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Ex-presidents have huge expense accounts

Taxpayers are picking up the tab for millions of dollars in expenses racked up by the 4 living ex-presidents -- all of whom are multimillionaires.

By Karen Datko Jun 6, 2012 7:50PM

Image: Taxes (© Thinkstock/SuperStock)Here's a great retirement perk if you can get it -- the unlimited expense accounts of former U.S. presidents, all of whom would be doing very nicely without this taxpayer-funded help.

In fiscal year 2010-11, the four living ex-presidents had a combined $3.8 million in taxpayer-paid expenses, including these particulars reported by Jonathan Karl of ABC News:

  • $579,000 in office rent for Bill Clinton (who has an estimated net worth of $38 million).
  • $80,000 in phone bills for George W. Bush (net worth of $20 million).
  • $15,000 in postage for Jimmy Carter (net worth a relatively modest $7 million).

Total expenses paid for by taxpayers that year:

  • Bush the Younger, just over $1.3 million.
  • Clinton, nearly $1.1 million.
  • Bush the Elder, $830,000 (whose net worth, by the way, is reportedly about $23 million).
  • Carter, $518,000.

It's also been widely reported that George W. Bush made $15 million from speeches that year and Clinton was paid $10 million to speak. (Post continues below.)

Aside from that, taxpayers are also footing the bill for staffing and upkeep at presidential libraries, which are built with private funds, says John Stossel in a commentary for ABC News.

My, how things have changed since Harry Truman left office; his only government payment was a $112-a-month Army pension. Because Truman struggled, a law was enacted in 1958 to give former presidents a $25,000-a-year pension plus $50,000 for office expenses. Since then, it's gotten out of hand, don't you think?

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced a bill that would pay ex-presidents an annual pension of $200,000 -- about what they get now -- plus a $200,000 allowance. However, explains the Los Angeles Times:

Under the legislation, the $200,000 annual allowance would be reduced dollar for dollar if a former president makes more than $400,000 in outside income. If a former president makes $600,000 or more in outside income, the ex-president would receive the $200,000 pension but no public allowance.
The legislation would give a former president's surviving spouse a $100,000 annual allowance, up from the current $20,000.

Future increases would be tied to the Social Security cost of living bump. Their Secret Service protection, which the Daily Mail says costs $20 million a year -- is not included in these costs and would not be affected.

"There's little reason why American taxpayers should be subsidizing these former presidents when they're doing fine on their own," Chaffetz said in a press release. "This legislation modernizes an old law and saves the taxpayer millions of dollars in the process."

Could the ex-prezes make do on limited expenses without digging into their personal accounts? After all, the Daily Mail also says:

In 2009, Clinton's 8,300-square-foot Harlem office cost taxpayers $516,000. Carter's 4,200-square-foot office in Atlanta cost $102,000. George H.W. Bush's 4,600-square-foot Houston (office) cost $175,000, CBS News reported.
One commenter at, the online presence of The Star-Ledger, thought the former presidents deserve better than what the proposed law provides:
A more rational approach would be to provide their pension plus capped allocations for security, office rental, transportation detail, and misc expenses not to exceed a maximum amount of say $1,000,000 per year. There is something wrong with our nation if we're unwilling to provide that level of support.

On the other hand, a commenter at NPR station WBUR said:

No one is going to pay for MY "after retirement job" office when I retire. If the "next job" can't pay its own bills, time to get a different "next job."

Could this be a spending bill that people from both sides of the aisle could agree upon?

More on MSN Money:

Jun 6, 2012 11:43PM

Add then the retirements paid to our Congress and Congressional staff.  Also add the retirements of the entire D.C. bunch. 

If the total government retirement bill does not shock and sicken you, you are probably in on the bloated retirements.

Jun 8, 2012 7:29AM
And Congress and the Senate can only think about cutting Social Security for the rest of us that pay for all there expenses. It's time to start cutting there expenses and there pensions before they even think about cutting ours. 
Jun 7, 2012 9:18PM

C'mon now, these guys used public money to get elected, used public money while in office and are still using public money to apease their egos and lifestyles. A pension,yes, othere expenses NO, I put 12 years in US Navy and still cant get a pension fron VA, I have been waiting over a year for a decision,WHY?

They do deserve our support and thanks,but our money,NO WAY!!!!!!!

Jun 8, 2012 6:03AM
The way we pay our ex-presidents, congressmen, senators, legislators or any Federal, state representative needs to be addressed. Noone should get full pay once they retire. We the tax payers are footing the bill. They should be proud and privilaged to be serving our country. Many of these indiviudals leave these governments jobs get a pension and than go to another government job and get another pension. This is double dipping and this definitley needs to be addressed. I agree the President's job is one of the most stressfull jobs in the country and they are underpaid vs other CEO's of major corporations, but that's another subject that also needs to be addressed. I believe that these individuals should be treated the same way as if they worked in the private industry. You are based on performace on a yearly basis and and these standards should be set high. There is no free ride. You get paid for performace and results. You don;t perform than you get fired, so like in the business world. Their retirement should be like all American's and they should only get social security and medicad. They shouldn't get full pay, free medical, etc. If you look at the state of our country than based on their performace than all of them should be fired. Respectfully they do have stressfull jobs and many responsibilities though they were elected based on their promises they made to all americans. We are going through some stressfull times and we needs to have leaders in our Federal, State, and Local government that has a backbone to make decisive decisions that create jobs and governments spending less money on programs that no merit and don't create jobs. Outsourcing of jobs overseas need to be addressed and thsoe companies that continue to do this than the imports fees for those companies should be higher. We have our head in the sand and our goverment only has tunnel vision. They need to look at the big picture.
Jun 7, 2012 10:59PM
Real sad when all you hear about are cuts to progams and people that are not corporate bitches!  Give the 18 year old fighting for this country the armor he or she needs to stay alive **** the ex useless Presidents both political sides are a disgrace to this fine country remember it was the people that built this beautiful country and not our weak leadership Democrat or Republican!  God Bless America and shame on all ex Presidents that continue to take hand outs while the rest of people that actually advance our country in any way shape or form continue to struggle!
Jun 8, 2012 9:53AM

