With the sequester and possible government shut down if Congress cannot get their act together, do we really need to worry about what happens after a president leaves office? Well it would be a good idea considering the taxpayers continue to pay their salary long after they leave office plus they keep a lot of the perks they had while in office. Who pays for all this? You guess it…the taxpayer. As the Associated Press reports being the leader of the free world can be an expensive proposition and doesn’t stop once you leave office as the government spent $3.7 million on former presidents in 2012 according to a report released by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The total includes pensions, compensation and benefits for office staff, and the cost for travel, office space and postage. The costliest former president last year was George W. Bush who racked up $1.3 million. Now all things consider, $3.7 million shelled out in 2012 by taxpayers is a drop in the bucket when you consider the country spends trillions of dollars each year, but the fact these men can command large sums for book deals, speaking engagement and the like the report raises the question should these ex leaders receive such generosity when the country is facing cut backs and cutting much needed programs.
Under the Former Presidents Act, previous presidents are given an annual pension equivalent to a Cabinet secretary’s salary of $200,000 last year plus $96,000 a year for a small office staff. Presidents on their way out also get a little extra help their first year after they leave office which is why Bush’s cost were higher than others in 2012 as he was granted $400,000 for 8,000 square feet of office space on Dallas plus $85,000 in telephone costs and $60,000 for travel. Bill Clinton came in second with just under $1 million and followed by George H.W. Bush at nearly $850,000. Clinton spent most of his government money on office space in New York’s Harlem neighborhood for his 8,300 square foot digs at a price of $442,000. The only other living president, Jimmy Carter, came in around $500,000. Of course the buck doesn’t stop there as former president’s windows are entitled to pensions of $20,000 except Nancy Reagan who waived her pension last year but did take $14,000 in postage. The costs do not include the protection that former presidents are entitled to as well as their spouses and children. These costs are part of a separate budget that is not public reports the Associate Press.
The funding of ex-presidents came under the Former Presidents Act back to 1958 when Congress created the program to help President Harry Truman post White House financial woes according to the Congressional Research Service. The goal was to maintain the dignity of the presidency and help with ongoing costs such as correspondence and scheduling requests. These days though many of the former president’s incomes come from speaking and writing as well as presidential centers and foundations who accept donations and facilitate many of their post presidential activities according to Associated Press. Why has no one challenged it? Saddest part is someone has. Rep. Jason Chaffetz from Utah has noted that none of the living presidents are poor so in response to this introduced a bill last year to limit the cost to $200,000 pension plus another $200,000 for discretionary spending and for every dollar made above $400,000 their annual allowance will be reduced by the same amount. Unfortunately, the bill died in committee. The government can’t agree on anything but what they can agree on is spending more… go figure. Washington needs to get its priorities straight as many people are suffering the consequences of their spending and especially cutting of necessary programs.