Where do we even start with this conversation? I’m certain that if I asked you to create a list of the most revolting things that come to your mind immediately – in regards to why Washington DC is an incredibly screwed up place – you would have no problem in filling up several pieces of paper. In fact you probably could write an award-winning thesis on the subject.
For the purpose of this dialogue, let me start at the beginning… why do men and women set out for a career in politics in the first place? There are a myriad of reasons why. But I think 99% of American politicians would tell you that they want to do good. To save the country. To preserve America for the next generation- you know, the kids and the grandkids. You’ve heard that speech a zillion times. Somewhere between those early thoughts and the moment their hand is found stuck in the proverbial cookie jar – their real truth oozes from the lid like an over-shaken can of good ole-fashioned coca-cola.
There was a moment in time when running for political office and serving the country was a highly-regarded profession. In fact, our founders, the framers, the early statesmen served without hesitation and did so without planning their legacy and retirement benefits while in office. Fast forward 200+ years and you’ll find the Modern American Politician leaves office in a wheelchair and an oxygen tank – and a fully-loaded bank account. They leave office as millionaires – not from the salary we pay them – from all the favors, the buyouts, the sellouts, the tradeoffs, and under-the-table maneuvering you could think of!
The latest example comes from none other than our President as reported by The Washington Free Beacon: Obama Hikes Post-Presidency Payments, BY:
President Obama sought to increase the amount of money available for the federal government to spend on former presidents in advance of his White House exit. In his budget requests for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, Obama proposed hikes in the appropriations for expenditures of former presidents, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service published Wednesday.
The report, which discusses the pensions and other federal benefits offered to former commanders-in-chief by way of the Former Presidents Act, specifies that Obama’s 2017 budget proposes a nearly 18 percent hike in appropriations for expenditures of former presidents. He successfully requested an increase in such appropriations for fiscal year 2016. “The President’s FY2017 budget request seeks $3,865,000 in appropriations for expenditures for former Presidents, an increase of $588,000 (17.9%) from the FY2016 appropriation level. The increase in requested appropriations for FY2017 anticipates President Barack Obama’s transition from incumbent to former President,” the report reads.
“For FY2016, President Obama requested and received appropriations of $3,277,000 for expenditures for former Presidents–an increase of $25,000 from FY2015 appropriated levels.”
The Former Presidents Act, enacted in 1958, provides living former presidents with a pension, office staff and support, funds for travel, Secret Service protection, and mailing privileges. It also provides benefits for presidential spouses. Currently, former presidents are awarded a pension equal to the salary of cabinet secretaries, which totaled $203,700 for the 2015 calendar year and was boosted by $2,000 for the current calendar year. Critics of the act argue that it financially supports former presidents who are not struggling. Many of them, alternatively, have gone on to profit from writing books about their time in the White House or delivering paid speaking engagements.
Former President Bill Clinton, for example, earned $132 million for delivering paid speeches between February 2001 and March 2015, according to an analysis from CNN. Clinton received $924,000 in taxpayer dollars last year by way of the Former Presidents Act.
Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would cap annual pensions for former presidents at $200,000. Additionally, the bills would cut each pension by a dollar for every dollar the former president earns over $400,000 in the private sector in a given year. The measure was approved by the House in January with bipartisan support. “It’s pretty simple. You want a retirement and pension, it’s there. But if you’re going to go out and make enormous sums of money, then you don’t need taxpayer subsidies,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), who introduced the bill in the House, told ABC News in an interview.
“The former presidents are making gobs of money speaking and writing books, more power to them, but that doesn’t mean they need more taxpayer dollars on top of that,” Chaffetz added. “It’s embarrassing that they take that money.”
The president is not the first, and he won’t be the last. What do they say again – “do as I say, not as I do” or is it “leadership starts at the top” or perhaps “the buck stops here”.
The New York Times reported in December 2015: Members of Congress hold a lot of the power in America and, a new report shows, plenty of wealth. In fact, more than half of them are millionaires. An analysis of disclosure filings by the Center for Responsive Politics reveals that while lawmakers like to talk about the plight of poor and middle-class Americans, few of them can relate financially. How vast is the discrepancy in their fortunes? The median net worth of a member of Congress was $1.03 million in 2013, compared with $56,355 for the average American household.
This didn’t happen overnight however. If you’ve been paying attention to watchdog groups over the past twenty years then this is not exactly breaking news. Fact is though – it is getting worse. Roll Call reported in October 2014: It was a good year for members of Congress in one respect: their pocketbooks. Roll Call has for decades calculated the “50 Richest” members of Congress by poring through financial disclosure forms, and this year, we’ve taken the added step of tallying the minimum net worth of every member of Congress. The combined minimum net worth of Congress jumped — up more than $150 million to $2.1 billion — according to a CQ Roll Call analysis of the financial disclosure forms for every member of Congress and delegate who filed one for 2013.
Open Secrets reported in January 2014: For the first time in history, most members of Congress are millionaires, according to a new analysis of personal financial disclosure data by the Center for Responsive Politics. Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates. The median net worth for the 530 current lawmakers who were in Congress as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767 — an increase from the previous year when it was $966,000.
To run for political office and serve this nation should be the highest honor for any American. Not for the power, not for prestige, not for greed – FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY! My hope is that this next generation will pay attention to the misgivings and misdeeds of the past generation – and chart out a new America that closely resembles the early America that we were so much in awe of!