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Dubious About Billionaire Politicians Foregoing their Salaries

Posted by Mike G on December 27, 2017

At some between his surprise election victory and being sworn in as President, CBS’s 60 Minutes interviewed the soon to be new US President, Donald Trump.

Though his response to one question didn’t make much news, I was somewhat surprised to hear President Elect Trump proclaim that he didn’t intend to take a Presidential salary.

Without hesitation, he told the CBS reporter: “I don’t need it and I won’t take it.”

His response sort of stunned me. I tried putting myself in the place of a proclaimed ‘multi billionaire’ and considered whether I could simply forego a salary of $400,000 or more * – a sum that I clearly would be earning through very hard work.

I even questioned if I would be able to completely give the job my all knowing I wasn’t taking a salary.

“If nothing else,” I thought to myself, “contribute the money to some folks in need.”

Yet, I rationalized that keeping the money in the US Treasury, where, in a microscopic sort of way, it would help reduce the US debt – and perhaps incentivize other ‘public servants’ to do the same – and I moved on, without giving the matter much more thought, though I admit that as much as I completely loathe the man, I did sort of admire him for so readily and easily foregoing an amount that nearly every person I know would consider to be a tidy sum, and not making a huge public spectacle about it.

“Hmm,” I wonder, “maybe I just don’t understand the mindset of a billionaire.”

Now, eleven months later, and two weeks after the Republicans passed Trump’s version of tax reform, complete with huge benefits to higher end real estate developers, I can see that despite his claims that tax reform was going to cost him “big time,” he stands to personally benefit multi-fold times the amount that he would earn as President.

Was personal gain the primary objective of the President’s desire to seek out tax reform?

I’m not as cynical as are most people. I often start off presuming the best when it comes to public officials’ motives, yet, in this case, I do conclude that President Trump’s primary goal through his tax reform agenda – similar to his goal of moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem - is to reward those who supported him and to further garner their support for future elections.

And if tax reform happens to earn him tens – if not hundreds - of millions along the way, he concludes, so be it.

Maybe billionaire mindsets aren’t that hard to figure out after all - at least not this billionaire’s?



* Since 2001, the president has earned a $400,000 annual salary, along with a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment. The most recent raise in salary was approved by Congress and President Bill Clinton in 1999 and went into effect in 2001.

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About the Author

Mike G's photoMike Glasser

Mike has a long term relationship with Rogers Park, having lived here at various times in his life, most recently returning to the neighborhood in August, 2009. While living here as a third year law student, he remembers drunken nights at Biddy Mulligan’s and hosting a couple of memorable parties that he, hypocritically, now forbids his own tenants from having. Years later, after completing his stint as a lawyer, Mike started investing in apartment buildings in Rogers Park (and elsewhere), and soon after, did what many newly divorced real estate investors do: he moved into one of his buildings. In 1992 Mike was one of the founding members of the Rogers Park Builders Group, an organization that he eventually headed for six years, until yielding those reigns three years ago. Around a decade ago, on a whim, he reserved the web site “Rogerspark.com,” which he has been developing ever since, and which co-hosts RP BizArts networking events. Mike is the proud father of three wonderful children, Amy, Mitch and Ella.

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