From Rasmapedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

President Obama

President Truman

When Truman left the White House, he had, according to his own (far too conservative) estimate, a net worth that would be equivalent to $6.6 million in simple inflation-adjusted terms.

• By his own accounting, Truman’s wealth increased by the 2021 equivalent of another $3.7 million when Congress passed the Former Presidents Act five and a half years after he left office.

• Contrary to his claims, Truman made a fortune from his memoirs, and from other writing and speaking engagements, in the years immediately after he left the presidency.

• Truman’s repeated insistence that only his inheritance and subsequent sale of the family farm were keeping him from financial distress was false in several ways. For one thing, Truman had already become a very wealthy man several years before he sold that land. For another, Truman did not actually inherit any of the land: He bought it, in no small part, with money that he had misappropriated from the federal government. He then sold it a few years later at an enormous profit.

• A large portion of the wealth Truman accumulated during his years in the White House seems to have come from a more than $2 million (in 2021 terms) expense account that Congress created a few days before the beginning of his full elected term. Truman apparently illegally pocketed the bulk of this money and filed fraudulent tax returns to disguise that fact.


During his nearly eight years as president, Truman drew one of the largest salaries paid to any American of the era. That salary — $75,000 per year when Truman became president in April of 1945 upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then raised to $100,000 by a statute passed by Congress just days before the beginning of Truman’s elected term in January 1949 — was comparable to the compensation received at the time by the CEOs of America’s largest and most profitable corporations. Indeed, in six of his eight years as president, Truman was paid more than any Major League Baseball star. (In two of those years, he was tied with Joe DiMaggio, whose $100,000 salary in 1949 and 1950 would remain a record until Willie Mays was paid $5,000 more in 1963.)


In 1944, Truman’s entire net worth consisted of about $2,500 in a bank account and likely the $5,000 in savings bonds he reported two years earlier. He owned no real estate, or, apparently, any stocks or other investments. A 60-year-old man whose only remunerative activity for the past 20 years had been holding elective office, Truman was, in retrospect, in some danger of facing genuine financial distress should his political career have come to a sudden end.


By the time he left the presidency, Truman was not merely part of what we now refer to as “the one percent,” but was actually somewhere toward the top of that particular demographic. While his wealth was not comparable to that of the plutocrats of his time — the Rockefellers and the Fords and the like — he was without question a very rich man.


All told, Truman calculated his net worth to be $1,046,788.86. Six years after leaving the presidency, he was a millionaire — and at a time when this term still retained its pre-inflationary grandeur. A person in 2021 would have to have a net worth of approximately $74 million to be as rich as Truman was in 1959, relative to the other Americans of his time.


The most obvious explanation for the state of Harry Truman’s finances when he left the White House is that he simply pocketed all or nearly all of the $200,000 that Congress appropriated for his official duties. And as we have seen, Truman paid no taxes on that $200,000, even though he was legally required to do so during the second half of his elected term. (Note that the marginal rate on income over $100,000 at the time was 90 percent.) If he covertly — and illegally — supplemented that salary with the untaxed proceeds of the expense account, Truman would have in effect doubled what was already one of the highest salaries in the country. }}

President Obama

In recent years, as ex-presidents have accumulated tens of millions of dollars from book deals, speaking fees, and other avenues by which they can cash in on their fame, a series of bipartisan bills have attempted to pare the FPA’s benefits. In 2016, one such bill passed both houses of Congress, only to be vetoed by President Obama. Since then, two more bills have made their way through the legislative process without ultimately becoming law.

President Clinton

He argued this modern-day pattern reached its “apex with Bill and Hillary Clinton, who earned a combined $139 million from such undertakings, including $35 million from speeches to financial services, real estate, and insurance companies.”