          • Ray in VT

            Yes, you are seriously pathetic. Please tell me where I have stated that such associations don’t matter in such situations.

        • brettearle

          Really?

          Money or not….A Supreme court Justice should be giving off the Appearances of a Conflict of Interest.

          • StilllHere

            Actually I’m more concerned about money.

            The fact the someone’s wife has an opinion seems inconsequential. I’d even give Ginsberg a pass on her husband’s stock portfolio.

            I’m more dubious of Kagan’s actually working on ACA for the WH and SG and whether that’s a problem or conflict of interest.

          • brettearle

            Kagan’s Conflict is remedied by recusal.

            Words matter. Objectivity matters. Words turn into money.

            Durbin and Thomas, generally, have the same problem.

          • StilllHere

            Too bad Kagan didn’t agree.
            Durbin may be indirectly funneling money to his wife.
            Thomas’ wife once said ACA was unconstitutional. Shame on her.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    My name is Prospero Oglethorpe Blancehflower von Hoopdedoodle. My wife Lady Winifred and I reared our children in the proper way. Choate; Yale; Wharton; Goldman Sachs.

    And now that they’ve taken their rightful place in the ruling class the hoipoloi in America insist that Chaz, Boofy, Tickle, and Winston forgo their natural advantages – first in line, first chosen, last fired, exempt from paying taxes – and rub shoulders and compete with Joe Mutt Anybody here in society.

    How did we ever come to embrace naked, ruthless, godless communism. I implore you: please help me to understand what went wrong and why.

    Yours in the Plutosphere… POBvH, Fifth Earl Gramercy Park

  • georgepotts

    If IBM did this in China, they would be prosecuted for bribery.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Let’s hear it for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. My morning on my front lawn newspaper. In Mt. Lebanon.. Hoober Doober

  • Coastghost

    Seriously: how much of this twining foliage enshrouds and ensnares Harvard University? Seriously.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Last comment: CENSORED. I’ll edit it. Not exactly “breast” for tat.
    Wink. Nudge.

  • twenty_niner

    One way to reduce cronyism, nepotism, fraud, abuse, and waste is to shrink the size of government. You could do the same to the banking system by cutting the supply of filthy lucre from the Fed. In fact, do both. But there’s no need to worry. The Fed and the government are going to grow geometrically until the budgets and balance sheets are written in scientific notation.

    There’s no feedback loop to do otherwise, and don’t let the Republicans fool you; they like spending as much as anybody, but on the stuff they like. The only voice calling for culling the hydra are a handful of bloggers, who are generally outnumbered 10-1 by other bloggers.

  • James

    I’m glad Ms. Malone is pointing that that this isn’t all greed and corruption, some of this is just good business. People who are close to the power have knowledge that others don’t. How can you punish someone for having more knowledge on a subject then someone else.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      It’s always good to get your hand washed.. especially by someone else. HD

      • Ray in VT

        But one hand washing the other is widely practiced, and one not need think of it in a negative light, although it certainly can be thought of in that way. My brother’s neighbor helps him fix his tractor, and my brother will mow some hay for him. It helps both of them and no money exchanges hands. Obviously it is totally different than what is being talked about in the context of today’s show.

  • Coastghost

    As to revision of the SAT: how pervasive has the influence of academic standards enshrined in the International Baccalaureate degree program become in American pedagogy and post-secondary preparation? How much mimicking of, how much aversion to the IB standard does Princeton University (still the proprietor of the SAT, correct?) indulge in?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Yes, indeed. The brood of the Kennedys, Clintons, Obamas, Bushs, ad naseam have really had it tough in life. “Please, sir. Can we give them some more?”

    Thanks much. Vietnam-era DRAFTEE/VETERAN

  • Mari McAvenia

    Here’s another example of political nepotism in America: http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20140228-thief-steals-car-in-providence-belonging-to-clay-pell-and-michelle-kwan.ece
    OK, she’s cute and he’s the scion of a powerful political clan but would you trust the guy with YOUR car keys? The keys to the Statehouse? He’ll probably get elected because of his name and his wife’s fame, though. Double nepotism!

