Tuesday, August 23, 2011

78% of Congress Lacks An Econ/Business Degree


POLITICO -- "Almost 80 percent of lawmakers might need to crack open an economics textbook before the congressional recess ends, a new study on Tuesday suggests. The vast majority of members lack an academic background in business or economics, according to a study by the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit group that takes a conservative stand on fiscal issues. Only 13.7 percent majored in business or accounting, and 8.4 percent have an economics degree (see chart above).

The most popular majors among members were government and the humanities, with over half — 55.7 percent — bringing home a degree in those fields. And there are a number of science students in the halls of Congress, with 11.5 percent majoring in science or technology-related fields."

25 Comments:

At 8/23/2011 10:20 PM, Blogger W.C. Varones said...

An Economics degree might not help with professors like Menzie Chinn.

 
At 8/23/2011 11:01 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

An Economics degree might not help with professors like Menzie Chinn.

He certainly is an absolute idiot and has no clue about economics.

 
At 8/24/2011 1:03 AM, Blogger Miami Heat said...

You don't need an economics or mba degree to understand government finance and the economy; all you need is common sense.

 
At 8/24/2011 4:46 AM, Blogger rjs said...

macro matters, business, not so much...running an individual business to make a profit is nothing like running a whole country & its economy...

 
At 8/24/2011 5:55 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Maybe that's because people with economic degrees ignore social and political perspectives and can't get elected or re-elected.

 
At 8/24/2011 7:00 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

They wouldn't need economics degrees if they didn't have their hands in every little bit of the economy.

 
At 8/24/2011 7:13 AM, Blogger Methinks said...

Well, Krugman has an Econ degree and that hasn't helped him understand economics.

My housekeeper has never been to school at all, yet she does. Go figure

 
At 8/24/2011 8:37 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Maybe that's because people with economic degrees ignore social and political perspectives and can't get elected or re-elected.

To get elected it helps not to have principles and to keep your eye on which way the wind is blowing. If your opponent ignores reality and has gotten elected by using taxpayer funds to buy votes and if redistribution schemes are popular there is very little chance that they will go with an alternative candidate. As such, most intelligent principled individuals have little interest in running for political office and are more than happy to use their knowledge to take advantage of the opportunities that economic illiterates offer. In a corrupt political systems of the developed world making money should be very easy for those with patience and principles. All you have to do is to bet that the corruption will continue until the system breaks down.

 
At 8/24/2011 9:03 AM, Blogger AIG said...

The question is whether having more people with econ/business degrees would be better or worse than the current bunch.

People with Econ/business degrees often think they know a lot about running an economy, when in reality they've missed the point of economics/business degrees.

Just look at what people who just have read about some economics on a blog...think they can do (Vangel, Ron Paul etc)

Maybe, we need less people with economics/business degrees (we certainly need less people with law degrees).

 
At 8/24/2011 9:16 AM, Blogger Junkyard_hawg1985 said...

My Congressman (Stephen Fincher) does not have a college degree at all. He is a farmer. I would bet that farming would give him a better understanding of real economics than a lot of people with degrees in economics.

 
At 8/24/2011 9:48 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

contrary to what RJS seems to think, i think that running a business is PRECISELY the kind of experience congress needs.

they need to understand the effects of red tape, uncertainty about federal encroachment, and how jobs and prosperity are actually created.

i can;t speak to congress, but the current presidential administration has less business experience than any in history, and it shows.

they have no idea how odious and difficult their proposals are to implement and how stifling they are.

for a perfect case and point, they had no idea what a burden having to report every purchase over $300 to the IRS would be.

hell, we'd have to report every trade we did. 15k shares X 2 cents = $300.

that's a tiny trade.

no one who had ever run anything bigger than a shoe shine box could fail to see what an outlandish and burdensome requirement that was, but, alas, there is not even that much sense in DC.

 
At 8/24/2011 10:34 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Hey W.C. Varones, you really did strike a nerve with a few: Menzie,

Please don't debase yourself by responding to red herrings from austrian dogmatists
...

 
At 8/24/2011 10:43 AM, Blogger juandos said...

I don't know what my congressman's education is but he sure has a track record of playing the race card in an attempt to divert attention away from one of the major players in the housing debacle...

 
At 8/24/2011 11:18 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

VangeIV: "If your opponent ignores reality and has gotten elected by using taxpayer funds to buy votes and if redistribution schemes are popular there is very little chance that they will go with an alternative candidate."

The reality is a politician that does not play the game cannot get elected at the national level, and whose fault is that? The electable politicians have to look good on camera, provide 30-second sound bites with spin, and avoid any contentious issues or gaffes that opponents could use against them. In addition, the skeletons that everyone has must be hidden very deeply in the closet.

So basically they have to be pretty and talk a lot without saying anything. I think that eliminates most Carpe Diem readers :-)

 
At 8/24/2011 11:43 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Walt G: "Maybe that's because people with economic degrees ignore social and political perspectives and can't get elected or re-elected."

Perhaps not in your part of the country.

Sen. Phil Gramm represented Texas for 24 years after spending 10 years as an economics professor.

Rep. Dick Armey represented my Texas Congressional district for 19 years, rising to the position of House Majority Leader. Armey was an economics professor for 17 years before his election to Congress.

Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama has an economics degree. Though he is new to the U.S. Congress, Brooks previously held state elected office in the 1980s and 1990s.

