You're paying Obama to party like a rockstar
Barack Obama. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock
Over the weekend, former President Barack Obama announced plans for a lavish birthday party at his Martha's Vineyard estate. The bash will attract around 500 guests, entertained by the rock band Pearl Jam and served by 200 employees.
The announcement mocked the tightened COVID-19 restrictions being imposed across the country. Even if the outdoor event is safe, the prospect of well-connected Democrats partying while ordinary Americans ponder rising hospital stays, masking requirements, and even re-bans is unreasonable.
Public health hypocrisy is not the only problem. Obama is only the youngest president to adopt a plutocratic lifestyle after leaving office, in part at public expense. Former Presidents enjoy perks and subsidies running into millions annually under the Former Presidents Acts.
It was always a little fraudulent. The FPA was passed in 1958, partly due to the influence of Harry Truman. Truman claimed he was broke after decades of public life, a claim that is reflected in David McCullough's best-selling biography. But new science states that Truman was very wealthy by the standards of his time. In addition to a fortune made selling his memoirs, Truman may have embezzled funds from the White House expense account.
In addition to Truman's lobbying work, the FPA was passed because some previous presidents struggled to earn a living after leaving office. American history is haunted by the image of Ulysses S. Grant furiously penning his best-selling (and brilliant) memoirs when he died of cancer. It makes sense to give ex-presidents a pension. And there is likely to be a need to provide some level of intelligence protection.
However, the benefits should be means tested against other income. Ex-presidents who make a lot of money from book deals, lecture fees, or border fraud do not deserve additional public support. Truman was right: we don't want public services to be a road to bankruptcy. But ex-presidents didn't deserve the right to party like rock stars.
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44th President of the United States
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