The newly elected President was a wealthy businessman with extensive land holdings. When told how much he’d be paid to serve as Chief Executive of the United States, he refused the very considerable sum, saying he didn’t need it. In the end, he was required to accept the payment.
Donald Trump? Well, yes. But I was talking about George Washington, who, like Trump, tried to decline the Presidency’s salary, which at the time was $25,000.
During a recent 60 Minutes interview, President-elect Trump reiterated his oft-stated intention to refuse the President’s $400,000 salary. But because that pay is set by law, trump will find a paystub on his desk every two weeks. (I assume he has direct deposit, right?) Because Trump pays no federal income tax, that’s gonna be a juicy chunk of change!
Trump can honor the spirit of his statement by either returning his net pay to the Treasury or donating his salary to charity. Presidents Kennedy and Hoover did the latter. President Obama returned 5% of his salary to the Treasury to show solidarity with federal workers who lost wages during a Congress-mandated government shutdown.
Of more interest to me is whether Trump will accept the Presidential pension, which is currently $203,000 per year. That sum will likely increase before Trump leaves office, as it’s tied to the current pay rate for the heads of federal departments – cabinet members, et cetera. (Melania would get an additional $20,000 annually as a former First Lady.) In addition to the lifetime pension payment, Trump would also be entitled, of course, to Secret Service protection, budget for staff, and money to build a Presidential library. Can you just imagine how terrific that library will be? Lots of marble, gold, and maybe even a golf course and/or casino.
The Presidential pension is a relatively new thing. It was signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower, much to the relief of former President Harry Truman, who was so impoverished post-White House that he moved in with his mother-in-law. Other nearly-indigent ex-Presidents included Thomas Jefferson, who sold his huge personal library to the government to stave off bankruptcy; James Monroe, who had to live with his daughter for the remainder of his life; and Ulysses S. Grant, who lost everything in a stock fraud and was saved from the street only by the success of his memoirs.
President Trump is unlikely to face such dire straits when he leaves office. But I think he should take the pension anyway. After all, multiple income streams are important in retirement.