Logically, you'd think that Obama is the highest paid president, as the presidential paycheck has gotten higher and higher over time. Not true. Obama is in fact number 8 on the list of lowest paid presidents. How is that possible? Inflation my dear boy! Think of it like the list of highest grossing movies of all time. Avatar is the highest grossing movie in total earnings. That isn't adjusted for inflation however. When adjusted, Avatar goes all the way down to 14th, while topping the list is Gone With the Wind. Bet you didn't expect that. Well, some of you might have. Anyway, going by the way inflation works, the highest paid president could basically be anyone. The answer may surprise you: William Howard Taft. Yes, the man who got stuck in a tub was our best paid president. Taft was paid just $75,000 dollars a year in his time. In our time however, he was making $1,445,454 a year. Mckinley, Nixon, Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Cleveland all made over $1 million a year when adjusted for inflation. Who got paid the least then? Bill Clinton, that's who! Clinton made $200,000 a year plus a $50,000 expense account, which is worth $282,648 today. Other presidents on the lowest paid: Andrew Johnson, Madison, H.W. Bush, John Adams, Lincoln, Jefferson, Monroe, Obama, Reagan, and Washington.
Most of the lowest paid come in before President Grant because they all made $25,000 year. It wasn't until Grant's second term that Congress started giving presidents raises. Why give the presidents raises? It's not because the president is underpaid, but because Congress feels it is. "Traditionally, no government employee can make more than the president. Yet unlike the president, many of them have built cost-of-living increases into their salaries. When their pay starts butting up against that of the president's, they tend to become more generous." A few fast facts about presidents and their salaries:
- Presidents since Truman have had a $50,000 expense account.
- George Washington, Herbert Hoover, and John F. Kennedy refused their salary (Washington instead had a never ending expense account, Hoover and Kennedy were already loaded).
- While many presidential expenses are picked up by other departments and agencies, not all of them are: Thomas Jefferson left office owing $10,000 just for wine (Jefferson was terrible with money).
- Incidentally, the two presidents who were impeached are also the two lowest paid presidents. Somehow Nixon is the third highest.
- Presidential pensions started being doled out by Congress in 1958. It started out at $25,000 per year and included both and office and staff. The payment is now based on the annual pay of a cabinet secretary: in 2001 this came out to $161,200.
- Joe Biden doesn't get peanuts either. He receives around $220,000 a year for being vice-president.
Romney Tax information from: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/24/romney-tax-returns-to-give-view-of-family-wealth/
Obama annual income from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/26/mitt-romney-tax-returns-clues-character_n_1233772.html
All other information from: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges into the Presidency. "The Buck Stops Here." Pgs. 79-81.