COMMENTARY | Jenna Bush Hagerman, daughter of former president George W. Bush, got to interview her dad for NBC on Friday after his art went public. While the reaction to Bush’s paintings of world leaders has gotten a mixed reaction, understandable given the unabashedly liberal leanings of many artsy types, a similarly chilly reaction has met Jenna Bush’s interview. According to thinkprogress.org, many journalists and academics are displeased with the “puff piece” interview, arguing that it violates journalistic ethics. NBC has indeed received criticism for hiring both Jenna Bush and Chelsea Clinton, with critics noting that the young women were receiving ample salaries to deliver “journalism” that was far from hard-hitting, important, or researched.
It should be no surprise, of course, that the kids of elites have all sorts of advantages when it comes to landing the good jobs, especially the cushy ones. A sinecure with Dad’s company? Check. A lifetime of academia, subsidized by trust fund? Check. A leadership position with Mom’s nonprofit? Check.
Employment with companies that want to curry favor with your family? Double check.
Frankly, it’s hard to blame the employers. They could hire a middle-class college grad, who has no connections but bucketloads of talent and ambition, but why? That kid is not landing the employer choice interviews and clients like the kid whose parents are celebrities. Being a member of the elite has value, especially as an employee.
Historically, nepotistic elitism has had its advantages in both business and politics, going as far back as the arranged marriages of old. While hiring the better employee or pursuing the more fulfilling love match might yield better returns in the long run, it was often hard to pass up the guarantee of short-term profit. For example, though a more talented journalism grad might benefit NBC more in the long run, hiring the daughter of a recent U.S. president pays dividends now.
To combat nepotistic elitism, therefore, we must make it more profitable to pursue true talent than politics. This can be achieved when we follow the lead of startups like Pave, Upstart, and Lumni and invest in the future earnings of talented young people. Non-elites will yield more profits, since their initial “stock” prices will be lower. While an individual like Chelsea Clinton or Jenna Bush would command big bucks per share, a highly talented but relatively unknown middle-class college grad would command a more sensible price. Investors would invest in these individuals and use their social capital to ensure the success of their investment.
Basically, the grip of nepotism and elitism on “good jobs” will be weakened as those in power find it more profitable to assist middle-class young people instead of the overpriced children of the elite. It is more profitable to help a middle-class college graduate rise from $40 to $100 per share than help an elite Ivy League grad rise from $120 to $130 per share. Top executives at businesses and nonprofits will find it advantageous to pursue the advancement of middle-class talent, from which they receive a lucrative cut, instead of rich kids who are just coasting on the family name.