Friday, January 18, 2013

Benefits’ bill sends message to president: You’re the employee

H.R. 248 is a no-brainer.

Slipped into Congress on Jan. 15 by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act is aimed at saving taxpayers $3 million each year by amending the benefits awarded to former presidents under 1958 law. Specifically, the measure allows presidents exiting office to receive a $200,000 annuity and a $200,000 salary each year, and upon death, provides for an increase in surviving spousal benefits from $20,000 to $100,000 annually.

The catch, and the no-brainer change from existing law, is this: The benefits decrease dollar-for-dollar for any reported income the former president receives in excess of $400,000.

That’s a common sense provision, especially in light of the lucrative book deals, speaking fees and various engagements offered presidents once they leave the White House. Why should taxpayers pony up this extra pocket change?

Piddley amount or not – after all, $3 million saved from a national debt that’s hitting $16.4 trillion is hardly cause for cheer – the real meat of H.R. 248 is the message it bears: The president is the employee. The U.S. taxpayer is the employer.

This is a timely message. We have a president who, in his last term, steamrolled through an unpopular health care reform that led to a constitutional crisis, and who, heading into his second term, is trying the same ramrod tactics with gun control – bringing yet another constitutional crisis upon this nation. It’s a tough time for Americans who believe in the concept of a small government with limited powers to the president, and in a Constitution and system of governance based on God-given rights rather than government-granted bestowments. As Chaffetz said, in a Feb., 2012, written statement, when he introduced into Congress a similar measure that ultimately died in the House: “Nobody wants our former presidents living the remainder of their lives destitute. But the fact is, none of our former presidents are poor. Reports actually indicate that between book tours and speaking fees, these men are making millions of dollars a year. There’s little reason why American taxpayers should be subsidizing these former presidents when they’re doing fine on their own.”

Exactly. And there’s little reason why the voters shouldn’t insist on the passage of a bill that keeps the executive branch in check with a blunt reminder of who holds the wallet.

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