Post-White House Welfare Kings: Business Bonanzas and Taxpayer Swag for Ex-Presidents
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Having been president of the U.S. means being famous, and fame means opportunities to make money. But on top of what they can wrangle through lucrative speeches and book deals, former occupants of the Oval Office enjoy generous government subsidies, totaling millions of dollars a year. Is it right for taxpayers to pick up the tab for our rich ex-presidents' travel, support staff, "mailing privileges" and more, when public assistance to impoverished citizens is being cut back ?
Ahead of the federal holiday for Washington's Birthday, here's a look at contemporary post-presidential finances by some of the numbers. Expenses are from fiscal year 2012 , when pensions and costs excluding Secret Service protection -- the budget for which is kept secret -- added up to nearly $3.7 million.
George W. Bush (#43)
Post-White House windfalls: $7 million advance for his memoir, Decision Points ; about $15 million in speaking fees as of May 2011 (" a conservative estimate ")
Spending leader in: telephone bills, $85,000
Bill Clinton (#42)
Post-White House windfalls: $106 million in speaking fees since leaving office; $15 million advance for 2004 autobiography My Life (a then-record)
Spending leader in: office space, $442,000
George H. W. Bush (#41)
Post-White House windfall: $100,000 for a 1993 address to a convention of Amway distributors in Atlanta ( a then-record for post-presidential speeches; his typical fee back then was $60,000 to $80,000)
Big expense: travel, $56,000
Jimmy Carter (#39)
Post-White House windfalls : $1.2 million for his family peanut warehouse -- said to be significantly more than the business was worth -- bought by Archer Daniels Midland in 1981. Carter and his wife also "signed generous contracts to write their memoirs ."
Big expense: "other services," $70,000 (category includes "cable television, HVAC services, and consulting servicesamong other items")
Nancy Reagan (widow of #40)
Post-White House windfall: $2 million over eight days of appearances by Ronald Reagan in Japan in 1981, a tour sponsored by the media giant Fujisankei Communications Group. The LA Times reported in 1990 that the Gipper's going rate would have him "grossing as much as $1.8 million a year" in speaking fees, and that the Reagans received $7 million in advances for three books.
Big expense: $14,000 in postage (Mrs. Reagan's only outlay; the former first lady waived the $20,000 federal pension to which she is entitled by law)
Ex-presidents have their predecessor Harry Truman to thank for the handsome benefits they enjoy. The thirty-third president, who denounced "wild greed" in the Senate chamber, tried to set a good example out of office. He claimed to have received an "unbelievable" number of corporate proposals, "many and varied," starting before he left the White House -- sinecures with six-figure salaries. He turned them all down.