Barack Obama spent a lot more time in the private sector than Paul Ryan

August 29, 2012

Republicans have been ragging on Barack Obama for lacking any real experience working in the private sector. "With any luck, in a few months, Barack Obama will finally get some experience in the private sector," Tim Pawlenty said in his speech at the convention Wednesday night.


Photo credit: Charles Dharapak/AP

But Obama actually spent about 16 years working outside of government—not as much time as Romney, to be sure, but significantly more than his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan.

Ryan hasn't spent much time outside of Congress in his adult life: He spent two years working for Empower America, a Washington think-tank, and one year at his family's construction firm in Wisconsin in the 1990s. That's about three years total, only one of which was for a for-profit business. (He also flipped burger at McDonald's and drove the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile as a student, and he worked part-time as a waiter and fitness instructor during his earliest years in Washington.)

By comparison, Obama has spent about 16 years working full time in the private sector, according to a Politifact round-up: That includes one year at Business International, an advisory firm to US companies overseas; a short stint at the New York Public Interest Research Group; three years as a community organizer with the Developing Communities Project; one year at non-profit Project Vote; and 11 years at Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a private law firm. (While in law school, he also spent two summers as a legal associate at private firms.)

But the distinction between Obama and Ryan is no secret: Just today, Ryan's brother called the Wisconsin Republican a "career politician" on Fox News.

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Dylan Matthews | August 29, 2012