Here's The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper with what he believes is a gotcha:
Chief White House Calligrapher Gets Paid $96,725 Per YearPatricia Blair's time in the White House actually predates Obama's, as you'll see if you go to this C-SPAN video about the calligrapher's office from the George W. Bush presidency. The available technology may have changed in half a century, but what you'll see her doing is pretty much what's described in this 1961 New York Times article about the office:
With the White House closing its doors to public tour groups in order to save money for the sequester, it's worth remembering some of the other costs the White House incurs annually.
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....
In all, the White House appears to employ 3 calligraphers for a yearly total of $277,050.
Despite sequestration, there's been no announcement of the White House scaling back on calligraphers.
... Then begins the tedious preparation of individual invitations. The job is eased somewhat by the fact that the Bureau of Printing and Engraving supplies engraved forms that begin: "The President and Mrs. Kennedy request the pleasure of the company of * * *." The calligraphers do the rest.This book tells us that each invitation takes about two minutes to prepare, and 140 may need to be prepared for a typical event.
They write in the names, dates, times and other required information in a sweeping, cursive style known as "banknote script" and characterized by carefully restrained flourishes and delicate shading. The script matches that in the engraved part of the invitation, and only the most practiced eye can distinguish between the two. Cards of admittance to the White House grounds are also handwritten.... Finally, the envelopes are addressed....
This all may seem silly to you and me, but I assume that this or something similar is standard operating procedure for heads of state around the world.
As the Times story notes:
Calligraphers have served Presidents from the beginning of the Republic.... since the days of William McKinley have they been assigned specifically to the writing of Presidential invitations.Right-wingers are criticizing Obama now for the calligraphy office's expenses, but if at any time in his presidency he'd ever dared to tinker with this century-old process, the same right-wingers would be railing about disrespect for the office and telling us that Ronald Reagan refused to show up for work without a tie and predicting that now we can look forward to fried chicken and malt liquor parties in the Oval Office.
Oh, and that $277,050 salary expense? If you fired all the calligraphers and pocketed their salaries, that would give you approximately one one-millionth of the $28.7 billion in cuts this year to domestic discretionary programs from the sequester.