In August, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton tweeted an application for unpaid interns, requiring a résumé and two letters of reference. Just a few days later, she was posting about the student debt crisis.
…of the 16 candidates running for president, only one pays his interns: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), at $10.10 an hour.
I know this article by Christine Greer and Alexis Grenell probably doesn’t come as a surprise. It isn’t a new topic.
Just like international development, politics is a hyper-competitive sector that doesn’t traditionally pay very well (unless your last name is Clinton and you like making speeches).
Interns are many, money is little; nobody else is paying their interns, so why should I?
Ignore the ethics of it for a second. Ignore the fact that inequality (i.e. inequality of income) is becoming one of the defining political issues of the 21st century. Ignore the hypocrisy of not paying interns and then banging on about jobs and job creation, bemoaning debt and calling for people to work their ways out of poverty. Think about it in terms of recruiting.
If your interns have to self finance then you’re limiting your pool of candidates to the rich. You won’t be recruiting the best. Even worse, these limits aren’t just class-based, they are clearly related to race. As Greer and Grenell put it:
A recent Pew Research Center study found that the median wealth of white households is more than 10 times that of Hispanic households and 13 times that of black households. There is a racial divide between students wealthy enough to participate in internship programs and those who lack the financial reserves to do so.
Sure, the topic isn’t new but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.