  • MatthewNashville

    Reinstate the law making monopolies illegal. This is no longer a country of people able to work their way to the top because of it.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Yes, we’re in the “Age of Nefarious.” Set it to music.

  • BillSpinner

    Point is not whether this level of nepotism is new or not. Point is that in a democracy that prizes merit and the distribution of power, we should be moving away from nepotism. Bottomline: we’re not. That’s what’s wrong!

  • Informed American

    The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. Thanks ‘power elite’. It’s not surprising that talk of secession is growing. Even in the state of Texas, where the economy is booming, Gov. Rick Perry has made mention of Texas seceding from the kleptocrats in DC.

  • kaybee63

    And this is news? How do you think class systems started in the first place? In America, we just like to delude ourselves that we don’t have one.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Global Heating: the natural outcome of our glorious meritocracy. Got water?

  • OnPointComments

    Is anyone so naïve that they believe nepotism didn’t have anything to do with Mignon Clyburn, daughter of Assistant House Democratic Leader James Clyburn, being appointed a commissioner of the FCC?

    • Ray in VT

      How about Eugene Scalia’s job at the Department of Labor or Michael Powell chairing the FCC? I think it likely that in all of the cases their family connections at least gained them some level of access.

    • TFRX

      Did you just forget that empty suit “Son of Colin Powell” ‘s tenure at the FCC.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Carolyn Kennedy’s qualifications for U.S. Ambassador to Japan were what? Exactly?

    • georgepotts

      She hasn’t been arrested for driving under the influence.

      • Mari McAvenia

        Yet.

    • Informed American

      Maybe she likes sushi.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    HRH Hillary Rodham Clinton’s qualifications for U.S. Secretary of Sate were what? Exactly?

    • Informed American

      She’s a war monger, that’s the main qualification to hold that job, as is the case with current Secretary of State, John (Skull & Bones – death cult) Kerry.

  • Pia Vastatrix

    I think nepotism taps into some very fundamental human tendencies — we want to be surrounded by people we trust. Of course, when great rewards are at state, it has to be examined. But, I think the impulse exists at all levels of society.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Ronan Farrow’s qualifications to host an MSNBC 1 p.m. “news” show were what? Exactly?

    • Ray in VT

      He’s done quite a bit in his life. Whether or not those were the primary factors in him getting a show are not known to me:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronan_Farrow

    • Pia Vastatrix

      Maybe the fact that he is brilliant: he graduated from college at age 15, was chosen as a Rhodes scholar, and is a lawyer. And he has extensive experience working in the field of human rights law, both in U.S. government and the international stage.

    • StilllHere

      Blue eyes.
      Child of celebrities, but which ones?
      Lived with a perv, potential breakdown on camera good for ratings.

  • georgepotts

    It exists everywhere except NPR.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Max Baucus’s qualifications for U.S. Ambassador to China were what? Exactly?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    George Tsunis’s qualifications for U.S. Ambassador to Norway were what? Exactly?

  • BillSpinner

    Bill

  • Coastghost

    DO NOT NEGLECT GEOGRAPHICAL or REGIONAL PRIVILEGE.
    The DC-to-Boston corridor remains the DC-to-Boston corridor.

    • Maureen Roy

      I think the train tracks cut south before they get to my house….

      • Coastghost

        Do you reside in Maryland or Maine?

        • Maureen Roy

          Mass., actually. Only the eastern part of the state “counts”. ;-)

          • Coastghost

            Ahh, yesss. Worcester is not Beantown, I recall from my lone visit, points west in the Commonwealth (commonly uncommon, it begins to sound) even less so.

    • Ray in VT

      So is being from somewhere, say, south of that area a disability?

      • Coastghost

        As you well know, Ray, residency in the South has never impaired me. (I had to struggle against the pernicious effects of public education, but I likely would’ve encountered that wherever my parents had thought to dwell.)

