In 2001, the president's salary was raised to $400,000 a year, and it is expected that no former president will be strapped for money, a condition that has not always obtained. Jefferson was so impoverished that in 1815 he felt forced to sell his library to the government—forming the nucleus of today's Library of Congress—in order to pay his creditors. Monroe was in such dire straits that, after his wife's death, he moved in with his daughter in New York City. He was buried there because there was no money to send his remains back to Virginia. Not until 1858, in celebration of the centennial of his birth, was he reinterred, in Richmond, thanks to admirers. Ulysses S. Grant was forced into poverty in his last years by a colossal stock fraud that swallowed his savings. The $450,000 advance he received for his Memoirs proved to be the only way to provide for his family. It came as he was suffering from throat cancer and hoping to finish his book before he died.
Harry Truman was so poor upon his return to Missouri that he had to move into his mother-inlaw's house. He hoped for some relief through the passage of a pension bill, but, for inexplicable reasons, Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House, sat on the proposal year after year. When it finally became law during the Eisenhower administration, the pension amounted to $25,000—much welcomed by Truman. The only other living ex-president was Herbert Hoover, a millionaire many times over, who had never taken a salary as president. But he accepted the pension anyway, because, he said, he did not wish to embarrass his friend, Harry Truman. Their friendship transcended their differing party affiliation, as has been the case among most former presidents. They considered themselves equal members of the most exclusive club in the land. When Truman invited Hoover to attend the dedication of the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, he inquired whether politics would stand in the way of his accepting. According to Truman, Hoover responded: "Of course not, that soldier boy in the White House [General Eisenhower] isn't listening to either of us."
Under the Former Presidents Act that Eisenhower signed, ex-presidents are entitled to a pension tied in amount to the salary of members of the cabinet. In 2001 this was $161,000. In addition they receive the franking privilege—free mailing—for all nonpolitical correspondence, government paid-for office space and office staff, and allowances for travel. The sum is now a $2.5 million annual entitlement. In addition they have lifetime Secret Service protection for themselves and their spouse and for their children until they reach the age of sixteen. Widows are protected until they remarry.
When I think of the amount of money spent on federal salaries for current and past officials, I can instantly think of a far better alternative for that money. I truly feel our country could be debt free Which is what our founding fathers insisted upon, rather than creating a federal society of millionaires.