For the Good of Illinois

Forbes: Trump's Lean White House 2018 Payroll On-Track to Save Taxpayers $22 Million

July 2, 2018 08:30 AM


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Trump's Lean White House Payroll 2018 On-Track to Save Taxpayers $22 Million


President Trump’s White House payroll has 374 employees, that's 95 fewer staffers than Barack Obama at the same point in their presidencies. The Trump White House workforce runs 20 percent leaner.

White House staff experienced 39-percent turnover during the last 12-months. Of the 377 employees last year, only 229 remain. Most that left were quickly replaced.
Today, the Trump administration released its annual report to Congress on the White House Office Personnel. The payroll data includes employee name, status, salary, and position title for all 374 White House employees as of June 30, 2018. Search the recent Trump administration (2017 and 2018) and Obama administration (2012 through 2016) payroll data posted at
Over the past 12 months, Trump was able to further shrink head count by three employees. Last year, the president employed 377 staffers and we applauded the president’s frugality in our editorial at Forbes.
This year, not only did the president maintain a lean staff, he cut the total payroll budget from $35.7 million (2017) to $35.2 million and further honed the books. In FY2015, Barack Obama’s payroll was much larger and exceeded $40.9 million with 477 staffers.
Trump’s White House payroll has been a leading indicator of his commitment to "do more, with less." In the first few weeks of his presidency, Trump issued an order mandating an executive agency hiring freeze. Trump asked his agency heads to "seek efficient use of existing personnel and funds to improve public services…"
Leading by example, Trump has already saved taxpayers over $11 million, and projected four-year savings could easily top $22 million. The payroll discounts come from Trump’s refusal to take a salary, as well as big reductions in other areas including the absence of czars, expensive "fellows," and spending on First Lady of The United States (FLOTUS) staff.
Here are some key findings:
  • There are 95 fewer employees on the White House staff under Trump than under Obama at this point in their respective presidencies. (In 2010, Obama had 469 employees for $38.8 million – adjusting for inflation, the payroll cost more than $43 million.)
  • $5.7 million in annual payroll savings compared to the Obama 2015 payroll. In 2018, the Trump payroll amounts to $35.2 million for 374 employees. In 2015, the Obama payroll amounted to $40.9 million for 476 employees, not adjusting for inflation.
  • Ten staffers are dedicated to the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama paid her 24 staffers $1.6 million collectively.
  • Overall, 148 employees from Trump’s 2017 payroll of 377 employees no longer work at the White House. The employee turnover rate was 39-percent year-over-year.
  • The most highly compensated White House employees under Trump are 23 assistants to the president who earn salaries of $179,700. This year’s list includes names such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Press Secretary), John Bolton (National Security Advisor), John Kelly (Chief of Staff), Lawrence Kudlow (Economic Advisor), Steve Miller (Policy Advisor), and Kellyanne Conway (Senior Counselor).
Last year, there were 22 top-paid aides. This year's data showed only ten remain. The list of aides that left the White House included Steven Bannon, Omarosa Manigault, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and Hope Hicks.
Our review of this year’s White House payroll confirms ten staffers dedicated to First Lady Melania Trump. Last year, FLOTUS had a five-person staff. Former First Lady Michelle Obama was heavily criticized for her 24-member staff in 2009 including assistants, advisors, schedulers, directors, deputies, associates, social and press secretaries, and other "helpers."
The media constantly highlights Trump's legal problems, but White House payroll shows no evidence that the president is using taxpayer dollars to lawyer up. In fact, the number of lawyers (legal counsel) on staff remained roughly the same at 32 this year versus 33 last year.
Starting in 2009, President Obama came under fire for hiring special initiative czars. Over Trump's first two years in office, we found no evidence of czars on the White House payroll.
While on the campaign trail, President Trump vowed to forego his paycheck. Article II of the U.S. Constitution, however, mandates a presidential salary. Trump has donated his quarterly portions of his $400,000 salary to the Department of Interior, Department of Transportation, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and most recently the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The rest of the Trump family is also leading by example by foregoing their salaries. First Daughter and Presidential Advisor Ivanka Trump and Son-in-Law Senior Advisor Jared Kushner both refused a salary.
Although the White House personnel budget is an infinitesimal part of the $3.9 trillion federal budget, it is an important forecasting indicator showing Trump’s deep commitment to cut the size, scope and power of the federal government and reign in waste.





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Shaugn M Davenport
Hanover Park, IL
7/2/2018 05:53 PM

  This is all very good information. It is a great start, but only a start. If we are going to dig into White House spending, I'd challenge and Forbes to compare other costs associated with POTUS under both administrations. For example, Trump seems to spend quite a lot more time away from the White House, either in NYC or at his golf resorts. How much more, or less, is he spending on this sort of travel compared to similar "personal travel" under Obama? Also, were there costs related to the Obama kids that we are saving now? Are there other expenditures which one administration is making more of than the other did? The point that I am making is that if we are assessing which POTUS is "reigning in waste", then we need to look at the whole picture. This article seems to cherry pick data points to support a foregone conclusion or agenda. It does not seem balanced at all. It would actually be a very interesting exercise to figure out if there is any personal financial benefit to POTUS from all of the time, and room fees, spent at his golf resort. I doubt that there is, but it would be useful to be able to say, "Trump (does or does not) derive any personal financial benefit from having his entourage stay at his hotels." Similarly, did Obama, or any of his associates, see any personal financial gain from such travel? If we are going to "Open The Books", then let's really open them up and make a detailed analysis. I'm sure there is some good stuff in there.