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Terms of Service: Should the First Lady Be on Payroll?

Being the first lady is not all tea and cake and greeting foreign dignitaries. Even when it is, there's still a staff to be managed.

The idea of paying the first lady goes back to 1946, when a congressman proposed a $10,000 salary for First Lady Bess Truman, calling the position "the only case of involuntary servitude in America."

Congress rejected the proposal and it never returned to the House again, but that doesn't stop equality revelers from talking it up every four to eight years. Now with the arrival of Michelle Obama, who was the family breadwinner at one point, the question is posed again.

Opponents worry that paying the first lady would set a precedent for senator and governor spouses, who perform many of the same duties on smaller scales. Some see the role as a privilege — an adventure! — that is served at the president's pleasure. Shudder. The president also earns $400,000 per year — eight times the average American household. Not to mention, it could make things messy for a president who prides himself on being clean and accountable. And, well, she's not asking for it!


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