Methinks it’s time to prune some branches on the Facebook tree.

Posted on April 12, 2011


I was on Facebook today (about 30 minutes ago, actually), when I saw this pop up in my news feed:

Salary of the US President…$400,000. Salary of retired US Presidents…$180,000. Salary of House/Senate…$174,000. Salary of Speaker of House…$223,500….Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders…$193,400…..Average US Salary…$33,000 to $77,000.HELLO! I think we found where the cuts should be made! If you agree repost!!!!

I rolled my eyes, but continued about my business on the interwebz. By the time I clicked back to Facebook, that indignant little message pretty much filled the page, so many people had reposted it. OK. Now I’m a little annoyed. Let’s examine this shall we?

First of all, why do our congressional leaders and presidents get paid so much? There are many reasons, one of which is to try to discourage them from taking “donations” from special interests. You could argue that this doesn’t seem to work very well. Granted, but could you imagine how much more desperate candidates would be for campaign contributions if they were in danger of actually needing money?

It’s also important to remember that we have to compete for our leaders with the private sector. Why would someone with the skills necessary to be president work for $77,000 when they could earn almost 43 times more working as the CEO of a major corporation? Compared to the average salary of CEOs, which was $3.3mil in 2008*, $400,000 is an abysmal salary for a comparable job. If you want to argue about it, the job of President of the United States is actually more demanding than a CEO’s, and so should actually pay more, not 8 times less. We want to attract exemplary people to these positions of power, which is why we need to offer compensation that can at least be compared to that of other institutions competing for the same individuals.

Next, a little bit of perspective. Added together, the salaries of members of congress and the president is $85,635,500. Nice, right? I’d like a slice of that. But let’s compare that to the budget of the United States, which is $1.049 trillion dollars. Just so we’re clear, that looks like this: $1,049,000,000,000. The pay of the most powerful people in our government begins to look like a drop in the ocean. But exactly how big of drop in the ocean? According to my calculations** this makes up 0.816% of the budget. Or, you could consider the fact that there were 156.3 million taxpayers in the United States in 2008, according to CNN. That works out to $1.82 per taxpayer per year.

I understand the frustration of watching congresspeople on the news driving luxury cars and wearing designer suits, and seeing the president fly in Air Force One from place to place so he can talk about how he relates to the struggles of the lower class. But cutting congressional and presidential pay will not come close to making a difference in the budget, and as satisfying as it might be to want to pull them off their high horses (and Lincoln Towncars), getting angry that someone else has more than you will not solve this country’s problems.

*This figure is salary and bonuses alone, and does not include stock gains, which actually makes up the majority of how much a CEO brings home.

**which, I will be the first to admit, could be totally wrong. I haven’t had a math class in like four semesters. If I’m wrong, let me know, please.

Posted in: Random Bloggage