Throughout the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, news headlines consistently criticized the costs of the president’s many golfing trips. During the days of George Bush, journalists were skeptical of the 43rd president’s constant trips to his Texas ranch.
To be sure, government funding of personal presidential outings are not new.
Still, Trump’s choice to have his family retain their New York residence – and the associated government-paid-for security and travel that it requires – stands in contrasts to his decision to take only a $1 salary per year for being president.
Yes, Trump is not the first president to forgo the approximately $400,000 offered to the leader of the free world. George Washington was the first to attempt this, but was still paid $25,000 a year. Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy both declined the money offered to them. When Congress refused to oblige, the then-Presidents eventually gave their salaries to charity.
This is where those praising Trump’s choice might get confused. His supporters feel as though his refusal of pay is a sign of true dedication to the job rather than personal gain, and it is not impossible to see their point.
But what money was “saved” by Trump not accepting his salary is nullified by Melania Trump’s New York City residence.
According to Politifact, the security required to monitor First Lady Melania Trump, as well as son Barron Trump, in their New York City home is “more than the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts.”
The comparison becomes even more jarring when noted that the Trump administration is working towards terminating the Endowment altogether.
What does it say about our nation if we allow a federal agency that, “funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities,” according the NEA’s website, to be cut because it is too costly, but spend double that amount on the home and security of the First Lady due to her not living in the White House?
That is not to say that Melania’s safety is not important, because it most definitely is. The problem lies in the fact that first families generally live in the White House. By ignoring yet another presidential tradition, we are both setting new, irregular precedents for following presidents, as well as spending government money in unnecessary areas.
Trump’s refusal of salary and Melania’s choice to live in New York are not the most pressing problems of the 45th President’s time in office so far, and most likely will not be when he completes his term. However, the unnecessary costs associated with the arrangment should not go unnoticed.