The president's annual salary is $400,000 (which was actually raised from half that amount in 2001). So it was all the more surprising this morning when the White House released President Obama's tax return, showing the family made $5.6 million last year. How? "The vast majority of the family’s 2009 income is the proceeds from the sale of the president’s books," said the White House, seemingly bracing for the impact of "elitism" catcalls. Earnings from the previous year were just under $2.5 million, but the book sales have indeed been dramatic—scooped up, it's safe to say, by the president's adoring supporters and the critics doing oppo research about Obama's past.
The more dramatic numbers, however, are what the first family paid in taxes: just under $1.8 million in federal taxes and $163,303 on the state return (which was filed in Illinois). Also, a large chunk of the president's windfall—$1.4 million—came from his Nobel Prize winnings, which he donated to 10 different charities.
Obama's election has indeed been lucrative for him—more so than his predecessors. After the first year of his first term, Bush 43 made $894,880. In his last year, 2008, it was just—we know, just—$936,111. Clinton's last year yielded an even lower amount: $417,467.
Technically, tax returns are protected by the IRS as private information. But since Richard Nixon disclosed his return in the early '70s, presidents, and even candidates, have revealed their personal incomes willingly. There's little chance of an embarrassing discrepancy, but it's still a political risk, especially for someone like Obama. It’s not exactly his fault that books he wrote years ago are selling well, but raking in such a hefty amount risks alienating his less fortuitous base—the people who elected him who lack health care or who already feel overtaxed. On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly claimed that he would not raise taxes on those earning less than $200,000. He wasn't, apparently, talking about himself.