In most countries, life after landing the top job can be very sweet. Various provisions are made, including office and domestic staff salaries, private homes, security detail and personal drivers. Many former Heads of State are also able to parlay their status into lucrative money-spinners such as speaking engagements and book deals.
Often, they are also involved in charities and other philanthropic work, and may even continue in politics. On the other hand, several have also disappeared from the public eye. There can also be outcry over how much taxpayers are paying to keep former first citizens in the style to which they have become accustomed.
Issues in France and South Africa
Currently France pays more than €6.2 million a year looking after its surviving ex-Presidents. Former Prime Ministers are also very well paid. Calls have been made to control and reduce this public expenditure over time, but nothing has been finalised yet.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act entitles retired Heads of State to salaries worth millions along with staff, housing and medical allowance, and free airline travel on the national carrier. The thing that is causing consternation here is that disgraced former President Jacob Zuma is getting all of these benefits, because he retired at the last minute, amid multiple scandals, rather than being impeached.
Pensions in the US and the UK
In the United States, the Former Presidents Act was put into place in 1958 to specify what retired Oval Office occupiers are entitled to. Currently this sits at a salary of $207,800 per year (the same as an Executive Department Head), along with $20,000 a year for their spouse as long as any other statutory pension is relinquished.
Besides this, retired First Citizens get lifelong Secret Service protection, medical care or health insurance, staff and office costs, and expenses related to transitioning. The transition expenses include communication services and postage associated with leaving office, and are available for 7 months. Obama has been living his best life since leaving the White House, including vacationing in Indonesia and on Sir Richard Branson’s private island, but this is not the type of transition that is covered!
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Over in the United Kingdom, Public Duty Cost is paid to former Prime Ministers, to help them discharge any continuing public duties. They also receive state-funded pensions based on their salaries as both a premier and MP. John Major introduced this amendment in 1991, and Tony Blair is the first ex-PM to benefit from it.
Public outcry has been similar to, but much stronger than, what was seen in France, and demands have been made that Blair give up half of his salary. However, similar to the situation in France, nothing has come of this yet.
Earning Their Pay
The thing about all past Prime Ministers and Presidents in a country is that the same rules apply to them all; regardless of how much or how little they do for the country. Obama has set up his eponymous Presidential Centre in Chicago, aimed at training “the next generation of leadership”, and has pledged to play an active role in the hot topic of redistricting. Jimmy Carter established a human rights organisation bearing his name, and even though he was impeached, Bill Clinton did the same thing. Nelson Mandela’s charities live on, as does the Foundation of his predecessor, FW De Klerk.
Others continue to perform important civic duties, such as William Taft who became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 12 years after leaving the White House. Conversely, George Bush has led a relatively quiet life in Texas. All previous United States Commanders-in-Chief, since Roosevelt, have established Presidential Libraries to archive their outgoing administration’s effects.
Since this is enshrined in the Presidential Libraries Act, Donald Trump will probably do this too. However, other than that, it is unlikely he will take his cue on how to behave from any of the men who came before him. Imagining him fading quietly into the background or working for public good are both equally hard to picture!