White House Salaries

The Obama administration has released its report to Congress on what the White House staff makes. How you interpret it depends on your own economic status and your views of government in general and this president in particular.

The Obama administration has released its report to Congress on what the White House staff makes. How you interpret it depends on your own economic status and your views of government in general and this president in particular.

The Hill (“White House releases staffers’ salaries“):

The top earners in the Obama White House take home $172,200 a year, according to figures posted on whitehouse.gov Friday afternoon.

Twenty-one administration officials earn the top salary, including Chief of Staff Bill Daley, top healthcare adviser Nancy-Ann Deparle, senior adviser David Plouffe and White House spokesman Jay Carney.

“Since 1995, the White House has been required to deliver a report to Congress listing the title and salary of every White House Office employee,” a post on the White House website states. “Consistent with President Obama’s commitment to transparency, this report is being publicly disclosed on our website as it is transmitted to Congress.”

The lowest salary paid is $41,000.

Three White House advisers apparently work for free: Patricia McGinnis, Jessica Schumer and Shale Wong take home $0.00 per year.

President Obama earns $400,000 per year.

Here’s the searchable table, courtesy the White House:

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Now, from where I sit, these salaries range from fairly average (for the Washington metropolitan area) for the clerical level employees to downright low for the senior staffers. But the commenters on the Hill’s site are almost universally apoplectic that we’re paying people $178,000. Apparently, these people are making way too much given that they’re incompetent loafers who spend all their time playing golf and basketball.

The truth of the matter is that all the people here making six figures could make far more on the outside. Indeed, most of them were–and will again once they leave. The $178,000 figure represents the cap imposed by Congress and taking the pay cut is the price of service–or the glory of working for the president, depending on your perspective. Don’t feel too bad for them, though; most will cash in handsomely down the road.

Of some interest is the sheer number of people on the staff: 454. Of those, 141 earn at least $100,000, with 21 earning the maximum $178,000.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Galen Faulkes says:

    Publishing salaries isn’t part of Obama’s ongoing commitment to transparency. It is a practice that had been going on long before he entered office. Kudos for not stopping but, if any president, Clinton gets the prize for this one.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I’m with you, James. These are low at the upper level, very low given the cost of living in the DC Metro. Young first year associates at places like Covington or Wilmer make this kind of money.

  3. lunaticllama says:

    I think these people really just want government employees to make close to nothing so that when the public sector attracts no talent and the quality of governance decreases, people can have even more to complain about.

    If you want the government to employ top talent, it’s going to have pay at least 6 figures for many policy, legal, and management positions. There’s no way around that, because in the private sector these people can make much more. If you’re used to making, let’s say, $400K or $500K a year, you can’t just jump into government, make $60K, and afford the things you were able to afford before. I’m not talking your vacation home in Nantucket or Aspen, but things like sending your kids to a private college (which I grant you, is certain status, luxury good.)

  4. One of the biggest problems with populism is that in always eventually becomes anti-capitlalist. For all the complaints about creeping socialism on the Right, Republicans seem oblivious to degree which the Tea Party is built on class envy.

    Of course, Republicans being Republicans means they’re likely to ignore the Frankensteins monster they’re creating until its completely out of control.

  5. john personna says:

    For comparison, remember that those petroleum engineering graduates earn starting salaries of $90K. For a prestige position to pay similar is not too surprising.

    If I were to care, it might be that this “dues paying” pays back too much later. I mean, suck it up and make $80K for a year or two, and then become a starter lobbyist at what rate?

  6. Liberty60 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    I have witnessed this in action- if you troll the rightwing blogs (um, its not like I would admit to that) its very common to see proud tea party/ Sarah Palin acolytes furiously complaining about the priviledged elites who run Washington.

    Its just the cognitive dissonance of what that line of logic leads to that most on the right balk at.

  7. anjin-san says:

    Most of the city managers where I live make more. And I am not necessarily talking about large cities.

  8. JKB says:

    We should definitely encourage these architects of misfortune to seek the high paying out of government employment sooner rather than later. But then in a severe economic downturn many turn to government employment for security. The real test will be how many start scrambling next summer if they fear being dumped into the economy of their making.

    But in the end, it comes down to the fact that they are actually being paid above market rates as there never seems to be any real problem finding someone just as competent to take the job. Few complain about the salary as reasons why they decline the invitation. And what about this giving back to the community they push so much upon the children through their forced labor programs community service requirements for graduation.

    In the end, this has nothing to do with what these people could make on Wall Street or at some non-profit, it has everything to do with ensuring the salary is enough to draw a significantly large pool of applicants.

  9. davod says:

    “Three White House advisers apparently work for free: Patricia McGinnis, Jessica Schumer and Shale Wong take home $0.00 per year.”

    Or do they live in doss houses and eat in soup kitchens?

  10. James Joyner says:

    @davod: McGinnis and Wong are Advisors and Schumer is a Senior Advisor. A quick Google search confirmed my suspicion they were drawing salaries from elsewhere: “Two White House advisors, Shale Wong and Jessica Schumer, receive $0 in salary, but are on fellowships sponsored by nonprofit organizations. A third adviser who receives $0, Patricia McGinnis, works part-time and provides advice on periodic trainings for presidential appointees authorized by Congress.”

  11. James Nixon says:

    It has been reported Michelle has over 30 attendants? Only12 were listed! Seems the White House forgot to include these additional employees unless THEY WORK FOR FREE!
    I assume the47 some czars work for free also!