A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are the White House calligraphers overpaid?

I generally try to keep this blog free of politics. (Well, there was that one time I posted about the perks of a being assigned a senate office across from the Senate stationery store.) And this isn't a political post, though the information in it comes from a political blog.

Anyway . . . someone today decided to ridicule the idea of the suspension of public tours of the White House as a part of the sequester spending cutbacks. He did it by pointing out other White House expenses that he apparently thought were frivolous:
Like the "Chief Calligrapher," Patricia A. Blair, who has an annual salary of $96,725, and her two deputies, Debra S. Brown, who gets paid $85,953 per year, and Richard T. Muffler, who gets paid $94,372 every year.
OK, let's set aside politics. I have no idea what these particular calligraphers do, and I suspect they stay on from president to president. But I'm wondering . . . is this the going rate, or are they overpaid?

If I could find someone to pay me nearly a hundred thousand dollars a year for my handwriting, I'd quit being a lawyer in a minute! But I know I could train from here until doomsday without coming up to snuff on calligraphy.

UPDATE (3/7/2013): My dad saw this post (he may be the only person still following this blog after my unscheduled and unannounced 6-month posting hiatus) and sent me this article that rounds up some reaction to "calligraphy-gate" from around the political spectrum.


1 comment:

  1. Nope -- there's at least one other person reading your blog. :-) I have decidedly mixed feelings about "calligraphy-gate." I do think it's completely ridiculous that our elected officials are spending even one millisecond of thought on this. Bigger fish to fry and all that. And I do calligraphy myself, albeit not even close to the standard of the White House calligraphers, no doubt. So I understand the value and the hard work and the countless hours of practice that go into what is a true art.

    BUT. If times are bad enough that they are eliminating public tours (which is a true public good, in that lots of people experience and benefit from it), they should almost certainly take the logical step of also cutting things like handwritten calligraphy which only a limited number of people get to experience (the rich and powerful that visit the White House). Because I think this is a classic case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Or the good enough, anyway. My guess is that many of the attendees to these dinners and such would never be able to tell the difference between handwritten calligraphy and computer-generated calligraphy, and probably would not care. So why not compromise and cut back to one calligrapher, who could still work on the projects where handwritten calligraphy DOES make a difference (if the White House had any such projects -- I have no clue), and let the rest be done by computer? It would show a good faith effort, at the very least; the result would be mostly the same in terms of the formality of the office; and it might even shut up certain people in the government, at least for a while until they found the next tempest in a teapot.