AUSTIN, TX–Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush was aghast to learn Monday that the position of U.S. president, the highest office in the land and most powerful in the free world, pays just $200,000 a year.

A distraught George W. Bush, moments after learning of the salary that potentially awaits him.

"That's it?" asked Bush, struggling to comprehend the figure reported to him by aides. "A measly couple hundred grand a year? Not per month, even? Because I've already spent more than $60 million to get this job. I'll have to be president for 300 years just to break even."

"I guess I just assumed that a job like that would have a much bigger salary," continued Bush, shaking his head. "You know, something like $120 million. That's what my friend Vance Coffman makes as CEO of Lockheed Martin, and that's just an aerospace firm, not a whole country."

Bush was further disturbed to learn that the salary is not bolstered by incentive clauses.

"Don't I maybe get a 2 percent commission on any increase in the GNP? No? And there's no bonus for, say, brokering a Mideast peace accord or vetoing a certain number of bills?" Bush asked. "Well, at least the salary's tax-free, right?"

Told that the position's only benefits are free room and board, unlimited non-personal use of federal vehicles, and comprehensive health care through the Navy, Bush threw up his hands and walked out of the Bush 2000 war room.

"And they wonder why they can't get anyone decent for that job," Bush told campaign manager Karl Rove during a hallway tirade. "For Christ's sake, a McDonald's manager probably makes that much a year."

After calling his father, former president George Bush, to confirm the $200,000 figure, Bush held an emergency strategy session with his top advisers to determine a course of action.

"I can't believe this," Bush told his staff. "I spent 10 years running my dad's oil company at $14 million a year. Now they tell me that, for running the U.S.–which, you realize, includes my dad's oil company, as well as lots of other profitable businesses–I'd receive a lousy $200,000. Before taxes. If you ask me, the American people are getting away with highway robbery here."

Bush asked foreign policy advisor Condoleeza Rice if, once elected, he could legislate himself a raise. The answer came as yet another disappointment for the candidate.

"According to Condoleeza, I can't just vote myself more money," Bush later told Rove. "She says only Congress can do that, because of that whole ratification thing you told me about. Or maybe it was because of checks and balances–I forget exactly what she said. Anyway, I can't do it. And, apparently, charging other nations for military intervention is just not done, either."

Though he is "pretty sure" he won't drop out of the race, Bush said massive corporate restructuring is needed to make the presidential post attractive to top executives such as himself.

"I guess I'll stay in the race and take the job if I get it. But, regardless, something's got to be done about this situation," Bush said. "Aren't there some agencies we could cut to clear some room under the salary cap for the president? What does the Department of the Interior do? That could probably go. Housing and Urban Development, too. We could probably sell some congressional skyboxes. That's what we did to get Nolan [Ryan] when I was running the [Texas] Rangers."

"I know my dad made a bundle off the Gulf War," Bush continued. "But I guess it wasn't through the job. I'll have to ask him just exactly how he did it. Maybe something like that would work again."