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Salaries of the President, Vice President, and Other U.S. Officials

YearPresident's Salary1
1789$25,000 
1873$50,000 
1909$75,000 
1949$100,000 
1969$200,000 
2001$400,000 

Why Does the President Have a Salary?

On top of their pay, the President of the United States is given separate non-taxable funds for travel and entertainment, and upon leaving their position they are given a pension and office space. The spouses of deceased presidents also receive pensions. Factoring in all of those other benefits, and the power that comes with the position, why do the taxpayers pay the president directly?

The reason is largely ideological. The rationale, as described in foundational documents like the Federalist Papers, is that the president's salary reinforces their status as an employee of and servant to the general public. A president who is not beholden to the people for his livelihood is more likely to act on their own interests. Later generations may further argue that the salary would be a necessity for any poorer citizens. In some states like New Hampshire, where representatives receive a salary of $200, it is financially impossible for many to hold public office.

Who Controls Congressional Salaries?

There is no automatic process to adjust government salaries for inflation. Any increase must be passed as a bill through Congress. This poses a relatively firm restraint on the growth of executive pay in the United States. The president's salary has only been increased five times in U.S. history. The most recent occurred under President Clinton, although it didn't take effect until George W. Bush took office.

Congress also votes on their own salaries. What, then, keeps Congress from fast tracking the federal budget into their pockets? Traditionally, aside from moral compunctions, the external barrier has been the threat of being voted out of office. This was codified in an Amendment first proposed in the 1700s and passed in 1992. It reads

No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Or, in plain speech, Congressional pay increases won't kick in until after the next election cycle, and so anyone who votes to raise their pay has to answer to the voters first.

Here are the salaries of the other members of government. The salaries listed below are annual as of 2015.

PositionSalary
Vice President$230,7002
Senator$174,000
Representative$174,000
Majority and Minority Leaders$193,400
Speaker of the House$223,500
Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court$255,500
Assoc. Justice, U.S. Supreme Court$244,400
1. Plus $50,000 non-taxable expense allowance to assist in defraying expenses relating to or resulting from the discharge of his official duties.
2. Plus $10,000 taxable expense allowance.
Source: Office of Personnel Management. Web: www.opm.gov/ .
 
 

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