We spend millions a year on our former presidents, but why?
With a national debt of $ 28.5 trillion, should we start looking for ways to pay it off?
Perhaps we could start with the Former Presidents Act, where taxpayers pay millions of dollars every year to five presidents, each of whom is quite rich in their own right.
There is nothing in the US Constitution on the privileges and benefits for former presidents. In fact, they didn’t exist until 1958. They started when we wanted to help President Harry Truman, who was a master in the art of appearing poor when he might not be.
When Truman left office in 1953, he was in debt before he took office. However, he also amassed a lot of money during his tenure, both due to accounting inconsistencies and a generous salary.
In “The Truman Show: The Fraudulent Origins of the Former Presidents Act,” Paul Campos, professor of law at the University of Colorado, uses tax return data found in the personal papers of Truman’s wife, Bess, opened to the public a few years ago, to claim that Harry Truman was a rich man. By overestimating his expenses and tax liability for a $ 600,000 contract for his memoirs (that amount is worth over $ 6 million today), he was able to pressure Congress to pass the Former Presidents Act (FPA), a federal law of 1958.
The law has been the subject of several legislative attempts to curb payments. A law to reduce payments to $ 400,000 per president per year, split evenly between a retirement benefit and an office supplement, was vetoed by President Obama in 2016.
Instead, we pay past presidents a variable amount. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama received more than $ 1 million each for themselves, their staff, and their offices in 2017 and 2018. (President Jimmy Carter receives a slightly smaller amount. .) They each receive a salary of $ 219,000. , the same as a Cabinet secretary.
Here are the benefits granted to former presidents:
- Office and Staff Allowance: Past Presidents have offices of thousands of square feet that can cost up to $ 400,000 per year to rent. During the first 30 months after leaving office, they have an allowance to hire staff for a salary of $ 150,000; after that, the allowance drops to $ 96,000.
- Travel costs of up to $ 1 million per year, plus $ 500,000 for spouses.
- Health benefits. President Truman obtained the very first Medicare card in 1966.
- Funeral: Ceremony with full honors
- Protection of the secret services: for life. If a former president denies personal security protection, he is entitled to $ 1 million per year and $ 500,000 for his spouse.
Admittedly, compared to $ 28.5 trillion in national debt, that seems a paltry sum. But it’s worth asking why we’re spending this money on former presidents who have no problem increasing their wealth significantly through memoirs like Truman’s, or giving speeches like The Tour of 2 million dollars from Ronald Reagan in Japan in 1989?
Impeaching a former president would not affect that – only impeachment would. This is why President Trump’s post-presidency benefits will be sure. Unless, of course, the law is changed.
Why are we spending our taxes on people who don’t need them? It seems like we should be doing one or the other: let past presidents make money from books and speeches while having fun at galas hosted by nonprofits and quasi-government organizations like those of Davos, or pay them through the FPA and subject them to within the same limits as a former president to take money as they were during their service. The ex-presidents are always after quasi-governmental personalities; we can treat them as such with remuneration but with limits on the monetization of their notoriety.
I guess, given the choice, most former presidents would be happy to forgo the Former Presidents Act.
– This is the opinion of Barbara Banaian, a member of The Times Writers Group, a professional pianist who lives in the St. Cloud area. His column is published on the first Sunday of the month.