Presidential Salaries

June 10, 1999

Seven former White House chiefs of staff support a congressional plan to double the salary of the president. Currently the president's salary is $200,000. Alexander Haig wants to increase the president's salary to $500,000, arguing that the current level is peanuts compared to commercial salaries.

Haig is probably right. The president receives much less than a person with the same sort of executive responsibility in the private sector. And the last time we increased the president's salary was back in 1969.

In fact, a recent survey found that 49 percent of Americans favored a salary increase when told that the last increase was in 1969. That number dropped to 41 percent, however, when informed that the salary was $200,000.

But the real issue here is not the president's salary; it's the salary of the rest of the people in government. Federal salaries depend upon the president's salary. Most of those salaries are topped out because of the cap on the president's salary.

Mack McLarty, President Clinton's former chief of staff said, "I am particularly concerned about the fixed salary of the president compressing salaries of others in government."

So now do you see the real issue? Unless Congress increases the president's salary, it can't really increase the others. The vice president and chief justice of the Supreme Court are paid $175,400 a year. The president's 14 Cabinet secretaries are paid $151,800 a year. Members of Congress are paid $136,700.

So this isn't so much about increasing the president's salary. It's about increasing the rest of the federal salaries. The president may deserve a pay increase, but that is only a small part of what this whole debate is about. Keep that in mind when you listen to the rhetoric.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.