Next US President may get a 100% pay rise

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THERE is an added bonus awaiting the next inhabitant of the White House: Congress is proposing to double the President's salary.

A 100 per cent pay rise may not seem the best example to set at a time when Wall Street is starting to get skittish about inflation. But amazingly, there has been no rise since 1969. The pay for the leader of the free world has been stuck at a meagre $200,000 (pounds 125,000) since Richard Nixon took office.

Congress has not decided to review the salary because it fears Al Gore or George W Bush, the most likely recipients, will find themselves on their uppers. The salary can only be increased when administrations change, so if it is not done before 2001, the next time would be 2005. Without action, the Vice-President's salary, which increases automatically, could overtake that of the man or woman in the Oval Office, leading to all kinds of scenes round the drinks machine in the West Wing basement.

The other factor is a very American concern that other world leaders are looking down their noses at the US. Why, Switzerland, Hong Kong, even Britain all pay their leaders more. (though Tony Blair has decided to take only pounds 105,233.)

There are perks, it is true - a nice house in the middle of Washington with extensive gardens and a helicopter landing pad, for instance. Mr Clinton discovered other benefits of office, but perhaps an extra few dollars might persuade his successor not to stray in that particular direction.