Senators Duckworth and Hirono, and Biden's diversity initiative

On November 24, CNN announced that Joe Biden had made his Cabinet picks.  Only two have not been confirmed by the Senate.  One, Neera Tanden for OMB director, has withdrawn her candidacy, and one other, Eric Ladner for science adviser, is nominated but not yet scheduled for confirmation.  On December 3, Biden said, "I'm going to keep my commitment that the administration, both in the White House and outside in the Cabinet, is going to look like the country."

The 26-seat Cabinet consists of the president; the vice president; 15 Executive Branch agency secretaries; and, in this current administration, nine other positions, one of which (the president's chief of staff) does not require Senate confirmation.  In total, Biden will make around 4,000 appointments, with close to 1,300 of them requiring Senate confirmation.

Earlier this week, Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth took issue with the lack of Asians among Biden's Cabinet secretaries and declared, "I am a no vote on the floor on all non-diversity nominees."  She also stated, "You know, I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ.  But anybody else I'm not voting for."  Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono said she was prepared to join Duckworth in this effort.

If this is such an issue, why wait four months to raise an objection, and especially now that all but two have been confirmed?  A day late and a dollar short.  Seems both ineffectual and hypocritical to complain after nothing more can be done.

The women withdrew their objection and declared their support a day later after the administration promised thatan AAPI (Asian American or Pacific Islander) would occupy a senior White House position and act as a liaison for AAPI issues and appointees.  Racist extortion works.

Biden has already appointed more than 1,000 people to the approximately 2,700 positions that do not require Senate confirmation.  Of those requiring Senate confirmation, 29 nominees have been confirmed, 5 have been announced, and 37 are under consideration by the Senate.

Here's the demographic breakdown of the current Cabinet, including the unconfirmed nominee.  Percentage in parenthesis represents percent among United States population.

Sex:

  • Male (49.2%) — 14 or 56%
  • Female (50.8%) — 11 or 44%

Race (some overlap among categories):

  • White, including Hispanic (76.3%) — 17 or 68%
  • Black (13.4%) — 6 or 24%
  • AAPI (5.9%) — 2 or 8%
  • Native American (1.3%) — 1 or 4%

Miscellaneous factors:

  • LGBT is a tough one (depending on the survey, the percentage of adults that identify as other than straight in America ranges from 0.6% to 12%) — 1 or 4%
  • Hispanic heritage (18.5%) — 3 or 12%
  • Foreign-born (13.6%) — 2 or 8%
  • Jewish (2.6%) — 6 or 24%
  • Doctorates (excluding law) (1.3%) — 4 or 16%
  • Lawyers (0.5%) — 14 or 56%

If statistical equity is what one is looking for, then Whites, Hispanics, and the foreign-born are under-represented in Biden's Cabinet, and all other groups are over-represented, including Asians.

The real statistical anomalies are in education.  A little more than one percent of the population has a doctoral (D. or Ph.D.) degree, yet those holding them make up 16% of the Cabinet.  Half of one percent of Americans are lawyers, but 56% of the Cabinet has graduated from law school.

Looks like significant education, coupled with relevant expertise, is normal for most Cabinet secretaries.  To drive home the point of the value of education in public service, Senator Duckworth has a Ph.D. in Human Services from Capella, and Senator Hirono graduated from Georgetown Law.  If they truly care about Asians rising to the level of Cabinet secretary, they should get themselves on the Education Subcommittee and fight like hell to do away with numerical limitations for Asians at our country's best universities.

They could really make a difference.

Here is raw data for the above statistics:

  • Joe Biden, President
    • Male, White, Syracuse U Law
  • Kamala Harris, Vice President
    • Female, Black (Jamaican heritage), Asian, (Indian heritage), UC Hastings Law
  • Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
    • Male, White, Albany Law
  • Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Commerce
    • Female, White, Yale Law
  • Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense
    • Male, Black, General (Retired), MA Education Auburn, MBA Webster
  • Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education
    • Male, White (Puerto Rican heritage, Hispanic surname), D.Ed. U Connecticut
  • Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy
    • Female, White (Canadian-born), Harvard Law
  • Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services
    • Male, White (Mexican heritage, Hispanic surname), Stanford Law
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security
    • Male, White (Cuban-born, not Hispanic), Jewish, Loyola Law
  • Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
    • Female, Black, Cleveland-Marshall Law
  • Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior
    • Female, Native American, U New Mexico Law
  • Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor
    • Male, White, BA Boston
  • Antony Blinken, Secretary of State
    • Male, White, Jewish, Columbia Law
  • Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation
    • Male, White, Gay, BA Harvard, BA Oxford
  • Dr. Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury
    • Female, White, Jewish, Ph.D. Economics Yale
  • Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
    • Male, White, MSFS Georgetown
  • Merrick Garland, Attorney General
    • White, Male, Jewish, Harvard Law
  • Ron Klain, White House Chief of Staff (Senate confirmation not required)
    • Male, White, Jewish, Harvard Law
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations
    • Female, Black, MPA U Wisconsin
  • Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence
    • Female, White, Jewish, Georgetown Law
  • Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative
    • Female, Asian (Chinese heritage), Harvard Law
  • Michael Regan, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
    • Male, Black, MPA George Washington
  • Vacant, Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Dr. Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
    • Female, Black, Ph.D. Economics Oxford
  • Vacant, Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Eric Ladner, nominated
    • Male, White, Ph.D. Mathematics, Oxford
  • Isabel Guzman, Administrator of the Small Business Administration
    • Female, White (Mexican heritage, Hispanic surname), BS Wharton

Anony Mee is a retired public servant.

Image: Senators Hirono and Duckworth by Andrea Widburg.