In his first televised interview since winning the election, President-elect Donald Trump told CBS’s 60 Minutes that he wasn’t interested in the presidential salary or the lavish vacations that come with the job. In comments that sound extraordinarily refreshing after Obama’s reign of recklessness and sloth, Trump showed the American people what it looks like when you take your mandate seriously.
“There’s just so much to be done,” Trump said. “So I don’t think we’ll be very big on vacations, no.”
On the salary, Trump reiterated a vow he made early on in the race. “No, I’m not going to take the salary. I’m not taking it.”
He said that he might have to take a salary of $1 a year for legal purposes, but he would not accept the $400,000 a year payment due to the nation’s chief executive.
Both are largely symbolic gestures; the presidential salary is hardly hurting the American people and even the grandest of yearly vacations – while irritating – are a drop in the bucket when it comes to federal expenditures.
But AS a pair of symbolic gestures, these are excellent ones to make. Conservatives have been gnashing their teeth for eight years while the Obamas flaunted their spectacular getaways in front of a country hit hard by a devastating recession. For all the talk the Democrats do about the Wall Street elite, we had a president who not only saved the banks and the auto industry with taxpayer money, but one who acted just like the fat cat CEOs who floated away on golden parachutes.
Last August, President Obama headed off the Martha’s Vineyard on his annual vacation. It was his family’s seventh consecutive trip to the elitist enclave, and it put the Obamas’ total vacation expenditures past the $100 million mark. Even in the boomiest of boom times, this kind of excess would have struck many as tasteless. That he indulged himself through “the worst recession since the Great Depression” and through one of the weakest economic recoveries in American history…that’s not tasteless; that’s obscene.
This aspect to Trump’s victory has been overlooked. Why is it, exactly, that so many Obama voters in the Rust Belt came out for Trump in 2016? Perhaps it’s because they watched, with steadily growing rage, as the “party of the working man” jetsetted around the world, flaunted wealth, and laughed at the concerns of the very people they were elected to represent.
Trump symbolized a new order, and the early signs – and they are very, very early – are promising. Optimism has a way of turning sour, but for right now, things are looking extremely good for hardworking, decent Americans everywhere.