Did this bother you, or is it just me? A Jim Rutenberg article in yesterday's New York Times presented the story of former Presidents Clinton and Bush addressing an audience in Toronto about their presidential experiences. I'm sure that was a fascinating and worthwhile session.
Here's the part that was troubling to me: "Each earned more than an estimated $150,000 for the appearance."
As far as I can tell, an ex-President gets the following from taxpayers: A $191,300 salary, full coverage for himself and his spouse in the federal health care system, staff for his office, office rental expenses, coverage of all telephone and postage expenses, and certain travel expenses.
I don't begrudge any of that. After all, this is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and ex-Presidents continue to have public obligations even after their term of office ends. And I am pleased if they can make lots of money, too.
But shouldn't we require some kind of offset if an ex-President is able to bring in money by selling stories about his time in public service? For example, Mr. Clinton's speaking fees and book royalties have reportedly amounted to over $50 million since leaving office. What if the first dollars that came in were used to reimburse the taxpayers' contribution to the president's ability to go on the speaking circuit?
The idea of a salary offset is common in business. If a person has a severance agreement, the annual payment is often subject to this kind of offset if he or she receives income from another source during the severance period. Why shouldn't we apply that in this case?