        • Ray in VT

          I am tempted to call some of your views impaired, at least factually speaking. It is amazing how so many come through the public schools and end up being well adjusted, intelligent and productive members of society. They must have had lesser gifts than yourself, or else they would also have been impaired.

          • Coastghost

            No, it simply shows that the pernicious effects of public education can readily be compensated for, as long as curiosity and creativity are not murdered by “education”. That does not excuse the institution of public education for setting up steeplechase-styled pedagogical and intellectual obstacles: there’s challenge enough in simply negotiating the track.
            (Also keep in mind I never claim to’ve escaped my autodidactic biases.)

          • Ray in VT

            Such a terrible system. One would think that all of the innovators and job creators and such out there would come up with a better way to provide a decent education for every student who walks through the door. It truly is the worst system, except for all of the rest.

          • Coastghost

            I agree wholeheartedly: the intellectual slovenliness of the vast bulk of educators working in our public schools is comparable only to the intellectual laziness modeled by the vast bulk of our journalistic fraternity. (Note that I allow for exceptions.)
            THE single thing that could immediately enhance the quality of education in THIS country: make foreign language instruction MANDATORY for primary-grade students. No elementary grade student has any business emerging from sixth-grade without fluency in both English and SOME foreign language.

          • Ray in VT

            It must be very sad for you to be so intellectually advanced so that by comparison so many of our professionals are dimwits by comparison. One wonders how you cope with such inferiors.

            I think that at least a working knowledge of a foreign language is indeed helpful, although not absolutely necessary. I would much rather have my children devote their class time to a hard science class versus a language class if push came to shove.

            I find that my son’s school is challenging the kids to learn and understand quite a bit, and quite a number of concepts are being introduced much earlier than was the case even just a generation ago.

          • Coastghost

            Not at all: my tolerance for professional idiocy is fueled by the vast reserves of patience with which I am also gifted.

          • Ray in VT

            Based upon some of your comments on a number of matters, I would suppose that some whom you deride as suffering from “professional idiocy” may have similarly low opinions of your opinions as you have of theirs.

            It would seem that great humility is another of your many attributes.

          • Coastghost

            Well, I can’t very well brag about that, too, now can I?

          • Ray in VT

            You don’t seem to mind tooting your own horn, or at least so it seems to me.

          • Coastghost

            But lest I’ve misled by any post I’ve left in any of these forums, Ray: I regularly consume dairy products (no B&J ice cream, though, and no NPR-endorsing Cabot Cream. Coop. products, either).

          • Ray in VT

            Thanks for that non sequitur.

  • Maureen Roy

    Nepotism is a recipe for keeping society – including politics, business, economics, etc. – forever in a state of mediocrity….those in its grip cannot escape the status quo or allow ripples in the pond. There are very few truly exceptional people from any social background. Our social structure is much more “old world” than we admit to and does not reward individualism, brilliance, creativity – at least certainly not enough. Kudos to those who can break through….

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Cassandra Butt’s qualifications for U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas were what? Exactly?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Suzi Levine’s qualifications for U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein were what? Exactly?

  • HG

    My former husband was a very high level executive at Mylan Pharmaceuticals in WV. Milan Puskar required all high level executives to contribute the maximum personal contribution to all politicians running for governor and senator. The financial relationships between Mylan Pharmaceuticals, WVU and politicians was well known.

  • georgepotts

    The government is becoming more like the Mob everyday.

  • OnPointComments

    FAMILY TIES AID OBAMA APPLICANTS
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22347.html

    Excerpt:

    Obama’s promise of changing Washington hasn’t extended to banishing the age-old practice of giving plum posts to relatives of your top supporters — as he’s done with the relatives of a half-dozen well-connected Democrats.

