U.S. Spent $3.7 Million on Ex-Presidents in 2012; George W. Bush the Most Costly

Thursday, March 28, 2013
(photo: Scott Applewhite, AP)

At a time when federal agencies are being forced to make substantial budget cuts, it’s worth pointing out that the federal government spent $3.7 million last year on four living ex-presidents.


Under the Former Presidents Act—passed in 1958 to assist financially strapped ex-President Harry Truman—onetime commanders-in-chief receive an annual pension equal to a cabinet secretary’s salary ($200,000), plus $96,000 a year for office staff. The government also pays for benefits, travel, office space and postage.


Among the former presidents receiving this largess, George W. Bush was given the most assistance: $1.3 million. The expenditures included $395,000 for 8,000 square feet of office space in Dallas, $85,000 in telephone costs, and $60,000 for travel.


Bill Clinton came in second at just under $1 million, followed by George H.W. Bush at $842,000, and Jimmy Carter at about $518,000. Nancy Reagan, widow of Ronald Reagan, also received $14,000 for postage.


The $3.7 million spent on ex-presidents does not include Secret Service protection, which is covered under a separate budget not disclosed to the public.


Considering that former presidents reap enormous fees from book contracts and speaking engagements, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced a bill last year to limit the government payments, but it won no support.


The average president lives for another 13 years after leaving office, although Gerald Ford lasted for almost 30 years and Herbert Hoover for almost 31.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Taxpayer Shell Out Nearly $3.7M for Ex-Presidents (by Josh Lederman, Associated Press)

America’s $3.7 Million Ex-President Tab: By the Numbers (by Peter Weber, The Week)

Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits (by Wendy Ginsberg, Congressional Research Service) (pdf)


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