If the White House payroll is a leading indicator of the president’s commitment to shrink government then voters have a reason to cheer.
A staff salary report released by the Trump administration Friday shows that the Trump White House is spending less on payroll than the Obama White House.
The calculations come from OpenTheBooks.com, a non-profit organisation that charts government spending of taxpayer money across the US, which reports that in 2017, the Trump administration payroll at the White House amounts to $35.8m (£27.6m) for 377 employees, versus a total payroll of $40.9m (£31.6m) for 476 employees in 2015 under Barack Obama’s administration, a saving of $5.1m (£3.9m).
The savings are driven by a variety of factors, including fewer White House employees under Trump’s administration than Obama’s, as well as significant reductions in policy czars, expensive fellowship programs and staff for the first lady, according to the watchdog group.
In total, there are 110 fewer employees on White House payroll under Trump than under Obama at this point in their respective presidencies.
Michelle Obama’s staff of 24 in 2009 was the largest of any first lady, besting Hillary Clinton’s staff of 19 and Laura Bush’s 18 staffers.
First lady Melania Trump, on the other hand, only has five staffers on hand, whose annual salaries range from $77,000 to $179,700.
President Obama came under fire starting in 2009 for his hiring of expensive special initiative czars. For example, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform Nancy-Ann DeParle earned $158,000 a year, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner earned $172,000 a year, and White House Director of Urban Affairs Adolfo Carrion Jr. earned $158,500 a year.
Open the Books found no evidence of so-called “czars” on Trump’s White House payroll.
Obama’s White House Leadership Development fellowship program also came at a high cost. Fellowship candidate Elaine Ho earned a salary of $158,700 for her time working with the first lady’s office to implement Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative.
Two “directors” who were on the payroll for President Obama’s fellowship program earned salaries of $120,000 and $60,876.
Open the Books also found no evidence of expensive fellowship programs in the Trump White House.
Trump has refused to accept his constitutionally mandated presidential salary. He donated his paycheck to the Department of Interior for use at military cemeteries in the first quarter of 2017.
First daughter Ivanka Trump, a special adviser to the president, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, have also refused to take a salary.
While the Trump administration is a much leaner machine in terms of manpower, the median salary for his staff is significantly higher.
Obama’s staff of 472 in 2016 earned a median salary of $73,051.
Trump’s staff of 377 in 2017 are earning a median salary of $89,000.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told NPR in an email that the lean staffing is proof the Trump administration is “trying to give taxpayers the best return,” adding that it’s a practice they wish to enact “throughout all government.”