Via Noam Scheiber and Matt Yglesias, I see the White House has posted its staff salaries (PDF). As Noam notes, just about all the big players -- Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod, Larry Summers etc -- top out with salaries of $172,200. That's nothing to scoff at, but as Matt says it's "hardly enough to put you in the stratosphere of the American economic elite."
And that's true. Nonetheless, I think it's important to realize that a job at the White House has value that extends beyond those immediate six figures. There is, for one, status: the White House can get away with paying less because it's a tremendous ego boost to work for the White House. On a somewhat more crass level, there's also the expected future benefit: The presidency of Harvard, say. Or a job at a hedge fund. Or both!
And on a somewhat unrelated note, I see that 28-year-old speechwriter Jon Favreau makes $172,200, and 28-year-old assistant to the president Reggie Love makes $102,000. That's a lot of money by just about any standard.