A big, beautiful wall for Obama

A big, beautiful wall for Obama

Obama builds a wall—and will continue to live on the taxpayer’s dime

The U.K.’s Daily Mail reports that the Obamas are building a wall at the rental property in D.C. that they will occupy until Sasha graduates from the exclusive Sidwell Friends School. Check out their story: there are lots of photographs like the header photo here. The investigative work was done by the celebrity gossip site TMZ; don’t expect the adoring media to report anything like this.

The story raises several interesting questions.

The first is too commonplace to spend much time on, viz., the hypocrisy of building a wall to protect oneself after having opposed a wall on the southern border to protect all Americans.  What else does one expect from the man among who’s first acts was to eliminate scholarships in D.C. so that poor black children could attend the sorts of schools his daughters do?

The more interesting question is about Secret Service protection for ex-presidents.

During Obama’s first year in office, the left continued to obsess about a possible assassination attempt. As I wrote then, such concerns were overblown. Only Republican presidents are shot at, JFK being the sole exception. A radical southern Democrat killed the First Republican President; no one made the least credible threat against the First Black President.

Still, in America we think that even as they fade into political obscurity our former leaders are worth protecting. Prior to 1958, former presidents got no pension or retirement benefits. In that year, the Former Presidents Act (3 U.S.C. § 102) provided a pension, Secret Service protection and other benefits to former presidents. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to fall under the act upon leaving office.

In 1985, Richard Nixon relinquished his Secret Service protection, the only president to do so. If someone as paranoid about his enemies as Nixon could do that, one wonders why former presidents need lifetime protection.

Congress evidently wondered, too. In 1994, an amendment to the law (Pub.L. 103–329) reduced the term of protection to ten years. Obama has done a lot to undo the work of the Gingrich Congress and the Contract with America and here is another example: on January 10, 2013, he signed a law restoring that protection to himself, George W. Bush and future presidents.

The story doesn’t end there. For Obama, the story is just beginning.

We spend a lot of money on former presidents. Each president seems to get more than the previous one. G.W. Bush, for example, received $1,098,000 in 2015 according to the Congressional Research Service, and Bill Clinton got just a little less at $924,000. The total for all former presidents in 2015 was $3.2 million.

Nancy Reagan turned down a $20,000 widow’s pension that she was entitled to under the law.

Mindful of this cost, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in 2016 sponsored a bill titled the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act. It would have capped the allowances for travel, offices and staff at $200,000 a year and reduced those allowances by $1 for every dollar that a former president’s adjusted gross income exceeds $400,000.

Barack Obama vetoed that bill on July 26th.

No caps on this former prez! But before this spending kicks in, there’s a transition. The White House’s fiscal 2017 budget requested $9.5 million for costs related to this transition out of office.

Secret Service Protection for life is not included in any of those spending numbers: they’re just pension and benefits.

To recap: Secret Service protection for life, a hefty transition allowance, a pension and a number of expense categories.

The only remaining question is who’s paying for Obama’s Wall. Is it the landlord? The Secret Service? The transition fund? The taxpayer certainly.

We all know for sure who’s not paying a dime.