Does it come as any shock that Donald Trump is squeezing each attainable penny out of his post-presidency, holding $30,000-a-head fundraisers and pocketing the cash, performing for enviornment crowds with Invoice O’Reilly at $100 a ticket, promoting $50 MAGA hats and $95 Mar-a-Lago Christmas ornaments at his Trump merchandise retailer? It’s simply what you’d anticipate from a huckster billionaire who’s all the time on the make.
However let’s preserve his habits in perspective.
Lengthy earlier than Trump confirmed up on the White Home, the presidency had develop into a stepping stone to huge, beyond-the-pale riches. Though a few of us suckers nonetheless consider the commander-in-chief’s job as lonely, burdensome public service undertaken selflessly for the great of the nation, the fact is that there’s not a lot self-sacrifice concerned, not less than not financially.
In truth, there’s some huge cash to be made.
Nicholas Goldberg served 11 years as editor of the editorial web page and is a former editor of the Op-Ed web page and Sunday Opinion part.
After all, presidents have come from the ranks of the wealthy for so long as there’s been a United States. George Washington, with 50,000 acres of property, a 500-acre plantation at Mount Vernon, lots of of enslaved individuals and a 21-room mansion, was one of many wealthiest People of his day.
And for these with out such benefits, there have been loads of alternatives to money in after the very fact: Ulysses S. Grant wrote a bestselling memoir to boost cash late in life. Gerald Ford was among the many first to take charges for speeches after leaving workplace. Harry Truman, lengthy admired for his ordinary-retired-dude-on-Medicare persona, is now alleged to have lied about his funds to squeeze extra money out of the federal government.
Hey, all people’s acquired to pay the payments!
However in recent times, it’s gotten out of hand. The post-presidential payoff has grown obscenely massive.
Invoice Clinton, as an illustration, took $500,000 for a single speech from a Moscow financial institution with shut ties to the Kremlin. In all, Invoice and Hillary Clinton reportedly earned — and I exploit that phrase loosely — $153 million in talking charges between 2001 and 2015. For those who add books, consulting charges and the like, they raked in $240 million throughout these years, in response to a separate evaluation by Forbes.
The Obamas are doing fairly properly too. Barack Obama acquired $400,000 for a speech to the monetary providers agency Cantor Fitzergald simply months after leaving workplace. That’s greater than six occasions the annual American median family revenue for, at most, a couple of hours work. God is aware of what number of speeches like that he provides annually.
And he and Michelle reportedly acquired a $65 million advance for a two-book cope with Penguin Random Home.
Obama talks about making an attempt to maintain it actual. “There’s solely a lot you’ll be able to eat. There’s solely so huge a home you’ll be able to have. There’s solely so many good journeys you’ll be able to take. I imply, it’s sufficient,” he mentioned in 2018.
A 12 months later he purchased his 6,892-square-foot Martha’s Winery home on a 29-acre property for $12 million. It’s a getaway from his $8 million, nine-bedroom home in Washington, and it’s the place he was to have had a lavish sixtieth birthday celebration final 12 months with George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé and Jay-Z and a few 450 others, earlier than it was scaled again on account of COVID-19.
George W. Bush summed up the post-presidential life as he was leaving workplace when he advised an interviewer that his plan for the longer term was to “replenish the ol’ coffers,” noting that he might make “ridiculous” cash on the lecture circuit. And he has.
And, some would possibly ask, why not? That is America, land of alternative! Why begrudge our former presidents their riches? Why shouldn’t they yacht round with David Geffen in Tahiti or jet round in Ron Burkle’s airplane. They don’t have any obligation to eschew materials issues and dedicate themselves like Mom Teresa to the poor.
Moreover, individuals appear to need to purchase their books and listen to their speeches.
So what’s the drawback?
Nicely, for me there’s a component of jealousy, after all. I don’t deny that.
There’s additionally the truth that we the taxpayers are paying the 5 residing ex-presidents greater than $200,000 a 12 months in pensions for the remainder of their lives, plus footing the invoice for his or her workplace area, one million bucks in journey bills and lifelong Secret Service safety, amongst different advantages. Why precisely can we try this?
And the supply of the cash they’re incomes raises questions. Why are Moscow banks and corporations resembling Cantor Fitzgerald and various zillionaire tycoons (together with Jeffrey Epstein) keen to buy a presidential affiliation at such exorbitant costs? What’s in it for them?
The underside line, although, is I really feel betrayed. I’m bothered by the commercialization and exploitation of the presidency. By the screwy incentives that now exist to run for the workplace. By the conspicuous extra of our ex-presidents’ lives, which sends a miserable message in an period of stark poverty and grotesque revenue inequality.
In 2006, Obama wrote this:
“As a consequence of my [campaign] fundraising I turned extra like the rich donors I met, within the very explicit sense that I spent increasingly of my time above the fray, outdoors the world of fast starvation, disappointment, concern, irrationality and frequent hardship of the opposite 99% of the inhabitants — that’s, the individuals I’d entered public life to serve.”
I nonetheless admire Obama enormously however ultimately, it’s Jimmy Carter who, to all appearances, deserves our reward.
He constructed all these homes for the poor, wrote poetry and revealed dozens of books and monitored elections in troubled international locations. He’s made a great deal of cash, to make sure, however he lives in a modest home, carried his personal suitcases when he traveled and taught Sunday college (presumably for lower than $400,000 an hour).
Protecting it actual shouldn’t be simple when the temptations abound and the cash is being thrown at you. However with regards to ex-presidents, the world is watching.