If you ask me, all our politicians on a federal level are overcompensated. Every darn one of them!
Not just the elected politicians themselves, but also their armies of support staff on the payroll.
Last week, the White House submitted to Congress a list of its staff members and their salaries. And it is amazing just how many millions of our tax dollars pay not just for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, but for all their support staff.
Overall, the White House payroll is getting bigger by the year, expanding from $37.1 million in 2010 to $37.8 million in 2011. The number of employees also grew, from 454 last year to 468 in 2012.
A huge chunk of those 468 employees are assistants to the President. The White House reported that Obama has 68 special assistants, 22 assistants and 24 deputy assistants.
I’m not sure what the difference is between a special assistant, a deputy assistant and a regular assistant, but that is a whole lot of assistants by any measure.
Some of those “assistants” are paid pretty darn well. White House Chief of Staff Jacob “Jack” Lew, and national security adviser Thomas Donilon are paid $172,200 a year.
What Salary Would You Expect World Leaders to Earn?
President Obama himself is paid $400,000 a year, which isn’t out of line with what the leaders of other major economies are paid (in U.S. dollars).
United Kingdom: $279,000
Hong Kong: $516,000
Those salaries look pretty generous compared to India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, which pays its president $36,200 a year.
Generous or not, the real issue isn’t so much the size of those salaries, but how little in terms of economic results that taxpayers get for their money.
Would You Pay President Obama $3.3 Million?
If you compare the United States to Singapore — a model example of free enterprise, capitalism, economic growth and perhaps the purest capitalistic society in the world — we are definitely not getting our money’s worth.
The Singapore president’s salary, also known as the Privy Purse, was US$2.8 million in 2010, $3.3 million in 2011 and $1.7 million in 2012.
Sounds like a lot of money, doesn’t it? Of course, with a paycheck that is quite different from most of the rest of the world, that means the pay structure is also quite different. Here’s how …
The key, I believe, is that all of Singapore Cabinet members (equivalent to our Congress) are eligible for a “National Bonus” if targets are met on economic growth, employment and incomes.
For example, a Singapore politician could earn a bonus equal to eight months of salary if Singapore GDP increases by more than 10%. That bonus dwindles down to nothing if GDP growth falls below 2%.
That begs the question …
Have Singaporeans Gotten Their Money’s Worth from Their Politicians?
To be fair, let’s go back 10 years so that we include the results of both the Obama and Bush administrations. Over the last 10 years, the U.S. GDP has grown by 43%.
Over the same period, Singapore’s GDP has increased by 197%, or 4.5 times faster than the United States.
Yup, I’d say that the Singapore politicians have done a heck of a better job than ours.
- The 2011 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index ranks Singapore as the best country in the world to do business.
- Singapore is also the only Asian country to have AAA credit ratings from all three major credit rating agencies: Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch.
- The country has a population of roughly 5 million people and has an enviable unemployment rate of 2.2%.
- Singapore has the third-highest GDP per person in the world, behind only Qatar and Luxembourg.
- Singapore is the 14th-largest exporter in the world and is home to the busiest shipping port in the world. Today, over 60,000 ships pass through the Strait of Malacca. That equals about 160 ships every day, and they carry about one-quarter of the world’s traded goods.
- Although there isn’t a drop of oil to be found anywhere in Singapore, it is the 18th-largest oil exporter in the world. How? Singapore imports oil from other countries and further refines it to sell to other countries. Singapore has the third-largest oil refinery in the world, behind Rotterdam and Houston.
- The government has mandated that English be the primary language used at all levels of the school systems, giving it a highly educated workforce that speaks the international language of commerce.
Singapore is simply one of the best places in the world to invest your money.
If you wanted to put some Singapore into your portfolio, the easiest way is with ETFs. There are three to choose from:
- iShares MSCI Singapore ETF (EWS)
- iShares MSCI Singapore Small Cap ETF (EWSS)
- The Singapore Fund (SGF)
I do believe that you can do much better with a carefully selected basket of Singapore’s best companies, but ETFs are a great way to dip your toes into the Singapore stock market.
I’m not suggesting that you rush out and buy any of these ETFs tomorrow morning. As always, timing is everything so I suggest you wait for my buy signal in Asia Stock Alert.
Singapore, however, is a vibrant, dynamic and growing country that should be on your investment radar screen.
P.S. The upcoming U.S. elections are already starting to take center stage in the press. And whoever wins in November has a big job ahead in trying to fix our country.
The global economy is having problems, too, and you’ll need every tool you can get your hands on to protect your wealth. But you don’t have to go it alone over the next few months.
My friend and colleague Larry Edelson’s Real Wealth Report gives you in-depth global analysis and recommendations to protect and grow the very core of your wealth. To join, click here now.