Breaking Down President Obama’s $37.1M White House Payroll

Barack ObamaSince 1995, every president has had to deliver a salary report of White House employees to Congress and the American people. And at a time when federal spending is front and center and government employees are getting laid off left and right, I thought it would be interesting to dig into the 2011 report from the Obama administration and see who’s who on the president’s payroll.

To be clear, I’m not trying to score political points here. While some of these salaries might seem plush, as a suburban D.C. resident myself, I can say this area is one pricey place. D.C.’s workers enjoy the highest salaries of any major U.S. city, with a median household income of $85,198. And some of these folks are highly qualified individuals in grueling jobs who could make a mint in the private sector based on their resumes.

We can quibble over their political slant, but someone like Gene Sperling who attended Yale Law School and attended biz school at Wharton probably has a resume worth a bit more than $45,000 per year, even if you pooh-pooh his government experience.

Most importantly, let’s not forget that the current salary for 535 rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year — which is greater than any single position in the White House. If you cut that salary to “only” $100,000 per year, you could save the government $40 million. As you’ll see, some of the folks on the payroll are making reasonable wages for pretty unglamorous work. So let’s not blame the White House receptionist for bankrupting our nation.

All those disclaimers aside, as long as we are focusing on the government and its spending habits these days, we cannot overlook the White House payroll. So here’s some of the stats on what Obama’s staffers are earning:

Total White House Payroll: $37,121,463

Total White House Employees: 454. Three workers are listed at a salary of zero dollars per annum, however.

Average White House Salary: Omitting the three workers without pay, simple math gives us an average of $82,309. The median salary is significantly lower, however, at $70,000.

Top Earners: 21 staffers make $172,200 annually — and you will undoubtedly recognize the names. Except for one instance, all are listed as “Assistant to the President” along with a specific duty, so for brevity’s sake I have cut out the assistant status unless it is part of the complete title. The complete list follows in alphabetical order, along with the employee’s position:

  • Barnes, Melody C. — Director of the Domestic Policy Council
  • Brennan, John O. — Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
  • Carney, James F. — Press Secretary
  • Cutter, Stephanie N. — Deputy Senior Advisor
  • Daley, William M. — Chief of Staff
  • DeParle, Nancy-Ann Min — Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
  • Donilon, Thomas E. — National Security Advisor
  • Favreau, Jonathan E. — Director of Speechwriting
  • Jarrett, Valerie B. — Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement
  • Lane, David J. — Counselor to the Chief of Staff
  • Lu, Christopher P. — Cabinet Secretary
  • Mastromonaco, Alyssa M. — Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations
  • McDonough, Denis R. — Deputy National Security Advisor
  • Nabors, Robert L. — Director, Office of Legislative Affairs
  • Pfeiffer, Howard D. — Director of Communications
  • Plouffe, David A. — Senior Advisor
  • Rouse, Peter M. — Counselor to the President (though not listed as an “assistant”)
  • Ruemmler, Kathryn H. — Counsel to the President
  • Schiliro, Philip M. — Special Advisor
  • Sperling, Eugene B. — Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council
  • Tchen, Christina M. — Chief of Staff to the First Lady

Who Works for Free: So who’s at the other end of the spectrum? Advisor Patricia G. McGinnis, Senior Policy Advisor Jessica E. Schumer and Policy Advisor Shale L. Wong all are listed at pay of $0 per annum.

Who Are the Working Stiffs: Lest you think the White House is populated by policymakers and advisors, there are a host of employees making less than $50,000 per year (not a whole lot in the metro D.C. area) who simply are involved with the day-to-day work of keeping the wheels of government turning. Some of those unsung workers include West Wing receptionist Kathleen E. Herbek, who earns $42,000 per year, or travel manager Mary E. Baskerville, who earns $45,000 per year. Surely these are not just “regular” jobs, being at the White House. But it’s worth noting that the list of employees also is populated with normal folks with normal responsibilities.

You can find this year’s complete list of Obama administration employees at

Jeff Reeves is editor of Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.

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