You probably know that the President of the United States has the highest salary of any government official, but did you know who ranks second? If you thought it might be the vice-president or leader of Congress, you would be incorrect. The highest-paid official behind the president is the Postmaster General, the chief executive of the United States Postal Service.
The Postmaster General makes $276,840 per year, just behind the president’s salary at $400,000, which is the highest in the U.S. Government. Why does this position have such a high salary as opposed to others in Congress and the executive branch?
It came about because of a 2006 law to make the salaries of the top positions in the US Postal Service competitive with positions in the private sector. Officials in the postal service can make up to 120% of the salary of the vice president. The current salary of the vice president is $230,700. This doesn’t include bonuses and other benefits the postmaster general can receive which push the amount even higher.
The office of the Postmaster General is actually older than the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution since it was established in 1775 by the Continental Congress. Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General. The Postal Service was known as the Post Office Department until 1971 when it was reorganized into the United States Postal Service after the Postal Reorganizing Act was signed into law. This removed the Postmaster General as a cabinet position and made the USPS an independent service of the government designed to run on its own revenue.
The USPS’s finances can be just as confusing as understanding the many aspects of the federal government. The USPS had a net loss of $8.1 billion for the 2019 fiscal year with revenue of $71.1 billion, which was an increase of $514 million over the previous year. In response to questions about compensation of executives in a 2012 Washington Times article, a USPS spokesman said, “As we continue to adjust to a changing business environment, it’s important that we recruit and retain the forward-thinking leadership we need to continue to remain viable. Compensation is important to that equation.”
But if you think the Postmaster General of the U.S. makes a hefty salary, then you would be shocked to know what the counterpart of this position in Australia made in 2018 to 2019. Christine Holgate, the chief of AusPost, the postal service in Australia, made $1.2 million AUD ($815,526 USD) in 2019. AusPost, incidentally, is a government-owned corporation that is responsible for postal services. Her predecessor, Ahmed Fahour, made even more, however, bringing in a $6.8 million AUD salary ($4.6 million USD).
The head of Royal Mail in the United Kingdom, Rico Back, also makes a hefty amount. He was given a £640,000 ($799,862 USD) base salary as of 2019. Royal Mail also bought out his previous contract for £5.8 million ($7.2 million USD).
Just to put things in perspective, Benjamin Franklin made $1,000 a year as Postmaster General in 1775. That’s about $31,000 in today’s dollars.