Political progressives love the progressive income tax. This is the system under which we operate and by which the tax rate increases as one’s income increases. This is based on the idea that the wealthy can afford to pay a higher percentage of their income as taxes, and thus the tax code should compel them to do so. A different perspective would be to see it as a penalty for being financially successful.
The issue for liberals is that it is a powerful vote recruitment tool among working Americans who never expect to be that successful. As such, the progressive income tax works to transfer money from the wealthy to those less fortunate. But, if you extend this theory of “soaking the rich” to other areas, there’s a problem for the left. Should the wealthy still be eligible for lavish government stipends and subsidies? If you believe in progressive taxation, the answer should be no.
So why do former presidents receive lavish pensions? They can give speeches for a quarter-million a pop at least. So what do they need any subsidies for, let alone a pension? The Senate has seen this inconsistency and is preparing to pass a bill to lower all presidential pensions. Mr. Obama isn’t happy. That’s too bad. He should be glad Congress doesn’t just end all presidential pensions and subsidies as they should. Secret Service protection for the rest of his life ought to be enough.
“A Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday to reduce the salary former presidents can make, years after former President Barack Obama vetoed similar legislation in 2015.
“The update to the Former Presidents Act would reduce how much former presidents receive in pension from the taxpayers and reduce total amount of money taxpayers contribute to former commanders in chief.
“‘Our national debt now exceeds $20 trillion; this bipartisan effort is another important step toward reigning in Washington’s out-of-control spending,’ Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, sponsor of the Senate legislation, said in a statement.
“‘It is ridiculous to continue asking taxpayers to help foot the bill for former presidents’ perks at a time when they already rake in millions of dollars from book deals, speaking engagements, and more.’”
Of course it’s ridiculous. Even more, it’s obscene.
And although this bill has been introduced by a Republican, the progressive Democrats should be major supporters. After all, they claim to want to hammer the “rich” to provide benefits for the poor and working class. Anyone like our former presidents who can make half a million dollars giving a one-hour speech clearly is rich, and is in need of no government pensions or subsidies. At least that’s what they should say if they wish to be consistent.
And our former presidents are an expensive bunch to support: “In the 2017 fiscal year, the five living former presidents cost taxpayers $2.8 billion for salary, security, staff and other perks of office, according to a Congressional Research Service report.”
The bill only gets better.
“Another provision of the bill would push former presidents who find an additional stream of income slowly off the taxpayer’s support. For every dollar a former president makes above $400,000 from speaking engagements or other post-presidential work, the annuity would be reduced by $1 in the Senate proposal. Obama made around $400,000 in one speech to a Wall Street private equity firm earlier this year, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.”
The argument by the left for a progressive income tax has many flaws. So set that aside for a moment.
This whole matter of serving in Washington in some elected or other official position has created a financial burden far beyond the value of the services provided. We’ve transformed citizen-legislators into permanent, professional political office-holders. We provide benefits to them in retirement, even after a very short time in office, that are far beyond reasonable.
And we financially support former presidents who can make a million dollars giving a couple of speeches. As if what any of them have to say is worth the cost of a baseball ticket.
Cut or eliminate their pensions altogether. If that makes Mr. Obama mad, he can get off his duff and give one more speech per year to more than make up for it. He will get no sympathy here.