Journal of Educational Controversy


Thursday, August 3, 2017

What George Washington and Donald Trump have in Common

In these lazy days of summer, we might pepper it with some experiments in thought.  Can you think of anything that our first president, George Washington, might have in common with the current occupant of that position, Donald Trump?  Well, there actually is something that both of them have in common.  When Washington was commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, he nobly declined a salary and only requested that his expenses be covered, something that the Continental Congress may have regretted.  In place of his $500 a month salary, Washington presented them with a meticulous account of expenses that some claim amounted to $160,074 while others claim was closer to $449,261.51, depending on how you calculate monetary amounts prior to the nation state. Still it was an amount considerably higher than a salary of $48000 over that eight-year revolutionary war period. "As to pay, Sir," he wrote, "I beg leave to Assure the Congress that no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to have accepted this Arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make a profit from it: I will keep an exact Account of my expenses; these I doubt not they will discharge and that is all I desire." To view a list of expenses that Washington recorded, check out the records at the Library of Congress. Another account is located at the National Archives in RG 56, General Records - Treasury Department. 

Our current president, Donald Trump, has likewise offered to decline his salary.  And like Washington, the government and taxpayers are covering expenses, including a widely reported figure in the millions for his frequent visits to his weekend resorts.    No one knows what the final accounting is going to be. Thus, Trump joins two other wealthy presidents who refused to take a salary – John Kennedy and Herbert Hoover.  Question: If the money is donated to a charity or to the Treasury Department, can it be claimed as a deduction for charitable contributions on his taxes  ---  a question simply not applicable for our comparison with our first president.

But what do these musings have to do with a blog dedicated to education.  Well, for one thing, Trump’s second quarter salary was just donated to the Department of Education for the furthering of stem education.  The donation that amounted to $100,000 was accepted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who praised the president for his generous gift that she says has shown his “commitment to our nation’s students” so all have “access to a high quality education.”  Of course, Trump’s recent budget recommendation will also result in a 13.5 percent spending cut to the department that amounts to $9.2 billion dollars.

It’s going to be hot summer.  Muse on.

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