It has been repeatedly said that the right-wing lies. As I have written before, in many cases it isn’t so much that the information conservatives put out is a total lie, as it is that they don’t tell you all of the facts. Such is the case with one of the latest anti-Obama memes.
This is the meme in question, created by the right-wing blog Political Insider:
Whatever happened to the persistent claim from the right that Barack Obama will not willingly leave office, but will declare himself “president for life,” or “king of the world” or something like that? These idiots can’t seem to make up their minds. If Obama isn’t going to leave office, then any discussion of a pension is moot.
At issue is the White House’s request for an increase in funds for the 1958 “Former Presidents Act.” That law was passed by congress to “maintain the dignity” of the office by assuring that ex-presidents have a certain standard of living.
This idea started with a story on Info Wars, the site of serial fabricator Alex Jones. Like many things designed to raise the ire of low information Obama haters, the story presents the facts pretty correctly, but then proceeds to draw all the wrong conclusions. The whole idea that somehow President Obama is “demanding” an increase in the pension he’ll receive after leaving office comes from this quote from a March 16 paper issued by the Congressional Research Service:
The President’s FY2017 budget request seeks $3,865,000 in appropriations for expenditures for former Presidents, an increase of $588,000 (17.9%) from the FY2016 appropriation level. The increase in requested appropriations for FY2017 anticipates President Barack Obama’s transition from incumbent to former President.
Now most reasonably intelligent beings understand what the report is saying in the sentence, “The increase in requested appropriations for FY2017 anticipates President Barack Obama’s transition from incumbent to former President.” But the audience for this, the American right, largely doesn’t fit in the category of “reasonably intelligent beings.” So let’s rephrase that sentence in a form that a right-winger can understand:
Right now there are four living ex-presidents and their spouses. After January 20, 2017, there will be five living ex-presidents and their spouses (assuming that none of them die over the next few months).
Get it? Fiscal year 2017 begins on October 1. So for almost three-quarters of that fiscal year, there will be another ex-president who is covered under the Former Presidents Act: Barack Obama.
The money appropriated under the “Former Presidents Act” is for much more than pensions. It covers thing such as Secret Service protection for former presidents and their families. It also covers things like health care, travel expenses and office space. The amount that each former president receives as a pension is just above $200,000 per year. But different ex-presidents receive different levels of benefits. The table below shows how benefits under the act were paid in fiscal year 2015.
There are currently bi-partisan bills in congress that seek to cap the amount of benefits for ex-presidents who have substantial personal assets. That’s a reasonable and totally separate debate. But on the topic of President Obama “demanding” a higher pension for himself due to an increase in the requested appropriation? We rate that “total and complete bullshit.”