Townhall: Post-Presidency Perks Are Ripe for Reform

Demian Brady, October 13, 2018

Former presidents are among the wealthiest people in the country. The “poorest” of them, Jimmy Carter, is worth $8 million, placing him near the fabled “one percent” of richest Americans. Bill and Hillary Clinton earned a reported $229 million in the fifteen years after the conclusion of his second term as president. And despite this fantastic wealth, taxpayers subsidize former presidents to the tune of $4 million per year because of an antiquated benefit system.

Since 2000, taxpayers have paid out $63 million in benefits and office allowances to the five living former presidents (plus $5 million to President Ford and $4 million to President Reagan). President Clinton, worth an estimated $76 million, has received the most benefits, collecting over $21 million since the turn of the century. Obama is on pace to top that with annual payouts of $1.4 million.

Given the wealth and earning potential for modern-day former presidents, the time has come to reduce the burdens they place on ordinary taxpayers. Relief could come in the form of the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), and in the Senate by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).

The reform would limit the pension a president could receive to $200,000 annually (indexed to inflation) and cap expenses for office space. It would reduce this allowance dollar for dollar by the amount that a president’s adjusted gross income exceeds $400,000, while leaving intact current healthcare benefits and Secret Service protection. In other words, it would maintain a safety net for a former president in financial distress, while phasing out benefits for those with great wealth. A previous version of the reform passed both chambers of Congress in 2016, only to be vetoed by soon-to-be-former-President Obama. 

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