So far, President Donald Trump has made good on his promise to forego his Presidential salary. Each quarter, he donates his $400,000 per-year salary to a different federal departments. So far, the list of beneficiaries includes the Department of Education , the Department of Veterans Affairs , and in Q3, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health to “continue the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis.”
Trump’s goodwill gesture was meant as a symbol: He isn’t in it for the money, he’s in it for the country. So far, the American public is fiercely divided on whether that sentiment is true, but nevertheless Trump isn’t taking a salary.
He may have inspired a new generation of politicians to follow in his footsteps with symbolic salary refusals. In the UK, Nadia Whittome has vowed to give up a portion of her salary in support of the working class while donating the rest to charity. The UK’s youngest Member of Parliament (MP) to date, Whittome says she’ll turn down part of her £79,468 salary to take home £35,000 after tax.
She plans to defer part of her MP salary in support of hard-working nurses, firefighters and teachers, whose salaries typically add up to less than £30,000 after tax. Until their wages are increased, she will take a “workers wage.”
A representative of the Labour party, Whittome is not the first MP to defer part of her salary to make a political statement. Dennis Skinner, another Labour representative, refused to accept more than what miners were making when he became an MP back in 1956. He also donated his wages during the miners’ strike. Shaun Sadler, an independent candidate, promised to donate the entirety of his MP salary if elected but failed to gain enough votes to win.
Democrat presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren also took a page out of Trump’s book earlier this year during the government shutdown. As hundreds of federal employees missed out on their paychecks, Warren promised to donate her own paycheck in solidarity. Several other members of Congress did the same.
Another of the Democrats’ potential candidates, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, is also following Trump’s lead by promising to donate his salary if elected. Bloomberg’s extensive personal wealth means he’s also vowed not to accept political donations. While it sends a message to his constituency that he can’t be bought, it will also keep him from participating in debates.
While the fact that Trump isn’t taking a salary certainly sets him apart from many former U.S. presidents, he isn’t the first to do so. Both John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover donated their presidential salaries during their tenures as head of state. Kennedy also donated his entire Congressional salary for his 14 year tenure. Hoover donated his salary to various charities and also passed some of it on to his staff.
However, all three men got the idea from their predecessor, George Washington. Washington was not only the first U.S. president, but he was also the first to refuse a presidential salary. According to reports, he later accepted some of the $25,000 allotted to him for travel expenses .