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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!


Shulian Shulian 8 years
Actually they do have to pay for their private food and also for the cleaning of their clothes- and it is said that every single president complained about the prices for these services!
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
I know of nothing that says she can't work. But like someone said previously, being on boards can be a conflict of interest. She can surely practice law if she so chose. The first lady does receive a staff and a salary to do what she chooses with. She can sit at home and do nothing but play with her kids. Which I recommend. I don't think she needs to set any example for anything except making sure her kids are comfortable through the transition. My husband has a high ranking career and I do many things with him, appearances etc. He is always coming home and asking my opinion of what he should do. I consider that being a good wife and best friend to him and no that should not be compensated.
stephley stephley 8 years
I guess the question will come up again when a woman becomes president and her husband wants to keep his job.
julieulie julieulie 8 years
I was going to ask the same question as nguidjol. Is she permitted to continue working? I'm a scientist and someday I hope to run my own lab. Just in theory here, if my husband became president some day (which he won't, he's a doctor), would I still be able to maintain my job as a scientist? If I moved my lab to one of the D.C. area universities and set up shop and things were just like normal, then no, I certainly would not expect to be paid. But if I had to give up my career and my lifestyle and was not able to work outside the home... and instead was only working via First Lady duties... then it seems kind of crappy to have to give up your own career and salary...
nguidjol nguidjol 8 years
Does anyone know if the President's wife can continue working her pre-election job? Can someone please answer amybdk?
skb9850 skb9850 8 years
No she should not be paid. This is no different than being married to a CEO of a company. I'm sure the spouse of the CEO has to attend certain functions and host parties and people, but doesn't get paid for it. Additionally, I know of no law that says she has to make policy or find a cause to champion. It's great if she chooses to do so, because I believe she could be a great role model for our next generation. But it's up to her if she'd like to do those things.
starangel82 starangel82 8 years
Yay statuses! No, the first lady should not get paid. The president's salary, living rent free, and a host of people to cater to her should be plenty.
sc-cutie sc-cutie 8 years
Definitely not.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
no its not appropriate at all.
Witchy-Ways Witchy-Ways 8 years
Isn't the question really: if it's a job she doesn't get paid for, can she quit it and just live with her family instead of working as the official unpaid escort of her husband? I guess no. So if people expect her to do something, she should get paid. She's giving up her old life (and JOB) and you always expect the first family to be a package, so if you don't pay her, I say she should have the right to go on vacation and just stay at home as long as she wants when she wants it. Let's see how people would react to that.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
I imagine shes given a lot of the clothing. I mean JCrew has got it all over their website that the children were wearing JCrew and every time she wears JCrew they can't wait to share. There can't be a bigger honor, or publicity, then clothing the first family.
laurelm laurelm 8 years
janneth janneth 8 years
Seems like her family's expenses are paid, food, housing, utilities. And servents. So no salary. Who pays for her clothes?
stoopeed stoopeed 8 years
I think it would take away from the grace associated with the position.
kastarte2 kastarte2 8 years
I don't think Michelle would want a salary.
gemini7827 gemini7827 8 years
lildorothyparker lildorothyparker 8 years
I would simply change the rhetoric. If the $400k salary is termed as the salary of the First Family than this would seemingly be a non-issue. Nothing changes, but public/monetary recognition is afforded to the entire Presidential family.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
IMO, I think the First Lady should focus on philanthropy. There's so much potential there to set a good example of why it's important to give back. What better role model than the First Lady?
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
Okay I guess I side with the logic that she can't be paid for a job she can't be fired from and that her and Barack agreed to run together...or she would have divorced him.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Oooh, our statuses are back! :woohoo: I agree with others that she shouldn't be paid for something she's not able to be fired for, and that they don't seem to have many personal expenses anyway. In any case, the job of the First Lady is what she makes of it; for the most part it mostly seems to me like being a really elite ambassador's wife or socialite. It can be important, and she could try to go the Hillary route, but there's no need to, and not really any need to pay for it.
Frank-y-Ava Frank-y-Ava 8 years
momma-tikita momma-tikita 8 years
Where's my diamond? oh yea..
True-Song True-Song 8 years
Oh, the new format makes me way less apprehensive about approaching 10,000 points. Those cartoon diamonds just looked so silly.
Jane26 Jane26 8 years
isn't a fabulous wardrobe, great food, and travel around the globe enough? regardless, her job is an honor, paid or not, and gives the american people some idea that doing something honorable doesn't always need to be recompensed.
mariposa23 mariposa23 8 years
this is an interesting question...however, i'm kind of thinking it's irrelevant right now since we know (or at least can assume) that Michelle won't take any pay for her First Lady duties... I think the fact that senator spouses perform similar duties (though on a smaller scale) and are not compensated for it supports the case for the First Lady not to be compensated. On the one hand, she's doing work, on the other hand, she is beloved by America and gets all the perks of being First her spouse earns more than enough money. it's hard for me support her receiving compensation for her duties...even though I'm all about equality! ehh...
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