During his 60 Minutes interview Sunday, Donald Trump said that he will take the minimum presidential salary allowed by law, probably $1 per year. Before you praise him for such a "public-spirited sacrifice," consider that this is actually not in the public's best interest, writes author and former House and Senate speechwriter Rob Goodman on Politico. George Washington, "our first independently wealthy president," also declared he wouldn't take a salary—despite the fact that "the American Framers considered payment of the presidential salary an important duty under the Constitution," so this was essentially Washington declaring that a portion of the Constitution didn't apply to him. Congress shot that idea down, "and in doing so, consciously set a precedent for the future," Goodman writes. "It did not want to risk that Washington’s refusal would become the norm rather than the exception."
Why was this so important to the founders? They wanted to ensure "that the president serves the public, and not the other way around." A president who wasn't being paid a consistent amount could be swayed by the promise of money from a special interest or certain members of Congress. Though that concern would seem only to apply to presidents who don't have wealth of their own and who are completely above corruption for profit, the founders basically decided it would be a bad idea to assume that would be the case for all future presidents. Thus, the salary requirement was written into the Constitution. If we start setting a $1 salary precedent, we risk "turning our already money-filled political culture into one that even more openly celebrates its exclusivity. In such a political culture, we would increasingly question the capacity of anyone other than the wealthy to serve the public with integrity." Goodman's full column is worth a read.