Personal Finance 

Presidential Pay

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Presidential Seal CarpetDid you know that President Barack Obama is the lowest paid President in the history of the United States of America?

This is, historically, how much the President has been paid:

  • Sept 1789 – Mar 1873: $25,000
  • Mar 1873 – Mar 1909: $50,000
  • Mar 1909 – Jan 1949: $75,000
  • Jan 1949 – Jan 1969: $100,000
  • Jan 1969 – Jan 2001: $200,000
  • Jan 2001 Onward: $400,000

You might see that list and say – “Hey Jim, you’re wrong, President Obama is paid the same as every President since Bill Clinton.”

Yes, but he is the lowest paid when you take into account inflation. Inflation always gets you!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator only goes back to 1913 so we can only say that the $75,000 in 1913 has the same buying power as $1,744,098.48 today, we suspect that the salaries that pre-date that one all have similarly high current day values (if not higher).

If we go back to 1969 and calculate the value of $200,000 in today’s dollars, you’d probably be surprised to hear it’s worth $1,254,610.35. And for the thirty-plus years that the salary didn’t change, the purchasing power of Presidential pay continued to shrink. $200,000 in 2001 is worth just $259,989.84 today. It’s stunning to think that Richard Nixon was paid as much as Bill Clinton.

As for President Obama, he recently issued an executive order that would raise the pay of the Vice President, Members of Congress, and other government officials in 2013. He didn’t give his office a raise though.

(Photo: sadams)

{ 18 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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18 Responses to “Presidential Pay”

  1. elmo says:

    It looks like Clinton was the lowest paid President if this line in the article is true:

    “$200,000 in 2001 is worth just $259,989.84 today.”

    • uclalien says:

      To make his statement clearer, Jim should have said something like the following:

      “A president earning $200,000 in 2001 would have to earn $259,281.76 in 2012 to have the same inflation adjusted income.”


      “$400,000 in 2001 is worth just $308,544.65 today.”


      “When adjusted for inflation, a $400,000 salary in 2001 is worth only $308,544.65 in 2012 dollars.”

  2. Emilio P says:

    I’m OK with presidents making a CEO type of income; while senators and representatives should be well paid as well; with the condition that they spend more time in legislation and curbe lobying and the disgusting amount of time they spend campaigning for their party instead of performing the work they were elected for

    • Rob says:

      congress and Senate should only get paid for bills passed with no pay if none passed. let them get the minimum wage till they pass a bill that has not been reintroduced. They can not get paid again on a bill that they got paid for like contractors!

    • watermelonpunch says:

      Emilio P makes very good points.

      A lot of people think members of Congress make too much money. It’s true only in the sense that they’re making too much money from lobbying efforts and the revolving door between Wall Street & D.C.
      I think people who are entrusted to do the business of representing the people should be paid nicely. But not in the form of what boils down to BRIBES.

      I would add to this, that I would be okay in spending more taxpayer dollars to fund the resources and salaries of financial regulators, in order to attract talent, to help prevent a re-run of the mortgage backed security & derivatives crap that plunged us into nastiness in 2008. I think the preventative investment would be more economical in the long run than being overly miserly about funding these endeavours and then paying the price later, as we already have seen how that works out.

  3. Steph says:

    Boo-freaking-hoo! The benefits package during and after presidency more than makes up the difference with or without inflation figured into the equation. And what was Obama thinking raising government salaries when we’re bleeding money at every turn while these same politicians have yet to “earn” the money they already take home each year?

  4. Very interesting!!! Nice facts

  5. Christian L. says:

    When I see these figures, I always wonder, “Are our bureaucrats out of touch?” It’s not that they can’t understand what Americans go through, but have they lived it? Do they know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck? Stress over retirement funds? Scratch their head looking at portfolios?

    I don’t know the answer, but I’d sure love a president who had an income of $50,000, a small net worth and no accommodations.

    But then it might be damn hard to run a giant country…

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  6. freeby50 says:

    I absolutely do not have any problem with the president or congress making the wages they make. Nor do I have a problem with them getting pay raises occasionally.

    The salary is not the reason anyone becomes president or a member of congress. If money was the goal then nobody would do it, they’d make more money easily elsewhere. As it is they are all underpaid for the job they do.

    I think their pay rates are just fine. Its not about being ‘out of touch’ or greedy either. I’m sure that the vast majority of them are already millionaires and have higher income elsewhere and probably don’t care a whole lot about their government pay.

    ON the other hand it might make sense to pay them more so they are not as distracted or interested in other ways to make money.

    • Texas Wahoo says:

      The salary of the president, vice president, and many members of Congress is only a small part of how they make their money. Simply having the job makes you extremely marketable as a writer, speaker, etc.

    • uclalien says:

      “If money was the goal then nobody would do it, they’d make more money easily elsewhere.”

      I disagree. In the private sector, most politicians wouldn’t make half of what they do as public “servants.”

  7. admiral58 says:

    Not sure they need anything since they get so much in perks. And after they’re president, they can travel the world and do speaking tours to make a lot of money.

  8. Will says:

    Agree with the first commenter. The article explains that the ’69 to ’01 salary was 200k.

    200k in1969 = 259k in 2013

    400k in 2013 = 400k in 2013.

    259k < 400k in 2013.

    So 1969 prez salary was lower than 2013 prez salary when adjusted for inflation.

    Negates the title of the article, right?

    • DMoney says:

      You’re doing it wrong.

      • uclalien says:

        His math is partially wrong, but the first sentence of the article is still incorrect because Clinton’s inflation adjusted salary was less than Obama’s current salary.

        Clinton was paid $200k in 2001. That’s the equivalent to earning $259k in 2012. Since Obama is earning $400k, he obviously makes more than Clinton did when adjusted for inflation.

        However, a $200k salary in 1969 is equivalent to $1.25 million today, which is obviously far greater than the $400k Obama is paid.

  9. Adan Elenes says:

    I wonder if Obama being the least paid President has anything to do with him being the least efficient.

  10. uclalien says:

    As some have pointed out, the President’s salary does not include the fringe benefits that come with being president. Some of these perks include:

    * Currently, the President receives a $50,000 annual expense allowance. (I’m not sure how this amount has changed over the years.)

    * Presidents receive a lifetime pension of ~$200k per year.

    * The White House was recently estimated to have a value of $110 million. Not a bad place to live rent free for 4 or 8 years.

    * Presidents receive a private jet (Air Force 1) that essentially takes them to anywhere of their choosing.

    * Obama recently re-enacted a program (that was eliminated in 1997) that provides past presidents and their spouses with lifetime of Secret Service protection.

    * A president’s celebrity status has other people/nations flying them all over the world to make appearances. It also allows them to earn millions writing books and making celebrity appearances.

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