First Lady Melania Trump’s staff of five seen as a demonstration of frugality. Michelle Obama had a team of 19 individuals.
Open the Books, a private watchdog group, reports that the Trump White House has over 100 fewer staffers than previous administrations, which will save almost 22 million over Trump’s first term. Melania Trump in particular is being praised by conservatives for only having five staffers instead of Michelle Obama’s 24. On top of that, Donald Trump, Ivanka, and Jared Kushner donate their salaries.
This is a drop in the bucket compared to a 3.9 trillion dollar budget, but it shows a good willingness to lead by example through trimming the fat in the White House. Some conservatives are wondering if perhaps having a few more staffers implementing a conservative party would be a good thing. The real problem is the fact that very few small government conservatives are getting sticker shock from this report. If the White House saves 22 million dollars, how much money is it actually spending?
The basic conservative argument against government is that it doesn’t produce anything on its own. It forcibly takes money from its citizens, and then redistributes it in the form of grants, programs, loans, or providing services such as schools, roads, jails, and a military. The latter items are incredibly important. But those last few are specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and the government managed to provide those items and protect the rights of Americans (as well as the pocketbooks of tax payers) for hundreds of years without a small army of bureaucrats, assistants, staffers, and directors making rather lucrative salaries.
The 4th of July holiday naturally reminds us of the Founding Fathers. The first president had a rather small government and ruled from a temporary capital in New York and Philadelphia. Yet that small cabinet was composed of all stars including Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of Treasury, and Henry Knox as Secretary of War. Without the small army of bureaucrats, Washington established a brilliant monetary policy, signed important treaties with Britain and Spain, avoided being sucked into the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, led to the creation of the Northwest territories and its basic governance, and subdued the Whiskey Rebellion.
Like most Americans, I wouldn’t begrudge individuals in the public sector for their hard-earned salary in public if they were even a fraction as effective as some of the greatest public servants in America’s history. President Trump and the ruling Republican majorities have yet to sign any major legislation into law, though they have made good progress on the healthcare law. Despite not passing any major legislation or solving any of the major problems facing the country, the politicians and their voluminous staff and mass of administrators continue to receive very generous paychecks and benefits.
But we are supposed to be excited that the Trump White House has a slightly smaller bureaucracy spending slightly less than an outrageous amount of money. What would excite me is a government that actually shrinks, spends less money, passes meaningful legislation that addresses the root of problems, and actually does its part to help Americans live better lives.