I don't know about you but this pisses me off to no end!!! These @$$hats are all independently wealthly yet they keep sticking it to the tax payers long after they are gone. Why do you think we are in the situation we are? These guys live on a different planet and have no idea about being fiscally responsible; talk about milking it for all its worth, which if something doesn't change, won't be squat before long. And its not just the former POTUS, it is all elected members of the US government. We suffer and still pick up their tab. No more of this! I think it is time to end this crap. No more expenses, no more lifetime medical care, no more raises (for most who already have money) while the country continues to go down the toliet. All elected official (President, Senators, Congress, ect.) need a wage freeze until we get the economy and country back on track and a start getting out of debt, and no sooner. Then all this lifetime free health care, expenses, ect no more. They can have it while in office (healthcare anyways but tight and limited on expenses; ie no private jets) but once out (this tied to term limits to further ensure no lifetime benny's) they can have a basic plan just like the rest of us do and small limited pension ($500-$1000 a month), unless they are over a certain networth and/or have other investments that put them over a certain amount of income as a whole then they don't get $hit. Start bringing these clowns (both parties) back down to Earth /reality and maybe we will see some changes finally.


Jun 7, 2012 10:05AM
I say give them a pension and nothing more! Why are we having to foot the bill for their life after their presidency anyway??? While I agree that they should receive some sort of retirement, I cannot see paying for anything more! Then overhaul the payments made to the rest of the government entities, because lord knows they are being compensated way too much as well!
Jun 8, 2012 3:46PM
This kind of crap needs to stop!  All of the crap that our elected official give to each other needs to be removed.  Their pay and all other free stuff should be voted on by us not them.  Do you get to say how much of a raise or what perks you get of course not.  We are their bosses and we need to take back the power of what they can have!
Jun 7, 2012 10:03AM
And yet, they complain about firemen, police and others pensions,  who risk their lives daily for all. The people in this country can't stay focused for more than a minute. In the next 10 years, the whining will be deafening as benefits continue to erode, and safety nets disappear. Bet on it. And in the meantime, the upper class will continue to further distance themselves from the people who truly deserve the benefits. People believe the hype and promise of a better deal if you vote this way or that. But the bottom line is, there's honor among thieves and change is nothing more than a word used for election purposes. It's unstoppable, because people won't open their eyes.
Jun 7, 2012 10:19PM
it is sad when so many people are losing all that they have and the people that make millions don't care they still take instead of giving back :(

Jun 8, 2012 2:27AM
I'd like to see one of these former presidents step up and do the right thing *without* a law being enacted to prevent this sort of over-payment from happening.  Stand up, be a hero and refuse to accept a government "handout" when your fellow Americans are hurting.  Don't make me relate you to the girl in Michigan who won the lottery and still collected her welfare checks, or the couple over near Seattle living in a million-dollar home on the lake and collecting welfare checks.  Please be the honorable president you were meant to be.  Be an example for all of us, that's your duty.
Jun 7, 2012 11:12PM

I think it is very selfish and stupid to the american people, for us to take care of the filthy RICH exes, Why in the Hell get it together and quit paying for the most money on the things and people, that don't even need it, I live on disability, I get $44. in food stamps. I get sick when I see and hear about these rich s-n of b-----s. that rob our ways and money, and our LIVES!!!!

Jun 8, 2012 2:31PM
The original law was enacted so we didn't have x presidents in the wellfare line!  If the x presidents can make it on their own, they should set an example for all americans and take it out of pocket.  I can see a small allowance for civil duties they take on.  They shouldn't make millions off the working poor and middle class and stuff their pockets while everyone else is struggling.  That's just my opinion!
Jun 8, 2012 7:14AM
Time to kick these vultures off the gov't payroll.
Jun 8, 2012 3:55PM
It's time for these former presidents to get with the times and NOT ACCEPT these perks, especially in view of the fact that so many Americans are having trouble making ends meet.
Jun 7, 2012 8:10PM
If the president, vp, senators, etc. pay taxes then they get social security and medicare just like the rest of us.  period. Thats it.  nothing else. zip. 
Jun 8, 2012 3:27PM
I support U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah plan to limit expenses.  With a pension and healtcare for life, we do not need to throw money away on unlimted expenses.
Jun 8, 2012 3:13PM
NO ONE gets elected president for the money.  They get elected so they can legally steal even more than their peers in Congress.  Since the actual dollar amount is chump-change in comparison to any other federal squandering, eliminating it wouldn't solve anything.  I'd say $100K a year, and $50 for a surviving spouse is fair.  NOTHING else.  Mind you, they get lifetime security and healthcare--who could ask for anything more?
Jun 8, 2012 12:21AM
Jun 8, 2012 3:13PM
ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!!!!!   EVERY SINGLE POLITICIAN IN AMERICA SHOULD BE IMPEACHED ASAFP, WITHOUT ANY QUESTION!!!!  UNBELIEVABLE...I'LL NEVER RETIRE THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING...AND THIS OLD FART IS LIVING THE LIFE OF LUXURY ON MY DIME??????  I REALLY HOPE THE END IS NEAR...THIS IS OUT OF HAND AND IS ALSO UNSUSTAINABLE.  330 million people in America, and we can't seem to get rid of a couple thousand old farts taking ALL the MONEY??????  I can't wait until I get the opportunity to move to another country where everything is cheaper.
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