COMMENTARY | Hasn’t Dubya drained enough money from this nation? That might be the question in many minds — Republican, Democrat, independent, tea party, whatever — upon finding out that former president George W. Bush also tallies up the biggest bill among the ex-presidents with regard to compensation and benefits allowed them once they leave office. Although these are the traditional perks of having once held the highest elected office in the U.S., all these expenses are being paid for by the American taxpayer. And just because they’re permitted doesn’t necessarily mean they should be exploited, right?
Bush racked up some hefty expenses in 2012, including an $85,000 phone bill and $400,000 for office space. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (via Politico ), the 43rd president racked up $1.3 million in compensation and benefits last year.
Bush’s phone bill was nearly twice the 2011 median income of a family of four ($50,000 per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau ), together with his office rental expenditures nearly 10 times the median income. For those hugging the poverty line ($23,021 per year), the phone bill was almost four families’ worth of income. For the office space and phone, 21 impoverished homes’ worth. Remember, this is before-withholdings income.
Question: Hasn’t Dubya heard of a “unlimited calling plan?”
All told, the four living ex-presidents’ expenditures were $3.7 million, with President Jimmy Carter’s billing hitting around a half-million. The next highest amount to Bush’s was Bill Clinton’s total, which fell below a million dollars. George W.’s father, George H.W., had expenditures at $850,000.
Now, Americans expect to pay for Secret Service protection and allow that former presidents are entitled to a pension. That pension alone is $200,000 per year. But written into post-presidential compensation packages are things like compensation and benefits for office staff. And then there are costs like travel, office space and postage, all of which are placed on the taxpayers’ tab.
Why, when each of these men are independently wealthy, garnering six- and seven-figure book deals and untold amounts in speaking fees? It is one thing to provide a generous pension, Secret Service protection and the best in health care for life. It is another to have taxpayers pay for travel expenses (unless government-related, of course), offices, office supplies, staffs for those offices, and office expenditures (like phone costs).
Talk about entitlements.
Historians have called George W. Bush one of the worst presidents in history . Some say history will judge him more kindly as time goes by, but he wasn’t too popular when he left office and remains unpopular still , no matter what political stripe is adjudicating his tenure. Republicans, Democrats, and independents despise him for the Wall Street bailout and tanking the economy. The GOP resents him for poisoning the electoral well to the extent that they can’t use his name for political leverage. Democrats despise him for the unnecessary Iraq war, the budget-undermining tax cuts that never went away while the nation was borrowing money from China to pay for that war and the other in Afghanistan, and being the president that presided over the Great Recession, made possible by the gradual erosion of the Glass-Steagall safeguard legislation imposed after the Great Depression.
And now there is this.
It would seem like such a small thing, a few hundred thousands of dollars (tell that to those at and below the poverty line), if there weren’t so many people still unemployed and living in poverty. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bush is the biggest spender of all the ex-presidents. All you have to consider is how he ran his administration, presiding over tax cuts that didn’t go away when that money was needed to finance wars, borrowing money from China and other nations to pay for those wars and calling it emergency funding (which didn’t reflect on the fiscal budget but added to the national debt), having to take on massive fiscal budgetary debt to run the nation after a recession (at the beginning of his term) and because not enough was being raised through taxes (back to the ill-advised tax cuts during wartime), the overseeing of continued deregulation of the finance industry which undermined both the housing and banking industries that set up the Great Recession, and the writing of a near-trillion-dollar Wall Street bailout that required not one penny of interest to be repaid for the monies allocated to the financial organizations.
President George W. Bush was not a very good steward of the nation. Some say he was the worst president ever. Looks like he’s working on being the worst former president as well.