As he heads toward presidential retirement, Barack Obama is asking for a 17.9% increase in “appropriations for expenditures for former Presidents” in his Fiscal Year 2017 budget. This would add approximately $588,000 to FY2016's “former presidents budget” of $3,277,000, according to the Congressional Research Service.
This is all under the auspices of “The Former Presidents Act,” which was put in place in 1958 in order to provide former presidents with a sort of pension.
All living former presidents make use of this fund. Since the year 2000, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush have received $9.2 million and $13.4 million respectively. Since 2001, Bill Clinton has received $17.1 million, and since 2009, George W. Bush has received $8.3 million.
Since 2009 alone, the biggest spender has been George W. Bush with an average yearly expenditure of $1.18 million. A close second is Bill Clinton with $1.07 million. George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter are a distant third and fourth.
The Former Presidents Act has come under increasing scrutiny over the last several years, as former presidents tend to make exorbitant amounts of money from speaking fees and book sales.
Politico reports that Bill Clinton has made approximately $127 million in speaking fees alone since leaving office in 2001.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune:
“Bill Clinton's memoir, 'My Life,' netted him a $15 million advance. George W. Bush took in $7 million for the 'Decision Points.' Jimmy Carter has 14 books, and President Barack Obama is now a millionaire after the sales of his books and growth in investments.”
In January, the House of Representatives approved Rep. Jason Chaffetz's (R-UT) bill to slash the funds provided to former presidents. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) offered a mirror bill in the Senate.
ABC News notes:
“[The bill] would limit yearly presidential pensions to $200,000—slightly less than they're allowed now—but would cut that amount by a dollar for every dollar they earned over $400,000 a year in the private sector.”
This would effectively erase the pensions of former presidents Clinton and Bush going forward, considering the millions they've made on the speaking circuit and with book sales.
Chaffetz suggests that independently wealthy former presidents shouldn't be receiving taxpayer money:
“The bill updates an arcane law and reduces unnecessary costs to taxpayers. It ends a needless government handout to former presidents making millions of dollars upon leaving office.”
Rep. Chaffetz's bill has yet to move to the Senate for consideration, and according to GovTrack, it has only about a 17% chance of being enacted.