Ex-presidents living large on the taxpayer's dime

  • 19 July 2017
  • NormanL
Ex-presidents living large on the taxpayer's dime

Presidents of the United States do quite well for themselves once they leave office. So well, especially in recent years, that some in Congress have tried to curb the amount of taxpayer money handed out to ex-presidents. A bill even passed in 2016 that would have applied modest curbs on ex-presidents' expenses. Barack Obama vetoed it:

[It was] one of only 12 vetoes during his presidency. His own financial stake in the matter drew little comment at the time.

In his message accompanying the veto, he said he agreed with the “goal” of reforming payments to ex-presidents, but claimed this bill would “impose onerous and unreasonable burdens on the offices of former Presidents.”

The bill's sponsors, including Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, promise to bring the measure back. And with good reason: it's mighty nice to be a former president...

The modern ex-presidential gold rush got under way in earnest, in the view of many, after Ronald Reagan left office in 1989 and soon commanded a reported $2 million for two speeches in Japan, on top of $7 million for his memoirs.

But few former presidents have made as much as Bill Clinton.

Tax returns Hillary Clinton released in advance of her bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, covering the years 2001 through 2006 and estimates for 2007, showed the former president made $51.8 million from speeches, and an additional $29.5 million from advances and royalties on two books.

By the time Clinton announced her second White house bid in 2015, Bill and Hillary combined earned more than $153 million from paid speeches over a 14-year period. Critics attacked the arrangements as selling influence, since much of that time Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state or a serious presidential contender or both.

While Sen. Ernst has yet to reintroduce her presidential pension reform bill, three pending House bills tackle congressional pensions. (Unlike former presidents, former members of Congress do not receive special benefits.)

Any action on presidential pension reform, however, depends in part, on whether the nation’s current billionaire president is willing to get involved.

President Trump -- who has declined to take a salary while in office, has yet to weigh in on any pension reform bill. Here's hoping he does -- because our ex-presidents are doing just great in retirement, thank you. And they no longer need taxpayer handouts to make ends meet.