Barack Obama’s $400,000 speaking fee

There are two ways of looking at the $400,000 speaking fee that ex-President Barack Obama will receive from the Wall Street brokerage firm of Cantor Fitzgerald for speaking at a health care investment conference.

One is that a public official who governed in the interests of Wall Street and the health insurance industry is receiving a big bag of money from a Wall Street firm with major investments in the health insurance industry.

The other is that Obama is merely doing what all but one of the ex-Presidents from Gerald Ford onward have done, which is to use speaking fees cash in on his celebrity status.

Hillary and Bill Clinton’s speaking fees were a special case because Hillary Clinton was a future Presidential candidate.   Hillary’s $675,000 in Goldman Sachs speaking fees could be interpreted as payments not only for services rendered, but for services anticipated.   That suspicion was reinforced by Clinton’s refusal to release the texts of her talks.

I imagine that Barack Obama will have sense enough to watch his words enough to be able to release the text of his Cantor Fitzgerald talk without embarrassment.

Obama is not doing anything unusual.  All but one of the Presidents from Gerald Ford through George W. Bush cashed in with big speaking fees after they left office.

This is the new normal.  In this neoliberal age, an ex-President such as Harry Truman or Jimmy Carter who refused to monetize the office of the Presidency would seem quaint and strange.

Harry Truman suffered financial hardship because of his refusal to take advantage of his status as a former President to make money.   It was for this reason that Congress in 1958 voted a pension for former Presidents equal to the pension of a top civil servant.  This will be slightly over $200,000 a year for President Obama.

This is enough to live a comfortable middle-class life.  It is not enough to live the life of a millionaire celebrity as a peer of the Clintons, the Bushes and the Trumps.  But when you live in that world, it is hard to remember and easy to forget the concerns of working people and the middle class.

And now we have President Donald Trump, whose extensive business interests take conflicts of interest to a whole new level.  In comparison to the profits that Trump will reap from sitting in the Oval Office, Obama’s  will seem like pocket change.


Barack Obama Is Using His Presidency to Cash In, but Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter refused by Zaid Jilani for The Intercept.

Taxpayers Give Big Pensions to Ex-Presidents Precisely So They Don’t Have to Sell Out by Zaid Jilani for The Intercept.

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2 Responses to “Barack Obama’s $400,000 speaking fee”

  1. paintedjaguar Says:

    “Obama’s will seem like pocket change”

    Wouldn’t be so sure about this. Obama is just getting started and he’s already rich.


  2. Edward Says:

    According to ex-diplomat Craig Murray, by about year four every head of state becomes corrupt. What would happen if there were no president?


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