Super-rich ex-presidents and the taxpayers who support them

Editor's note: The following column originally appeared in The Washington Times.

Sen. Joni Ernst is taking a swing at the money we pay ex-presidents. She’s written a bill that caps what we pay them, but it doesn’t go far enough.

With ex-presidents making tens of millions of dollars upon leaving office, why are we still paying multimillionaire ex-presidents obscene amounts of money every year?

We have politicians who have grown monumentally rich on the perks that come after our having hired them. Speaking engagements, book deals, board memberships, you name it, they do it and the millions roll in.

Courtesy of the Former Presidents Act in 1958, ex-presidents are entitled to a pension, staff, medical care and Secret Service protection. It was President Harry Truman’s financial difficulties after leaving office that helped facilitate passage of the act.

Times have changed and the need for the Former Presidents Act has not just disappeared, its continued existence (and acceptance by ex-presidents) is an insult to the American people and furthers the deceit that we work for them.

Former President Barack Obama and his wife are worth $25 million dollars according to Time magazine, and that’s not counting their reported $65 million dollar combined book deals after leaving the White House. A recent report revealed Mr. Obama is also pulling in $400,000 per speech to Wall Street companies. It’s safe to say Mr. Obama wouldn’t be making this money had he not been elected president.

TheRichest.com tells us that former President George W. Bush’s net worth is estimated at $35 million. His father, the 41st president of the United States? $25 million.

Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle wave to the crowd as they board an Air Force jet to depart Andrews Air Force base in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle wave to the crowd as they board an Air Force jet to depart Andrews Air Force base in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) (AP)

The Clintons turned the presidency into an ATM machine since Bill Clinton left the office. According to Forbes, the Clintons “have turned political fame into a personal fortune, raking in more than $240 million. … Mr. Clinton made the lion’s share of that almost quarter of $1 billion, earning $189 million by writing books, giving speeches, consulting private companies and advising billionaire Ron Burkle,” Forbes reported.

Former President Jimmy Carter appears to be living comfortably on his $7 million net worth. Who wouldn’t? OK, the Clintons would consider that pocket change.

FILE: Former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative at Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.

FILE: Former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative at Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz. (Reuters)

Our financial perks for ex-presidents add up almost as quickly as lies about interns, gun running to Mexico, and the murder of an ambassador. The Washington Times reported, “Former President Barack Obama is about to become the most expensive ex-president, costing taxpayers $1,153,000 next year, according to a new Congressional Research Service memo looking at the official allowances for the five living former chief executives. His $1,153,000 budget request for 2018 is more than $100,000 higher than George W. Bush’s request for next year and nearly $200,000 more than Bill Clinton’s expected budget. George H.W. Bush is slated to get $942,000, while Jimmy Carter will get less than half that, at just $456,000.”

FILE - In this Dec. 31,1977, file picture, President Jimmy Carter and his wife  Rosalynn Carter wave goodbye before their departure from Warsaw, Poland, first stop of their trip through seven countries. When President Donald Trump arrives in Warsaw, on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, with his wife Melania, he will be the eight U.S. president to visit Poland, a Central European nation that peacefully shed Moscow's dominance in 1989, joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004, and which is one of the staunchest U.S. allies in Europe. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - In this Dec. 31,1977, file picture, President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter wave goodbye before their departure from Warsaw, Poland, first stop of their trip through seven countries. When President Donald Trump arrives in Warsaw, on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, with his wife Melania, he will be the eight U.S. president to visit Poland, a Central European nation that peacefully shed Moscow's dominance in 1989, joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004, and which is one of the staunchest U.S. allies in Europe. (AP Photo, File) (AP)

Ms. Ernst is of the mind that something should change.

Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, said that while presidents should keep getting taxpayer-funded security details, they don’t need the more than $1 million in pensions and office equipment that former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush are each expected to cost in 2018,” The Times reported.

“Her bill would cap the annual pension payment at $200,000 per president, and would impose a cap on how much an ex-president’s office can cost. Initially the cap would be $500,000 a year, dropping over a decade to $250,000 per presidential office,” the newspaper said.

Ms. Ernst told “Fox & Friends” that she and Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., reintroduced the bill this year and are “very hopeful to get it over the finish line.”

While Ms. Ernst has the right idea, she doesn’t go far enough. There is no reason for taxpayers to fund these individuals at any level. They have more than enough money to fund their own offices, and anything else they want to indulge in.

It is also reasonable that we require ex-presidents to have Secret Service protection. We should maintain it as a requirement of ex-presidents, and they should reimburse the Treasury for the cost.

The financial freedom for life provided by the free market is a gift the American people give ex-presidents. After decades of our nation struggling under financial distress and enduring a massive recession, it’s time we end the absurdity of subsidizing these super-rich ex-presidents.