I think a better reason why there are few economists in Congress is that there are few Americans with economics degrees.

Business degrees are a different matter.

 
At 8/24/2011 11:49 AM, Blogger Ettubloge said...

Even if they do not have degrees or have never taken econ courses, have they read any econ books? Can they summarize in any meaningful way the general positions of thinkers like Mises, hayek, Smith, Ricardo, Bastiat, Keynes, Friedman, Schumpeter, anyone? Hell, I'll take a mention of Malthus just to know they ahve read something beyond a Dem/rep talking point.


I do know that the Pauls, Ryan and Rubio have at least read the economists.

 
At 8/24/2011 11:50 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Walt G: "The electable politicians have to look good on camera, provide 30-second sound bites with spin, and avoid any contentious issues"

I don't think that's true everywhere. Phil Gramm, Dick Armey, and Ron Paul never looked particularly good on camera. All three of them made a habit of speaking freely on contentious issues. And all three of them were re-elected many times by Texas voters.

 
At 8/24/2011 11:52 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Maybe, we need less people with economics/business degrees (we certainly need less people with law degrees).

You are equating economic degrees. That shows ignorance of the way things are. I would argue that the Keynesians and Monetarists have degrees that are worthless to anyone looking to understand how an economy works. But there are those who understand economics and can see the inevitable even if they do not have PhDs from Ivy League schools.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5nGCpzel6o&feature=related

 
At 8/24/2011 12:01 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

contrary to what RJS seems to think, i think that running a business is PRECISELY the kind of experience congress needs.

Only if it is a business that is not protected by government. Having a banker who depends on the Fed's constant inflation or a farmer who depends on corn or sugar subsidies is not all that useful.

 
At 8/24/2011 12:03 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

The reality is a politician that does not play the game cannot get elected at the national level, and whose fault is that?

Voters. And the courts that allow Congress to go beyond the limits outlined in the Constitution.

 
At 8/24/2011 12:57 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Jet Beagle,

I don't think you have named a majority of Congress. I've spent many years helping out a Congressman, and he's kind of old and not too pretty lately. There are exceptions, but most nationally elected representatives are pleasant to the eye and congenial. Old, ugly, honest, and cantankerous will not get too much support from the two major political parties that is necessary to win a nationally elected office. The question that needs to be asked: Are we ready to elect someone who can get the job done even if we don’t really like him or her?

Maybe Texans are a bit contentious themselves :-)

Vange, the Court gets to interpret the Constitution since judicial review was established in Marbury v. Madison in 1803, so they really can go beyond it.

 
At 8/24/2011 1:07 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Well, Krugman has an Econ degree and that hasn't helped him understand economic"...

Well methinks this Ramirez cartoon might help explain some of Krugman's problems with basic economics...

 
At 8/24/2011 2:43 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Walt G,

You first stated that an electable politician needs to "avoid contentious issues". Now you have changed that to "not be cantankerous". Those are not the same at all.

I disagree with your assertion that political parties will not give much support to "old" candidates for national office. The Republican Party nominated:

George H.W. Bush at age 64
Bob Dole at age 73
John McCain at age 72

At the time of those nominations, I don't think most people would have described them as "pleasing to the eye", but that's a subjective measure.

McCain did not avoid contentious issues. Dole was outspoken at times.


Walt G: "Maybe Texans are a bit contentious themselves "

Many of us would prefer that Yankee bleeding-heart liberals stay the hell out of our state. Please note, there is no smiley face at the end of that sentence.

 
At 8/24/2011 4:15 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Jet Beagle,

If I were a politician wishing to be elected, I would want to be mid-50s, white, college educated, well-spoken, have a nice smile, and have friends with money. I would also stay non-controversial. Your odds of being elected go up with each one of those attributes. I am not saying you must have those attributes in every case.

I think some people are too quick to label others liberals and conservative. Politicians find they have to go away from the middle to receive endorsement from their party, but they move back to the center to get elected because that is where the mass of voters are at. I am near the middle now, but I was more liberal when I was younger.

I’ve spend a lot of my lifetime in the South. My dad kept the farm in Arkansas until he died, and I had to spend my summers growing up on the farm without indoor plumbing or electricity. I have been to Tennessee and Missouri in the last couple of months, and I will be in Georgia next month. I find most people are friendly in the South, but just like the politicians you mentioned, there are exceptions to every rule.

 
At 8/24/2011 4:23 PM, Blogger AIG said...

"You are equating economic degrees. That shows ignorance of the way things are"

I, unlike you, are not privileged to know the "way things are". Only Mises.org readers have access to "the truth"..the "holy truth". I must only settle for the observable.

"I would argue that the Keynesians and Monetarists have degrees that are worthless to anyone looking to understand how an economy works."

Of course. Now one only has to find such a thing as "Keynesian Economics" major in any economics department. But we already determined we don't need economics departments, anyway (except for those providing jobs to the people who write for Mises.org. Those are ok)

"But there are those who understand economics"

The anointed ones by the Holy Father himself, Ron Paultard? Heretics on the spikes, I say!

"and can see the inevitable even if they do not have PhDs from Ivy League schools. "

One can only see the inevitable future by accepting the Gospel as told by the Holy Spirit, Ron Paultard. All other prophets are false prophets. All other Gods are false Gods. There is only one truth, and it is self-evident. Amen.

 

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