President Barack Obama may be giving up 5 percent of his salary, but the American public has already been voluntarily giving back a much larger amount to the government.
According to Treasury Department data, Americans gave over $7.7 million in gifts to the Treasury in fiscal year 2012 to reduce public debt. That's well over twice as much as in 2011, when they gave $3.3 million, and is more than in 2011 and 2010 combined. It also dwarfs any amount of gifts from the last 10 years.
That amount can look either huge and miniscule, depending on the basis for comparison. It dwarfs any amount given in recent years and also dwarfs the $20,000 that the president is returning, but it is also around 2 cents per person. In addition, it is around 0.00005 percent of the total outstanding public debt.
It is unclear exactly why donations spiked so dramatically last year.A Treasury spokesperson says that the department is unsure why donations have spiked. However, the spokesperson says that the national debt has been a major issue in national politics recently, which has increased awareness of and attention to the gift program. Thus far, 2013 is looking to be a much more lackluster year. In the first five months of this fiscal year, Americans gave just over $900,000 to the Treasury. That puts the Treasury on pace to receive around $2.2 million dollars in gifts this year.
People feeling generous can go to pay.gov to make their own donation.