10. The President Earns $400,000 Per Year
One classic sports anecdote recounts a question posed to baseball legend Babe Ruth in 1930, noting that his $80,000 salary eclipsed the $75,000 earnings of President Herbert Hoover. “I know, but I had a better year than Hoover,” Ruth replied. Presidential salaries have definitely not kept pace with the salaries of top athletes and entertainers; in late 2000, baseball superstar Alex Rodriquez signed a 10-year, $252 million contract, the richest deal in sports history. One month later, incoming president George W. Bush got a huge pay raise — from $200,000 to $400,000 per year, the current presidential salary. By the way, the vice president’s salary is subject to annual increases; Vice President Joe Biden earned $225,521 in 2011.
9. Air Force One is the Ultimate in Flight
Air Force One is technically not an airplane, but a code name —any aircraft transporting the president is known as Air Force One. But the Air Force One most Americans are familiar with is a Boeing 747-200B Series aircraft. This clearly isn’t your standard 747. There are three levels, with some 4,000 square feet including a private office and conference room and living quarters for the president, accommodations for staff members and a medical suite/operating room. Since the plane can be refueled in midair, it has unlimited range. President John F. Kennedy became the first president to enjoy a private jet, although prop planes had ferried previous presidents around since the days of FDR.
8. Former Presidents Receive Generous Pension, Office Staff
When President Harry S. Truman left office in 1953, he refused to take any corporate board or executive positions that capitalized on his status as an ex-president, feeling that cheapened the office. As a result, he found himself destitute in retirement. Seeing Truman struggle to make ends meet, Congress took action, enacting a presidential pension beginning in 1958. As of 2011, former U.S. presidents receive a pension of $199,700, beginning the minute they leave office. Given the millions that former presidents now make in speaking engagements, several U.S. House representatives proposed a bipartisan bill in 2012 that would have ended pensions for presidents earning over a certain amount. The bill failed to reach a vote.
7. Presidents Get A Nice Expense Account
U.S. presidents get an annual expense account of $50,000 per year, which compared with the other perks on this list is barely worth mentioning. Former presidents make out even better; in addition to their pension, the Former Presidents Act also provides several hundred thousand dollars annually for each former POTUS to travel, hire an office staffer or two and pay for items such as office supplies, postage, etc.
6. Former Presidents Earn Hefty Salaries From Speaking Engagements
According to published reports, former president Bill Clinton earned $75.6 million from the time he left office in January 2001 through the end of 2010. Former president George W. Bush is reportedly raking in more than $100,000 per speaking engagement. These figures explain why some in Congress have explored ending or scaling back certain benefits for former chiefs.
5. Celebrity Visits and Other Miscellaneous Perks
Really, what celebrity would turn down the opportunity to visit with the president at the White House? The White House Social Secretary can arrange the visit, maybe with an invitation designed by the White House Chief Calligrapher. White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and her 15-20 full- and part-time workers can put together a nice meal. The list of services provided by the White House staff goes on and on.
4. The President Enjoys First-Class Health Care
As President Obama pushed the controversial Affordable Care Act of 2010, much was made of the fact that neither the president nor congressional supporters would be subject to the new law. But no matter what health care system is in place, the sitting president enjoys probably the best healthcare access in the world. White House doctors, who all have military training, work out of the medical unit near the president’s office. On international trips, the president is usually accompanied by not one, but two, medical teams. And when the president needs special care, he can call on the services of some of the finest specialists in the country, who naturally see the opportunity to treat a president as a badge of honor. While much of this care is free, each president carries health insurance, and when the carrier is billed, say for surgery, he must make a copayment and meet any deductible, just like John Q. Public.
3. The President Employs a Personal Staff in the Hundreds
A White House report issued in 2011 showed President Obama had a staff of 454, with a payroll of $37.1 million. Roughly one-third of those White House aides earned $100,000 a year or more, with 21 earning the maximum of $172,200. While some conservatives cited the report as a sign of government gone wild, President George W. Bush had a staff and payroll roughly that size in his final year in office (447 aides, $33 million payroll). The First Lady also employs a staff, generally around 15-20 people, with a payroll of around $1.5 million.
2. Secret Service Offers 24/7 Protection For Life
It’s great to be protected by an elite security force, with each member prepared to take a bullet for you; on the other hand, it’s not so great to realize you need such protection from potential whackos who would cause you harm. In one of history’s most bitter ironies, President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill creating the Secret Service on the day of his assassination. Secret Service protection is once again provided to former presidents throughout their lifetime, thanks to legislation signed in January 2013 by President Obama.
1. The White House
Just imagine the White House listed in a real estate ad: “Fine executive living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the most famous address in the world. This 55,000-square-foot mansion on 18 acres features 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, a movie theater, bowling alley, tennis courts, a swimming pool, putting green, 28 fireplaces” … well, you get the picture. Yes, being president would be great fun … if it weren’t for all those domestic and international crises that prematurely age every man who accepts the office.
Here’s a link to WhiteHouse.gov, with dozens of behind-the-scenes images from 2012.