    • Cameron Kerry, the brother of an early Obama backer, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who has been tapped as chief counsel at the Commerce Department
    • Mignon Clyburn, daughter of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who received a coveted appointment to the Federal Communications Commission
    • David Hamilton, nephew of former congressman and Democratic elder statesman Lee Hamilton, who was appointed to an appellate judgeship
    • Courtney Gregoire, daughter of Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, who last week was tapped as director of legislative affairs at Commerce
    • Laurie Mikva, daughter of legendary former Chicago judge and Congressman Abner Mikva, who was appointed to the board of the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal aid to low-income people
    • And Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who is a special adviser on health care to OMB Director Peter Orszag

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Bruce Heyman’s qualifications for U.S. Ambassador to Canada were what? Exactly? {hint: Goldman Sachs}

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Mark Gilbert’s qualifications for U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa were what? Exactly? {hint: Barclays}

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Denise Campbell Bauer’s qualifications for U.S. Ambassador to Belgium were what? Exactly? {hint: 2012 finance chair Women for Obama}

  • Coastghost

    Tom, you have only minutes left to exhale the words “International Baccalaureate program”. Try it.

  • Informed American

    The rest of the world can see that DC is rife with incompetency and corruption. Which would explain why much of the world is running away from the US dollar.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Students; read the NY Times for comprehension. Not for facts. See: Judith Miller.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Students: your new SAT words for this modern world are.. plutocracy, unemployment, mass extinction, global heating.

  • Greg Perkins

    Tom and Eric,
    I am concerned about the change to not using the percentage of answers correct. For example if a person knows 15 answers and gtotally guesses on 5 in my mind would still compare unfavorably in my mind to one who gets 15 correct with no wrong answers (5 blank). In many poorer school systems the teachers never get to teach some of the curriculum because the less smart and misbehaving ones slow everyone else down. Also it rewards students for NOT guessing. Would you like a lawyer who does not know the law guess about what he thinks is correct? I am not saying that a person with one correct answer and 19 blank is better that a person who gets 19 correct and one wrong. However it can be used as a sliding scale. Also the SAT rewards rote memorization not really analytic thinking on many subjects compared say to an IQ test. Some of the changes are good but not all.

  • Blue_To_Shoe

    Thanks to the caller that brought up NEWs Network nepotism – especially in regards to NBC!

    It’s been an annoyance of mine for quite some time now, seeing the children of powerful politicians – and media elites – literally GIVEN jobs for no other reason!

    The caller brought up the daughter’s such as Jenna Bush and Abby Huntsman.
    How about 2 even more SALIENT – and unfair – examples:

    1.Luke Russert:
    Russert was literally given his father’s spot on the NBC NEWs Network, right out college, in wake of his father’s untimely demise!!!
    Now, Russert clearly is able to perform his job, HOWEVER, if I was one of his recent college grad contemporaries struggling to find that first starting job in NEWs, and seeing Russert already pulling a 6-figure salary (if not a 7-figure contract), It would seem extremely UNFAIR, and may breed real resentment at the system!

    2.Mika Brzezinski:
    Mika Brzezinski (daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski (Carter admin), and beltway ‘think tanker’).
    The Brzezinski situation is UNFAIR, because being a child of privileged, she clearly is not ‘exerting’ herself enough, in my opinion, in countering the aging, frat-boy, studio-BULLY, Joe Scarborough routine (on ‘Morning Joe’.

    This list could go on and on…; and,I mean…we haven’t even mentioned ‘LOOKs’ (attractiveness) as a form of nepotism.

    That’s a discussion that could last forever.

  • dfg

    Nepotism was practiced when we were wearing bear skins and living in caves.

    You’ll never get rid of nepotism. Just make sure it’s transparent as this can be part of the decision making process in the voting booth. That’s the best you can hope for.

  • tbphkm33

    Myths of the United States:
    - Individualism – the land where you are an individual as long as you wear Levi’s jeans. US culture has more conformity than most countries.

    - The best rise to the top – nope, life in the US has little to do with what you know and a hell of a lot to do about who you know. Organizational rot is seen in companies and government agencies throughout the land, as incompetent line managers protect their own turf by stacking the decks with others who pose not threat to them.

