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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 expense accounts, including non-taxable travel accounts and entertainment funds. Upon leaving office, former presidents are given a pension and office space. They have secret service protection. The first ladies of deceased ex-presidents also receive pensions. Factoring in all of those other perks, 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 by the founding fathers in the Federalist Papers, is that the president's salary reinforces their status as an employee of and servant to the American 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 presidential salary would be a necessity for any poorer citizens to get to the White House. In some states like New Hampshire, where representatives receive an annual 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. Members of congress increase their pay by passing 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 Bill 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 added to the Constitution 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 inauguration, and so anyone who votes to raise their pay has to answer to the voters first. Also, contrary to what one might expect, pay is equal between the House and the Senate.

Here are the salaries of the other members of government. The salaries listed below are annual as of 2021. They were last updated in 2009 under the Bush administration, and went into effect when Barack Obama took office.

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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