Carly Fiorina Didn’t Go From Secretary to CEO

Carly FiorinaWhen Carly Fiorina ran for Senate from California back 2010, her campaign was so hapless, that I didn’t even much pay attention to it. She ran against Barbara Boxer — always a bit of a climb for the idiots down in the southern part of the state — in a great year for Republicans, and she still managed to lose by 10 percentage points. The main thing I knew about her was that she had had a terrible career in business. But apparently, in the business world, there is no such thing as failure, so she ran around acting like she was some great hero.

But Friday morning, I was reading Paul Krugman, Fantasies and Fictions at GOP Debate. It’s a good article, but I was shocked by something he wrote in passing, “Oh, and if her life is a story of going from ‘secretary to CEO,’ mine is one of going from mailman to columnist and economist. Sorry, working menial jobs while you’re in school doesn’t make your life a Horatio Alger story.” It shocked me because I had taken that whole story at face value. It’s one of her big selling points: meritocracy and all that — she started at the bottom!

So I turned to Wikipedia. She wasn’t some lower middle class girl who went on to make it big. She wasn’t even an ordinary middle (or upper-middle or upper) class girl who went on to make it big. Her father was Joseph Tyree Sneed III. He was dean of the Duke University School of Law before becoming a justice on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was at least a law professor from the time that Carly was three years old. These are all indicative of the kind of childhood that creates successful people. Freedom from want and exposure to the best that our society offers are what we should strive to provide for all children — but don’t.

Now, I’m not putting down Fiorina for this. It’s great that she had this kind of life growing up. But she’s lying about her career — in a big and calculated way. In 1976, she got her Bachelor’s degree from Stanford — a school her father taught at from 1962 to 1971 — I wonder if that helped her get admitted?! She then got a Master’s degree in business (What else?!) from University of Maryland. From there, she went straight into a management trainee program at AT&T.

So where does all this business about “secretary to CEO” come from? Well, after she got her undergraduate degree, she headed down to UCLA to study law. I guess she was gonna be like her old man. But after one semester, she decided it wasn’t for her. So she got a job as a secretary for a real estate brokerage. She had it for six months — I assume until she could start another academic year. So basically: it was a summer job. I’m sure there are lots of people born rich who could similarly claim that they went from “waiter to CEO.”

What’s so terrible about this is that there have been people who have worked their way up in this way — although I know of none in such a spectacular way as Fiorina implies. And that makes it that much worse. She was never one of those people who started at the bottom. She started on the management track and did what was expected of her.

She really is a vile human being. A great social conservative who lies with aplomb.

Update (21 September 2015 8:46 am)

According to Melinda Henneberger, “She worked only briefly in that real estate office before heading off to Italy for a year with her first husband, Todd Bartlem.” So she didn’t go straight off to the University of Maryland. Instead, like poor Americans everywhere, she took a year off to live in Europe.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

9 thoughts on “Carly Fiorina Didn’t Go From Secretary to CEO

  1. The “gummint sucks bizness is brilliant” meme is unbelievable. I’m guessing everyone who subscribes to this nonsense has at one point spent three hours in phone hell fighting with an insurance company, or trying to get a company to honor a warranty. And yet business is efficient and government is a bureaucratic nightmare, because Reagan said so.

    (Yes, some government stuff is a nightmare. We all know this. Some is quite efficient. It depends. What’s amazing is how people who have never faced one iota of government inefficiency, because much of government works without our noticing — and whom, I guarantee, have faced corporate inefficiency — buy the meme.)

    • Among conservatives there is a general sense that “something’s wrong.” They are pissed off! But there is nothing they can do about AT&T. So they rant about the government.

    • That always makes me mad, the whole government is inefficient meme. My staff and I worked our tails off to do as good a job as we could for our customers. I would routinely work eighty hour weeks to ensure that their court cases were handled as quickly and fully as possible while also weaseling as many staff members as I could to carry the processing load.

      What struck me is that the ones who make the biggest stink about government not working as well as business never once worked in the private sector. I have worked in both and government agencies face a lot more pressure to be efficient then big business ever has.

      • Yeah, whenever I’ve worked in the corporate world, I’ve been amazed at how inefficient it was. Of course, I must give the corporate world credit: it did finally figure out that I was the wrong kind of person to hire.

      • Elizabeth — it’s nuts! Some people have experienced bad service from government-run agencies, some exceptional service, most neutral — the government doing exactly what we expect it to do.

        But everyone’s experienced horrible service from the corporate world! When you descend into phone hell, that “calls may be monitored to assure” message isn’t there to protect you. It’s there to make sure that humans on the other end of the line don’t let compassion get in the way of their orders, which are to screw you blind. The calls are randomly monitored so that operators are terrified of losing their jobs if they don’t f*** you over. It’s demeaning to them and it’s demeaning to you. It’s a hideous way of making the world uglier one interaction at a time.

        A lot of “government stinks at everything” belief doesn’t come from actual dealings with government people have experienced. A lot of it comes from straight-up racism. It’s the notion that we’re overtaxed because we pay money to shiftless minorities, since bleeding-heart liberals think there’s a possibility of redeeming those losers and keep throwing our money at the problem. This nonsense is widely believed and I have no idea how to counter it. Just share facts whenever and wherever we can, I guess, but that feels ineffective.

        Note the inherent inconsistency of this! If minorities are poor because they are Bad Races, then it’s not government’s fault for failing to help them out of poverty. If government incompetence is to blame, then the Bad Races aren’t at fault for being poor. Seems illogical to me. Of course, far-rightists would counter by saying that Bad Races are morally/intellectually inferior AND government is incompetent. Except where government is supremely competent, like in every dime they allocate to blowing foreigners up.

        • Logic is not the right wing’s strong suit.

          I just laugh at them now and try to work towards getting enough money to move back to a sane state.

          • Sounds like a good plan, Elizabeth!

            How many sane states are there? There are ones doing good things, though. One of the problems we face is that it takes time & commitment to improve our communities and basically one term for a modern super-right-wing governor to screw everything up. Look at how fast Walker trashed Wisconsin. We’re still undoing Tim Pawlenty’s damage in MN.

            Not easy anywhere you go, but hope you find a place you can enjoy trying to make a difference in!

            • My home state…California. We screwed up big time shortly before my birth with Prop 13 but we are getting back to normal and the issue with the water will be solved.

              • Yeah, we are still suffering from Prop 13. And the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association continues on, even 30 years after the old jerk died.

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