    - Everyone is born equal – do we really need to explore this one, its obvious that some are born a hell of a lot more equal than others. That advantage by the upper middle class and rich has grown as the war on the middle class and poor has taken hold since the 1980s.

    • Ray in VT

      I think that there is a measure of truth in your criticism of those myths/beliefs.

      • John Cedar

        I suspect the USA has LESS conformity,
        that merit plays a larger role in rising to the top,
        and that everyone is born closer to equal
        when compared to virtually every other country.

        • Ray in VT

          It may be, or it may not be. I think that one can look at aspects of our society and see where there is plenty to criticize. So many radio stations play the same music. Stores carry the same stuff. Chain restaurants abound almost wherever one goes. One joke that went around when I was in high school and college was “I’m different, just like all of my friends”, where the sort of non-conformity of the grunge generation got co-opted and turned into a form of conformity when it became “cool”. Whether such things are more prevalent here versus other countries, and I would mostly look to other industrialized nations, is hard to say. I’m sure that some have studied it. This, for instance, seems to show that we are fairly conformist in some ways http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/06/06/sweet_land_of_conformity/. I think that it is largely a mixed bag that is hard to quantify.

          Social mobility has certainly of late been easier in some European countries than it is here, and the economic disparity that exists here is also, I think, much more severe than it is in much of the rest of the developed world. True, this is only one way of looking at it, but when looking at this aspect, I don’t think that we stack up particularly well. I think that selling the statement that “everyone is born closer to equal when compared to virtually every other country” could be a rather tough sell.

        • BPol

          Economic mobility in the US vs other OECD countries:
          http://www.epi.org/publication/usa-lags-peer-countries-mobility/

          • John Cedar

            Most dogs don’t bite
            All dogs CAN bite.

            Economic mobility is not a measure of ABILITY to move economically, it is a measure of choice to move economically.

          • Ray in VT

            Bull.

        • tbphkm33

          Have you ever lived anywhere but the USA?

    • HonestDebate1

      Sounds like a big ol’ fat excuse to me. No one has to stay chained to their station in life. No one has to work a dead end job. And if you can demonstrate “what you know” then the “who you know” part will work itself out.

      • Ray in VT

        Just keep on believing that a little can do attitude and some ole fashioned bootstrappin’ will get you by. There is a pretty large amount of research that this is not the case.

        • HonestDebate1

          I don’t think I said that. Please don’t tell me what I think.

          What, that I actually wrote, do you dispute?

          • Ray in VT

            I might endeavor tell you what you think if I thought that there was much thought behind comments such as the one that you posted. I think that my comment accurately represents your history of comments on this matter.

            I would dispute pretty much all of it.

          • HonestDebate1

            Then realize what you are saying. You are saying people are chained to the station in life to which they were born, must work a dead end job and needn’t nurture the skills and knowledge required to be noticed and sought after.

            I could not disagree more.

          • Ray in VT

            I didn’t really say any of that. As with other absolutist statements that you have made, your blanket statements fail to account for the experiences of many. My statements make no such broad-brush, over generalized and false assertions.

            You called what tbphkm33 said excuses, ignoring the very real realities that people face where “if you can demonstrate “what you know” then the “who you know” part will work itself out” is very much not the case. You said that “no one has to stay chained to their station in life.” Many people are, and we are doing less well, as a society, than many European countries, where the social safety net is stronger, at providing the conditions that allow people to rise, which totally flies in the face of the idea that government is the problem. “No one has to work a dead end job.” True. People can choose to work no job and live on the street or in a homeless shelter. People still do have the freedom to starve if they so choose, but many factors work to limit prospects for many, and we have allowed our country to be one where low wage work abounds, despite how difficult it is for people to make a decent living doing that work.

          • HonestDebate1

            No, I said it and you disagreed. I have much more respect for my fellow man than you do.

          • jefe68

            Comprehension issues, yet again.

          • HonestDebate1

            I said people are not chained to the station in life they were born in. I said people are not forced into dead end jobs. I said nurturing skills in crucial. I said nothing about bootstraps.

