Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 22, 2009


Bill McGinty, KHQ, Spokane, WA - In 1958 Former President Harry Truman was living solely on his WWI army pension and told Congress he couldn't even afford postage stamps for "official business." Congress immediately responded with the Presidential Pension act of 1958, giving Truman a retirement salary of $25,000, benefits and a staff.

Today taxpayers are supporting our former presidents to the tune of more than $2.9 million. Their yearly salary pension is $191,000. Aside from that, each gets a staff; that staff costs you, the taxpayer, $96,000 per president. Among the amenities we pay for is rent for their office space - President Clinton's rent in Harlem is $516,000 a year, while the first President Bush spends $69,000 a year on "equipment" and Jimmy Carter spends $83,000 a year on "other services". The spending doesn't stop there.

We are paying for President Bush's subscription to the Wall Street Journal which costs $242 a year . . .

Former President Bill Clinton seems to spend the most across the board. His phone bill from the records KHQ received from 2006 cost taxpayers $104,000. We also pay for the satellite TV in his office, complete with eight separate receivers and all the movie channels that come with the "entertainment package". Your cost? $1,800 per year.

Congress regulates and approves this money for our former presidents, all of which have a net worth in millions and tens of millions. In retirement, President Bill Clinton's speaking fees earned him more than $40 million in addition to the $12 million his book deals have put in his pocket since he left office.

If you are wondering why President Jimmy Carter hasn't been mentioned much, it's because he spends far less. In 2008 he spent $518,000, less than half of President Clinton's 1.1 million, the first Bush 41 fell somewhere in between.


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