Tuesday, we tackled the excessive salaries earned by the CEOs of big businesses, so it only seems fitting that today we should take a closer look at the paychecks of the people who run the country.
This month, the Obama administration released its annual report for the salaries of all White House staffers. All in all, White House employees earned a salary of $38.7 million. That may sound like a hefty amount, but it covers more than 460 employees (yes, there are a lot of people running in and out of the White House) and, incidentally, it is just a fraction of the salaries earned by the CEOs of companies like Hess and Oracle.
In fact, only two employees at the White House earned more than $172,200, although nearly two dozen staffers take home a fat paycheck for that amount. It is worth noting that the president and vice president are not included in this breakdown, though both of their salaries are a matter of public record. Biden earns $221,000 a year and Obama earns $400,000, which again, may sound generous, but U.S. presidents actually make significantly less than the leaders of other countries.
The truth is that, unlike most CEOs, the people working in the White House now (as with most people working for the government in general) could probably earn a lot more money working elsewhere in the private sector. Here is a list of some of the highest paid staffers in the White House based on the report, along with some information about what these staffers earned before joining this administration and what some might able to make after.
Rahm Emanuel currently serves as President Obama’s Chief of Staff, which is arguably the most intensive job at the White House, after being the president. Emanuel is known for being a brash legislator who resorts to some extreme antics to get what he wants, but he is also known for working around the clock.
Prior to accepting the position as chief of staff, Emanuel had served in the House of Representatives where he was earning $169,300 a year. So you can say he got a little raise with this position. However, if he had stayed in the House, he would now be making $174,000, as they’ve increased the compensation for representatives. More than that, Emmanuel had publicly expressed his desire to be the first Jewish speaker of the House, which pays $223,500 a year, but he gave that up at Obama’s behest.
If Emmanuel is in charge of the policy, then David Axelrod is in charge of the message. Axelrod was the chief strategist for Obama’s campaign and is now a Senior Adviser to the president. For Axelrod, this salary represents a gigantic pay cut. Before joining this administration, he ran two campaign firms that earned $35 million from 1998-2008. In 2008, Axelrod had personally made $1.5 million from these firms. Then again, Axelrod did start out his career as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, so he certainly knows what it’s like to earn a small paycheck. And there’s no doubt that once he is done working in the White House, he will follow the example of his fellow campaign strategist, David Plouffe, and write a book.
Larry Summers is the director of the National Economic Council and a close adviser to the president on economic policy. Summers, along with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer and a handful of other advisers, is responsible for shaping our response to the current economic downturn.
Prior to joining the White House, Summers served as the president of Harvard University and worked as a managing director at D.E. Shaw Group, a hedge fund. In 2008, he earned more than $5 million from this hedge fund as well as several hundred thousand more in speaking fees. So yes, Larry, this modest paycheck may seem like a nothing, but given the unstable state of the economy right now, it remains to be seen whether this salary was money well spent.
No one has made out quite as well in the White House as Reggie Love. Love is the always-present personal assistant for President Obama. Love, who is just 29 years old, applied for an internship back in 2006 on Capitol Hill only to end up landing a job as an aide at then-Senator Obama’s office. Now, just a few years later, he is earning six figures and isn’t even 30 yet. But our guess is that he will be able to make much once he leaves the White House either by writing a book (working title: “The President and Me”) or working as a model (he has been deemed the hottest person in the White House).
If you don’t know who Krass is, don’t worry about it. She’s not exactly a household name. Krass works as the Associate Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs and is one of dozens of lawyers who have been hired to serve as legal counsels for different departments, each of whom are paid comparable salaries. This is a significant step up considering that the average lawyer working in government earns between $54,000 and $99,000 and at most $105,000 when working for a law firm.
Tamarin is another staffer who may not be a household name, but he earns a good amount of money. So what does he do? Tamarin served as the political director of Obama’s political action committee when he was still a candidate and now he works as the associate White House political director and essentially functions as the middleman between the administration and the labor force. And what better person to have as a labor liaison than the guy who makes nearly six figures?
Working at the White House does not guarantee a fantastic paycheck. Margaret Chen works as the Special Assistant to the White House Council on Women and Girls, a group that was first created last year by President Obama to “ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families.” It's unclear why she's working for nothing. It may that she's doing this for the prestige or out of the goodness of her heart. Or it may just be because no one knows anything about her. We certainly don't.
Timothy P. Love and Michael Hash
Love (no relation to Reggie) and Hash were the only two staffers to have a reported salary in excess of $172K. So who the heck are they?
Love has served as a director at the Office of Research, Development and Information for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That’s a mouth full, but basically it means he’s a health care specialist, which is essentially what he was paid for this year. According to The Washington Post, Love was listed as a health care policy “detailee.”
Hash is also credited with being a “detailee” for health care. According to a White House announcement last year, Hash is responsible for “running the inter-agency process for developing specific aspects of health reform legislation consistent with the President's priorities.” It remains to be seen what role, if any, these “detailees” will play in the White House now that health care reform has passed. Perhaps this alone will cut down the costs on next year’s White House payroll.
For those of you interested in getting a government job, now might be best time to do so. The government announced in May that they are speeding up the hiring process in order to fill thousands of new positions. The best place to start is by looking on USAjobs.gov. If you’re not sure what positions to go for, check out our list of the coolest sounding and best paying government jobs.
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