It is time to tighten our belts

According to a recent story by The Associated Press, the taxpayers spent nearly $3.7 million in 2012 for pension and other expenses for the four living former U.S. presidents – George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

That’s in addition to the cost of Secret Service protection for the former presidents and some of their family members.

While this isn’t a huge amount of money in the context of the enormous federal budget, it is one of many expenditures by our national government that should be re-examined and trimmed.

Certainly, it is reasonable for former presidents to receive an appropriate pension and some support for legitimate office and travel costs. That’s what was anticipated when Congress passed the Former Presidents Act in 1958.

No one would want a former president to be destitute. That individual’s service to the nation should be acknowledged appropriately for a lifetime.

In the modern era, however, former presidents are able to earn huge sums of money through speaking fees, book deals and other arrangements. Consequently, it seems unnecessary for the federal government – and that means U.S. taxpayers – to shell out large amounts of funding to defray expenses they can easily pay for themselves.

It is imperative that the federal budget be brought in line with tax revenues. This nation must not continue to run huge deficits year after year. Reducing the funding for former presidents wouldn’t make a huge dent in the deficit, but it would send a message that our nation is serious about belt-tightening.

The Messenger calls upon Congress to limit this category of spending as part of an aggressive campaign to curtail a wide array expenditures that are either unreasonable or excessively large.

It would be especially meaningful if the former presidents were to join together in a call for a reduction in the financial support they receive. Doing so would put our current leaders in Washington on notice that their predecessors in high office regard frugality as a necessity in this period of economic difficulties.