The White House spends $263,000 each year on calligraphers — here’s why


On June 30, the White House released a 16-page document listing the salary of every executive employee under President Trump.

Most of those salaries are paid to people in advisory or assistant roles, such as Assistant to the President and Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who makes $US179,700 a year.

But three salaries go to calligraphers, whose combined income amounts to $US263,140. Chief Calligrapher Patricia Blair gets the largest sum: $US102,212 a year.

It might seem odd that the White House spends more than a quarter of a million dollars on fancy penmanship, but calligraphers have been held in rather high esteem at the White House for years. Blair, for example, has been chief calligrapher for at least five years — her job is to create official greetings from the president, place cards for White House dinners, handwritten proclamations, military commissions, and service awards.

Elegant calligraphy has come to be an important factor in seeming presidential, whether that be in letters to heads of state or invitations to balls and other events. Blair consistently out earns the average White House employee. But after the salaries were made public, people on Twitter had a hard time reconciling her six-figure salary. One called it “strange,” while another said it was “kind of cool and kind of weird.”

But it’s not first time presidential calligraphy has made waves over the internet. The same thing happened in 2013, when the Obama administration released its salaries — the calligraphy staff at the time made a combined $US277,000.

Amid an impending sequestration, people called it “calligraphy gate.”

“Like all Americans, I want White House invitations and name cards to look as first-class as possible,” Nick Gillespie wrote for Reason at the time, but “shelling out a quarter of a million bucks a year” on three calligraphers “undercuts the idea that President Obama thinks there’s a spending problem for sure.”

Cutting those salaries would have only saved one one-millionth of the $US28.7 billion in cuts in domestic spending, though — a small price to pay for world-class cursive.

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