Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Presidential Compensation

                    The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article II, Section 1, Clause 7: "The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected…."  This clause guaranteed that the President would know in advance what he would be paid for the position; it also assures the President that his pay will not be changed during his time in office.  Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist No. 73 that the main reason for the requirement of fixing the presidential compensation in advance and for his entire term of office was to keep the office of President as independent as possible. 

                    The first Congress decided in 1789 that the President of the United States would receive $25,000.00, and the President's salary has been increased several times since then.  President Grant's salary was doubled in 1873.  In 1809 the President's salary was increased to $75,000 plus traveling expenses approved by Congress.  The President's salary was increased again in 1949 to $100,000 plus $50,000 for expenses and again in 1967 to $200,000.  The presidential compensation changed again on January 1, 2001, when the amount was increased to $390,000 per year including a $50,000 expense account.

                    Our Founders wanted to compensate the President for his services, but they did not want the President's salary to be so large that it would attract the wrong kind of people to the position.  Benjamin Franklin was quoted as stating, "Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men.  These are ambition and avarice:  the love of power and the love of money.  Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects….

                    "And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre-eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters?  It will not be the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust.  It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits.  These will thrust themselves into your government, and be your rulers….

                    "Besides these evils, sir, though we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance.  Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations.  And there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers….

                    "It may be imagined by some that this is a Utopian idea, and that we can never find men to serve us in the executive department without paying them well for their services.  I conceive this to be a mistake….  The pleasure of doing good and serving their country, and the respect such conduct entitles them to, are sufficient motives with some minds to give up a great portion of their time to the public, without the mean inducement of pecuniary satisfaction…

                    "And, indeed, in all cases of public service, the less the profit the greater the honor…" (as quoted by W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, pp. 532-33).

                    Although George Washington did not accept any salary while he served as President, he did keep "careful and accurate accounts" of his expenses and was reimbursed for them.  There are reports that John F. Kennedy donated his full salary to charity.

When Mitt Romney is elected to be our next President, he may be one of the wealthiest presidents in the history of our nation.  He has been asked if he would take the salary as President, but he has not answered that question.  I personally would not be surprised to hear that he had declined the compensation.  During his 2008 campaign for President, Romney said that he would donate his salary to charity.  While governor of Massachusetts, he declined his salary of $135,000 a year.  While he was in charge of the Olympics he indicated that he would not accept the salary of $250,000 unless the games were successful.  After the Olympics proved to be a financial success, he donated the salary to charity.  He has donated his services in other public and private situations as well; therefore, I believe he would do the same as President of the United States


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