SEPTEMBER 21, 1942
WASHINGTON, Sunday—I have been asked to write a column on how the White House would be run on $25,000 a year. Of course, the question is rather foolish, because the White House is not the property of any private individual. It belongs to the people of the United States and those who live in it are there only temporarily.
Such hospitality as is dispensed there, is the hospitality of a great nation. Therefore, it is impossible to discuss adjusting life in the White House as one would adjust life in one's own home.
If the question had been asked me in this manner—how are you going to adjust your life to an income of $25,000 a year in your own home—I could have answered it with great ease. My home can easily be run on that sum of money.
My life can easily be so arranged that I can live on whatever I have. If I cannot live as I have lived in the past, I shall live differently, and living differently does not mean living with less attention to the things that make life gracious and pleasant, or with less enjoyment of things of the mind.
So this question of how the White House is to be run on $25,000 a year, shows that the individual who asked it has no idea of how the White House is run. Congress pays and prescribes the number of employees. It provides for repairs, for the general up-keep and official entertainment. The President must pay for all the food eaten by everybody in the White House, except on official occasions, and that is sometimes a pretty expensive bill.
Since he is required to pay for the people who are not there for his personal comfort, and since his whole life in the White House is not a personal life, but a public one; I do not think a ceiling which could quite rightly be applied to all of us in our personal lives, could be applied at all to the actual life lived in the White House, or to the President's public life anywhere. The conditions would have to be clearly understood by the people, because there are two entirely different situations to be faced.
No one I know, the President or anybody else, would hesitate for a moment if they were faced with the simple problem of readjusting their lives to keep below this personal ceiling of income, or any other ceiling required for the good of the country. If such a tax brings the war to a close any sooner or saves any young lives, I feel sure all of us would accept it with joy.