            Yo really demean the effort it takes to succeed as you demand more from those who do. It’s takes much more than bootstraps.

          • Ray in VT

            Of course I disagreed. It’s more of the usual, reality-free claptrap for which you can often be counted to shovel here.

            Based upon your history of running various people and groups down, I find your statement about how you respect your fellow man to be laughable.

          • jefe68

            Actually you did say that. I gather you live in Lake Woebegone.

          • HonestDebate1

            No, I didn’t.

    • pete18

      Who you know is as important as what you know but getting to know the “right people” is as much as a learned skill as learning the proper software, or how to get along and cooperate with people in the work place. None of these things are static cards dealt from a privileged deck that no one can change.

      The upper and lower quintiles also are not static and people have been shifting up and down them for generations.

      “Economic historian Joseph Schumpeter compar
      ed the income distribution to a hotel
      where some rooms are luxurious, but others
      are small and shabby. Important aspects of
      fairness are that those in the small rooms have
      an opportunity to move to a better one, and
      that the luxurious rooms are not always occupied by the same people. The frequency with which people move between rooms is a crucial aspect of the trends in income inequality in the United States.

      The key findings of this study include:

      •There was considerable income mobility of individuals
      in the U.S. economy during the 1996 through 2005 period as over half of taxpayers moved to a different income quintile over this period.

      •Roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved up to a higher income group by 2005.

      •Among those with the very highest incomes in 1996 – the top 1/100 of 1 percent – only 25 percent remained in this group in 2005. Moreover, the median real income of
      these taxpayers declined over this period.

      •The degree of mobility among income groups is unchanged from the prior decade (1987 through 1996).

      • Economic growth resulted in rising incomes for most taxpayers over the period from 1996 to 2005. Median incomes of all taxpayers increased by 24 percent after
      adjusting for inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers increased over this period. In addition, the median incomes of those initially in the lower income groups increased more than the median in
      comes of those initially in the higher
      income groups. ”

      http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/Documents/incomemobilitystudy03-08revise.pdf

  • Coastghost

    NOT a privilege I care to enjoy, thank you.

  • J__o__h__n

    I wonder if Luke Russert is going to cover this topic.

  • StilllHere

    Dingell got his seat from his dad and now he’s giving it to his wife.

    • Coastghost

      An eighty-one year old Dingell Democratic Dynasty, as of 3 March 2014: eighty-one years and counting, that is.
      Now THAT’S continuity!

  • Joseph_Wisconsin

    Don’t have to look too far for nepotism, we had eight years of a nepotism president in G. W. Bush. If his father was not George H. W. Bush we would never have had G.W as president. Texas would never have had governor G. W. Bush. There would never have been any controversy over G.W. Bush maybe not really serving his time in the National Guard, because he would have been drafted into the regular military. G.W. Bush would not have been a mediocre student at Yale because he would never have been admitted there except as a legacy.

    Or how about Alice Walton? Is she worth an estimated $21 billion because of here remarkable ability and work ethic? Not! If she wasn’t Sam Walton’s daughter she would likely working at a WalMart, collecting food stamps to get by, after taking a hiatus for a drunk driving conviction.

  • LoganEcholls

    A system based on “Fairness” and one based on “Merit” are not exactly the same thing. While it’s true that Merit can be won despite being born in a system based on inequality, more often than not, that Merit is actually the sum of less glaring nepotism-like advantages that we as a society generally ignore: growing up on the right side of the tracks, going to schools without a majority of students in gangs, not being mentally disabled, not having a severe childhood medical condition, having loving parents, not having junkies for parents, having parents that value school and higher education, being taught the importance of hard work and discipline. None of those things are under the control of a child growing up in America, and yet people take credit for their benefits ALL THE TIME as if they were entitled to live a better life than other people. Now comes along Prince Jr. So-and-So the III who steals their promotion because daddy wants to ensure his legacy, and suddenly the world is an unfair place.

