The Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a new report that highlights how much former occupants of the White House are costing the taxpayers. Taxpayers were on the hook for $3.7 million to look after four living former presidents and one presidential widow.
The president at the top of the list was George W. Bush, who cost $1.3 million in 2012. Some of the expenditures for former Commanders in Chief include $450,000 for President Bill Clinton’s 8,300-square-foot Harlem office near the Apollo Theater and $85,000 for President George W. Bush making telephone calls and $60,000 on travel. Also, President Jimmy Carter sends $15,000 worth of postage.
In total, taxpayers give former presidents an annual pension of $200,000 plus $96,000 for a small office staff. Taxpayers also pay for other items, such as office space, postage, staff benefits and travel. However, the annual costs for former presidents and their family don’t include Secret Service protection, which is part of a separate budget that has not been revealed.
Although the $3.7 million may be considered a hefty figure, it is actually $200,000 less than in 2011 and less than the year prior.
Widows of ex-presidents are also entitled to a pension worth $20,000. Nancy Reagan, the wife of former President Ronald Reagan, declined her pension, but she did accept $14,000 worth of postage.
The measure was introduced in 1958 when Congress created legislation that would provide former leaders with pensions. It was in response to former President Harry S. Truman’s financial derelictions: he had no savings, had an income of only $112.56 per month and decided to get a book deal for his memoirs that paid him only $37,000 ($670,000 was paid but after taxes and paying his assistants, he only earned that amount).
President Truman said years after leaving the Oval Office that if it wasn’t for the sale of his house that he and his siblings inherited from their mother that he would have been on social assistance.
The CRS noted in its report that the purpose of the large sum is to maintain the dignity of the presidency and assist in the costs that are associated with being a former president, like correspondence and scheduling requests.
Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced legislation that would limit the costs to a $200,000 pension and an additional $200,000 for former presidents. It also included a part that would reduce their allowance for each dollar earned. The bill died in committee.