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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

America is not a meritocracy. Wealth and power are both largely inherited traits, to the point at which there's a name for the seeming inability of the children of the rich to fail: the glass floor.

Yes, but: While inheriting wealth is relatively uncontroversial, inheriting power can be problematic.

Driving the news: Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, has received much good fortune over the course of his life, first as the son of a Delaware senator and then as the son of the vice president of the United States.

"My dad was vice president of the United States. There's literally nothing, as a young man or as a full grown adult, that my father in some way hasn't had influence over."
— Hunter Biden, in an interview with ABC News
  • Hunter was accepted to Yale Law School, became his father's deputy campaign manager, was offered a plum job with a bank holding company that was one of his father's largest campaign contributors, founded a lobbying company, was appointed by President George W. Bush to the board of Amtrak, and founded an investment firm with another political scion, John Kerry's stepson Christopher Heinz.
  • He joined the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas producer, in 2014. According to the New York Times, his board seat "allowed Burisma to create the perception that it was backed by powerful Americans at a time when Ukraine was especially dependent on aid and strategic backing from the United States."

None of this is criminal, although when U.S. companies hire Chinese princelings, that can violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In 2016, for instance, JPMorgan paid a fine of $264 million for giving investment-banking jobs to the children of high-ranking Chinese officials. (Deutsche Bank seems to have done something very similar.)

Politicians' children have a tendency to receive amazing jobs — up to and including senior White House positions, in the case of Ivanka Trump and her husband.

  • John McCain's daughter Meghan c0-hosts "The View" on ABC and she also appears on ABC News. Her co-host Abby Huntsman, the daughter of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, previously worked for NBC News; both of them have also worked for Fox. Bill and Hillary Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, also worked for NBC News.

The bottom line: If you're the child of a prominent politician, your connections are going to be valuable in many different industries. That's going to help your career whether you like it or not. It's also going to leave you open to accusations of nepotism and free-riding.

  • When should scions say no to lucrative opportunities? The emerging consensus seems to be that work for domestic companies is generally accepted, while work for foreign companies is more problematic. But these norms are constantly evolving.

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - World

Biden cleans up comments about Russia invading Ukraine

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden sought to clarify his suggestion that a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine may not draw the same response as a large invasion, telling reporters Thursday that "Russia will pay a heavy price" if any troops cross the border.

Why it matters: Some officials in Kyiv saw Biden's comments as inviting Russian aggression.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
21 mins ago - Health

Study finds bias against Black patients written into medical charts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Black patients were more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white patients to have negative descriptors about them in their electronic health record, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: The study is further evidence of bias in the U.S. health care system, which can ultimately result in worse care and disparately poor outcomes.

Jan. 6 panel asks Ivanka Trump to cooperate with investigation

Former President Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump walk to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on January 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot sent a letter Thursday to Ivanka Trump requesting her cooperation with the investigation.

Driving the news: "We write to request your voluntary cooperation with our investigation on a range of critical topics," the chair wrote in a letter to the former president's daughter.