Leaders of the so-called free world don’t come cheap. Whether they are taking trips on Air Force One, hosting get-togethers with other world leaders, or simply collecting a paycheck, the job demands a fair bit of cash. You might not be surprised that some leaders are more expensive than others. There have been men of power that pulled the purse strings and others that weren’t quite so frugal. But can we blame the President if he, or possibly in the future she, has to spend a lot on doing the job right? That’s what we will investigate today, in this episode of the Infographics Show, How Much Does a US President Cost the Taxpayers?
First of all, we must think about salary. (A book called “The Official Role of the United States President – 2015: U.S.C. Title 3,” said that) A President is currently paid as follows: A basic salary of $400,000 a year, $50,000 in expenses, $100,000 for a nontaxable travel account, and a mere stipend of $19,000 for entertainment. In total that’s $569,000 a year. But, and there’s a big but, the President also receives benefits. Those include free housing at the White House with all bills included, being driven around in a presidential limousine, and taking trips on Marine One and Air Force One. We’ll get to the lowdown on those costs later. We should also add that forever more the President receives $200,000 a year for his pension plus healthcare. It’s really not a bad job in terms of pay, although as we know it seems to age you at a ratio of about 4 years for every 1 year. Another thing that is interesting is that pay raises for this job don’t exactly happen very often. There have only been five pay raises for U.S. presidents from 1789 to the present day. The last one was in 2001 when the salary went up from $200,000 to $400,000. We shouldn’t feel bad for Presidents, though, as the wage still puts them in the top one percent of earners in the USA.
When talking about costs, we must include salaries, but some Presidents refused to accept their salary. There have been three in all. One of them is the current President, Donald Trump, who has been donating his wad to other causes than himself. His first quarter salary went to the National Park Service, and his second quarter salary went to the Department of Education. The other two American presidents to have displayed such salary largesse were John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover, although Time magazine once reported that George Washington declared in his inaugural address that he would not accept the paycheck. Lawmakers were not pleased with that idea and told Washington it was unconstitutional. We should say here that while Washington was offered $25,000 for the job in his day’s money, that would be around $600,000 today…We might also add that Washington’s benefits were not as extravagant as today’s president.
But, who was the most expensive President so far? Well, we should say that presidents don’t stop costing the taxpayer money. Presidents don’t only get a pension, but they keep on receiving benefits. This we must take into account when adding up how much they cost. For 2017 Obama broke the record for asking for the biggest budget. His expenses were $1,153,000, and this was on top of the reported $400,000 he made for giving one speech to Wall Street folks. He also has a $65 million twin book deal in the pipeline. Fox news and other media reported that his price for the Milan speech was $3.2 million, although some media left the story alone so we cannot confirm its veracity. We mention this just to highlight that some presidents obviously like to live the high-life, which could give credence to them being expensive while in office. As for other former presidents, Bush’s expenses for 2017 were $100,000 less than Obama’s, Clinton’s $200,000 less and Jimmy Carter’s $456,000 less.
But who has demanded the most cash while still on the job? Well, you might already know that just recently the media reported that that title goes to none other than Donald J. Trump. He may not take a wage, but that’s nothing compared to some of the costs for his lifestyle and added extras to his job. Just flying his family from his Mar-a-Lago golf resort to New York during Easter reportedly cost taxpayers $110,000. According to the LA Times just travel and protection made Trump’s “presidential family the most expensive in history.” His first 100 days cost a grand total of $30 million. According to some reports Obama and family were costing around $12 million a year. But that doesn’t make much sense when we read other reports from established media who cite the think tank, Judicial Watch. According to them, Obama’s travel costs, including flights, hotels, car rentals and all the foie gras and champagne one could quaff, cost the taxpayer close to $106 million dollars ($105,662,975.27) for his entire presidency. We can only wait to see what Trump will clock-up during his entire term, though.
To compare these two presidents, whom most media seem to think have been the most costly to the taxpayer, The Washington Post asked the question in April this year: “Are President Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago similar to Obama’s travels?” Roughly, wrote the post, Obama was costing on average around $33,000 a day, although they had his total eight years at $97 million rather than what seems like the correct one we stated before. This is total cost divided by time as President. What is perhaps unfair for Donald is that people estimate his cost on what one travel day or holiday costs, according to The Post. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips reportedly cost around $60,000 a day, but he also sometimes goes there to work. The conclusion was that both presidents were perhaps asking for a little too much and both were extremely expensive men in the big seat.
But what does the itemized bill look like? In 2016 it was reported by various media that the total cost of the White House, which includes security, total staffing, entertainment, and travel, was around 1.4 billion dollars a year. But this also included policy making staff, which adds a lot onto the bill. Just moving around, whether from car to plane to helicopter is a highly orchestrated thing and it reportedly costs around $2,614 every minute the president moves. According to Business Insider it costs $200,000 an hour to operate Air Force one. This is because of logistics, but also because it’s a highly advanced machine with defense capabilities. The Beast Limos the presidents use each cost $1.5 million to buy, never mind what they cost to drive. As for bills at the White House? Well, food is not free, and you have to buy your own face wash and black ties. Utilities there are paid for, as is gardening and cleaning, etc. The bill for utilities and house staff is unknown, but it’s estimated that staff and day to day taking care of the White House, plus bills, is around 13.5 million dollars a year ($13,507,000).
One thing we should say is that Jimmy Carter often gets the plaudits for being the most well-behaved and least extravagant of U.S. presidents. Time magazine actually reported that in 1977, two weeks after he was sworn in, he gave a televised fireside chat from his West Wing study to the American public. People were surprised he was wearing a rather informal woolly cardigan. Apparently he’d turned down the heating in the White House to save money and conserve energy.
So, do you think these presidential costs are ultimately worth it, or should the government actively seek a way to reduce the presidential price tag? Let us know in the comments!