Getting fat off the American taxpayer

Guess who’s running up the bills on his retirement? Bill Clinton costs American taxpayers more money than any other retired President, and in some areas more than all of them combined. He managed to ring up over $8 million in costs in his post-administration period — at the same time he was pulling in $109 million in revenue:

The Clintons have made a $100-million fortune since leaving the White House, but a Politico analysis found that hasn’t kept Bill Clinton from taking full advantage of the publicly funded perks offered to ex-presidents.

In fact, his presidential retirement benefits cost taxpayers almost as much as those of the other two living ex-presidents combined.

The price tag for Clinton’s federal retirement allowance from 2001 through the end of this year will run $8 million, compared to $5.5 million for George H. W. Bush’s and $4 million for Jimmy Carter’s during the same period.

Since 2001, Clinton has received more of almost every benefit available to former presidents — from his pension to his staff’s salaries and benefits to supplies. His $420,000 phone bill and $3.2 million office rent tab both nearly surpassed the totals rung up for those purposes by Bush, Carter and the late former presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan combined. As a group, they spent $484,000 on telephone service and $3.8 million on rent in the same span.

The retirement program began in 1958, when Americans were shocked to find Harry Truman struggling to get by back in Missouri. Truman’s humble origins were an unusual prelude to the Presidency, which had been the preserve of wealthy men since the founding of the nation. When he returned to private life, he refused to commercialize his Presidency through speeches and corporate endeavors, and had little income as a result. Congress created a pension plan for retired Presidents to keep them from having to demean themselves for survival.

That hasn’t troubled Bill Clinton, and to be fair, it shouldn’t. He makes an honest and extremely lucrative living with his personal appearances, and he has upheld the dignity of the office in doing so. However, with a $1o9 million revenue stream, he clearly isn’t on the brink of Truman-style poverty. Yet he gets more financial support than any other former President, including the late Gerald Ford, who needed the program a lot more than Clinton.

The Clintons argue that the money hasn’t supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but that’s at once a diversion and at least indirectly untrue. Both Clintons now live very well off of government largesse, thanks to Hillary’s Senate seat and Bill’s retirement. Eight million dollars in rent and phone costs, among other things, allowed Bill a lot of exposure which until the actual primaries certainly assisted in Hillary’s efforts to win the presidency. And when Hillary began loaning millions of the family’s personal money to her campaign, the bennies that Bill gets has to be considered part of the reason they could afford to do it.

What exactly has Bill done that George H. W. Bush didn’t that explains all of the money we have spent on his retirement? Congress should demand an accounting of the activities it funds through Bill Clinton’s retirement. And perhaps we need to start means-testing this program in the future.