President Barack Obama’s new top economic deputy is a former management consultant who worked for Gov. Mitt Romney’s Bain & Company investment firm.
The appointment of Jeff Zients as head of the National Economic Council is likely to annoy some union officials and some liberal groups who are focused on declining working-class wages and growing poverty, and it clashes with the populist anti-business invective used by Obama and his aides on the 2012 campaign trail to paint Romney as uncaring.
On the campaign, Obama repeatedly slammed Romney’s management-consulting business, and one of his TV-ads even suggested Romney was responsible for the death of a former employee’s spouse, who passed away after a battle with cancer.
But Zients has stellar credentials as a progressive believer in the ability of government and corporate experts to manage Americans’ economy.
Zients worked at Bain & Co. from 1988 to 1990. During this period, Romney was running Bain Capital, so the two did not work together.
Zients made his $100 million-plus fortune in the early 2000s overseeing a company that advises companies on government regulations and business strategy.
“Jeff has a sterling reputation as a business leader, and he earned the admiration and respect of everyone he worked with during his four years in leadership positions at the Office of Management and Budget,” Obama said in a statement Sept 13 that did not mention Zient’s role at Bain.
“I am certain that in Jeff’s hands we will continue to have strong leadership of our economic policy team and his advice will be critical as we keep moving this country forward and building an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead,” Obama said.
The appointment was leaked to The New York Times on Friday. The paper did not not mention the adviser’s controversial connection to Bain. Neither did Politico’s Playbook.
From 2009, Zients worked for Obama in a series of jobs, including acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. He also worked as Obama’s representative on his CEO-heavy jobs council.
The council includes many firms, such as General Electric, that profit from close cooperation with government. Throughout the economy, many companies, including those on Wall Street, profit from government contracts or regulatory changes.
Since Obama was inaugurated, a greater percentage of the nation’s wealth has gone to the already rich and the clever who take advantage of government’s growing power.
“The very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19 percent of the country’s household income last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock market crash,” the Associated Press reports. “The top 10 percent captured a record 48.2 percent of total earnings last year … [and] in 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.”
AP also reported that “95 percent of the income gains reported since 2009 have gone to the top one percent.”
The AP’s report was based on a study of 100 years of data from the Internal Revenue Service by economists at the University of California, Berkeley.