Recession: Obama takes pay cut, but most other politicos demur

United States President Barak ObamaUnited States President Barak Obama will return 5-per cent of his salary to the US Treasury in a show of solidarity with federal workers smarting from $85 billion in government-wide spending cuts, the White House said on Wednesday.

The 5 per cent mirrors the cut that domestic agencies took when the reductions went into effect. Every federal agency is grappling with spending cuts - or sequestration, as they are called - which the White House has warned could affect everything from commercial airline flights to classrooms.

A 5-per cent cut from Obama's statutorily fixed salary of $400,000 per year amounts to $20,000, or $1,667 a month. The move will be retroactive to 1 March - the day the cuts started to kick in - and will remain in effect for the rest of 2013, a White House official said.

''The president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester; he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury,'' the official said.

The move follows recently appointed defence Secretary Chuck Hagel's decision to return 14 days' worth of his $199,7000 salary in solidarity with his department.

The nation however is disappointed that members of the Congress - 'teabaggers', as caustic commentators call them - as well as Senators have shown reluctance to follow suit.

The Senate took a voice vote on an amendment to the Democratic budget resolution allowing, but not requiring, Senators to return 20 per cent of their salaries to the US Treasury. So far only two Democratic Senators - Alaska's Mark Begich and Missouri's Claire McCaskill - have said they would stand with the furloughed employees.

The harsh budget cuts resulting from the sequestration have forced every federal agency to tighten its belt; and thousands of employees are furloughed.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said this has forced the Obama administration to not only slow down hiring but also scale back supply purchases, and curtail staff travel.

The sequester will end in September or be extended, which would cause even more economic pain. However, President Obama has said he will make sure all $20,000 of this year's salary is reimbursed to the Treasury by then.

Obama cannot ask for his salary to be docked at source; he will have to write personal cheques to the treasury worth $20,000 a year.

''The salary for the President, as with members of Congress, is set by law and cannot be changed,'' Carney said.

Obama isn't the first President to give up a part of his pay. John F Kennedy donated most of his presidential salary to various charities; while George Washington, the first US president, tried to refuse a presidential salary - but Congress required that the position be paid $25,000.

Obama's self-imposed cut, although well received by citizens as a symbolic gesture, will hardly affect his lifestyle - other perks afforded the President, from a mansion staffed with servants to the limousines, helicopters and Boeing 747 jumbo jet.