Students react to Trump’s rejection of the presidential salary, acceptance of $1 salary

President-Elect Donald Trump speaks to a crowd during a rally in Cincinnati on October 13. (Photo by Austin Janning)

President-elect Donald Trump said he will be paid $1 to do the arguably most publicized and important job in the United States.

In a 60 Minutes interview that aired on Nov. 13, Trump said he was required by law to take some form of compensation, so he decided to accept $1.

“I think it’s a good finding of his character,” David Parkhill, president of the Ohio University College Republicans, said. “I don’t believe he’s doing this to further himself. He has seen quite a bit of success whether that is in the casino business or just growing of the Trump brand. … He’s not doing this for the income or for the success. He believes he can genuinely help the country succeed.”

Trump’s decision to reject the $400,000 presidential salary is rather unprecedented. Former presidents have made similar decisions, including Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy, but they donated their salaries to charity, whereas Trump’s salary would remain in the government’s budget.

“The Trump campaign has been very unconventional in many ways and this is yet another way that president-elect Trump is acting in an unconventional way,” Susan Burgess, an OU political science professor, said.

Trump’s decision is a strategic one to make himself more attractive to his constituents, Maria Fanis, an associate professor of political science, said.

“The $1 thing is a form of advertising himself,” she said. “He’s saying he’s somehow different. He’s not dependent on the establishment in a way that only this unique person can be. No one else can be like Trump, according to Trump.”

Nic Paredes, a freshman studying history, said the $1 salary makes a good statement from an economic standpoint.

“At least he’s not making the government go bankrupt,” he said. “Economically speaking, it’s beneficial for the government’s budget. It’s spending money we can use on something else.”

Critics have responded negatively to Trump’s decision, including Rob Goodman, a former House and Senate speechwriter. In an opinion piece for Politico, Goodman refers to a historic example. George Washington wished to serve the first presidency without pay, but Congress voted to provide a $25,000 salary. Congress did so to ensure financial stability so the president could not be swayed to make political decisions by bribery or outside incentives.

Trump’s historic decision to accept $1 could not only set a precedent of only having independently wealthy candidates win the presidency, but also could raise questions about his personal business motivation, Burgess said.

“Those reasons make sense,” she said. “Particularly in the case of Mr. Trump, there have been some people wondering if his outside interests will have an affect on his administration.”

In an apparent attempt to quell concerns about his conflicts of interest in business, Trump tweeted Nov. 30 that he will leave his “great business in total” to focus on the presidency.

Parkhill does not think Trump’s salary should be a topic of discussion for critics.

“They have more important things to focus on,” he said. “If somebody wants to take the time to write a long letter or column, there are a lot of very, very important issues.”


Originally published for The Post on December 2, 2016.

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