  • stillin

    How can I say this without getting canned, or caned even, we are told they “read our emails”…so, let’s see, here in the “north country” of northern N.Y., the schools are overripe with nepotism. You could say, it’s a PRIVATE school, funded with public money. The reason I say that, is the elite’s at a lot of little schools up here, operate on a different set of rules, palace rules let’s call them, than what the rest of us operate on, let’s call them plantation rules. So, if so and so’s kid gets in trouble, the word is, hands off, no write ups etc, and if so and so’s sister, brother, mom’s boyfriend, sister’s husband, sister’s sister’s husband and on and on and on all need “good” jobs, by golly they’ll find a way, union, tenure , or not and you’ll be out and they’ll be in, usually with a salary increase. It is the ruination of this nation….pension jobs?all aboard . toot toot, off to the treasure box and then one big family dinner to discuss how we can keep our legacy alive….through nepotism, arm twisting and harassment. It’s enough to make you puke, because trust this, they are all in line at the bank, and they’re all so happy…they’re all related. Want to speak to someone about it, who? They’re all related.

  • Ellen Mahar

    I tried to find a way to post this directly to The Daily Beast reporter without success. Would you please advise her to listen to the program and count the number of times she said “you know”. I could not finish listening to the program as it was giving me a headache and I could not concentrate on the content.

  • HonestDebate1

    In the public sector nepotism is the devil. It’s unethical, unfair and an inefficient use of tax dollars. In the private sector it’s family values. Its efficiency is enforced by tough love. It’s a beautiful thing.

    It seems to me that distinction should be made. Legislation to discourage nepotism in the private sector would necessitate a loss of freedom. Legislation to discourage nepotism in the public sector would result in more freedom. Nepotism in the private sector is nobody’s business. Nepotism in the public sector is everybody’s business.

    • jimino

      This post convolutes language and logic well enough to qualify you as a character in an Orwell novel. But at least you concede that the so-called conservative trope of running government like a business is nonsense.

      • HonestDebate1

        It’s the same with unions.

    • ExcellentNews

      Damn right! And besides, there is some natural order to YOUR kids serving fries or giving massages to your BOSS’ kids. Now, back to my Ayn Rand novel…

  • Nawal Ahmed

    How is Lobbying different from Bribing?

    • artymowski

      Use a dictionary.

  • Nawal Ahmed

    in the commentary so far i find the word “bribery” seems to be taboo. Can you please explain to me how “lobbying” is different from bribery

    • ExcellentNews

      You are supposed to report bribes to the IRS (same as income from prostitution or drug dealing). On the other hand, lobbying is tax-exempt. There you have it.

  • Government_Banking_Serf

    Nepotism, while abhorrent, just distracts us from the larger overall problem of crony capitalism and rule of men not law that we have been suffering for a long time. The cronies are not related by blood. Just elite culture.

    As long as they keep perverting Keynesian ideas into constant massive debt spending with which to “bribe” voters, it will continue.

    If we feel our representatives are corrupted by lobbyists, we should vote them out and consider term limits. Communication by those with more resources will never be able to removed. Wishing it so is just a lazy way to shirk our responsibilities as self-governing people who need to be engaged and hold our representatives accountable.

    But we prefer the illusory comfort of free Fed money and empty promises.

  • artymowski

    Funny how they so acrobatically avoided Hillary as part of the discussion. I wonder why that is?

    • ExcellentNews

      Maybe it’s because they don’t want people to make the connection with Benghazi, where camera footage shows Obama in the crowd who set fire to the US embassy??? Or maybe it’s because they don’t want us to know that she and Bill have been skulking around weather stations, rubbing the thermometers to fake higher temperature readings, so that their buddy Al Gore would win an Oscar???

  • ExcellentNews

    Quit whining, you 47-percenters! Nepotism creates jobs. In fact, we should give an inheritance tax cut to the offspring of our billionaires, bankers, and politicians. That will create even more jobs – sure as the fact the Earth is 6000 years old!

    • Guest

      And besides, there is some natural order to YOUR kids serving fries or providing massage services to your BOSS’ kids. So let’s not rock the apple cart…

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