WASHINGTON – Fulfilling his campaign promise to the American people, President Trump is “draining the swamp,” at least partly, by dramatically cutting the budget of the White House payroll, ultimately saving American taxpayers a projected $22 million.
According to the Trump administration annual report to Congress on White House personnel, the president is reducing “czar” and “fellowship” posts President Obama had in place and is refusing his presidential salary.
The report includes the name, status, salary and positions of all 377 White House employees.
Adam Andrzejewski, president of the government watchdog group OpenTheBooks.com, compared the Trump administration’s payroll data to the Obama administration’s of the last two years.
“If the White House payroll is a leading indicator of the president’s commitment to shrink government then voters have a reason to cheer,” Andrzejewski writes in Forbes.
Obama appointed 50 czars through the span of his administration, 39 of whom were unconfirmed by the Senate and largely unaccountable to Congress.
As government watchdog Judicial Watch pointed out, most of the “czar” activities were often outside the reach of the Freedom of Information Act, “creating a veil of secrecy about their precise role in the administration.”
In 2011, Congress – including 13 Democrats – voiced its disapproval over Obama’s use of czars to undermine government accountability by introducing a bill intended to eliminate funding for czars.
The then-Democratic-controlled Senate did not pass the bill. While the Obama administration was heavily criticized for using czars as a mean to circumvent Congress, the Trump administration has yet to employ a single “czar,” according to Trump’s 2017 budget.
Trump also eradicated Obama’s “fellowship” position.
“Fellowship” candidates of the Obama White House managed special programs, including Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative. The Obama administration’s fellowship program comprised $158,000 of the former president’s annual budget.
Melania and Barron Trump officially moved into the White House on June 12. However, prior to that, the first lady was widely criticizing for using taxpayer dollars to continue living in New York City in Trump Tower until Barron Trump, 10, finished the fourth grade at his Upper-West Side school year in Manhattan.
In fact, Change.org created a petition in March demanding Melania Trump “move to the White House, or pay for your New York City security expenses yourself.” Yet, the Trump administration has drastically reduced the White House workforce by cutting the amount spent on the first lady’s budget.
Melania Trump has a staff of just five, compared to Michelle Obama’s 24, according to Andrzejewski’s analysis. Michelle Obama entered the White House with 22 staff members, whose salaries annually amounted to approximately $2 million, $1.4 million more than that of her predecessor, Laura Bush.
There are 110 fewer in employees in the White House under President Trump than there were under that Obama administration, Andrzejewski points out, saving nearly $5 million alone.
Throughout the course of the presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump said he would turn down any salary as president. Left-leaning Think Progress lambasted the newly elected president in March for receiving at least one paycheck.
“The White House tweaked the promise in February, with spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders explaining to Politifact, ‘He is required to get a paycheck but will be giving it back to (the) treasury or donating,'” wrote Zack Ford of Think Progress. “But there has been no evidence to support this claim, and this week the White House refused to provide NBC with any documentation that he’s taken such actions.”
The president’s apportioned salary, nonetheless, is not listed in the budget as a line item. Adhering to his campaign promise, Trump is foregoing his $569,000 annual presidential salary, including extras and amenities.
When pressed in February on how whether Trump administration cutbacks will create difficulty for already overstretched White House staffers, Press Secretary Sean Spicer assured that President Trump will review all aspects of government for potential savings.
“There’s going to be a respect for taxpayers in this administration, so that whether it’s salaries or actual positions or programs, he’s going to have a very, very tough look at how we’re operating government, how many positions they’re in, what people are getting paid,” Spicer said.