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Here's how much taxpayers spend to support former presidents

Paper clips, phone bills, and movie channels are just some of the expenses American taxpayers pick up for former presidents.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At noon on Wednesday, Jan. 20, President Donald Trump will join the four living former presidents in that exclusive club and once again become a private citizen. 

That means taxpayers will be on the hook to subsidize a lot of Trump's expenses, just like they do for the others. 

In 1958, former President Harry Truman was living only on his World War I Army pension and told Congress he couldn’t afford postage stamps for "official business." Congress responded with the Presidential Pension Act of 1958, giving Truman a retirement salary of $25,000, some benefits and a staff. 

Over the last 62 years, that benefit ballooned. 

In 2020, it's likely that taxpayers will support our former presidents to the tune of more than $3.8 million. Their salary every year from their pension is cabinet-level, $219,000.

Aside from that, each former president gets a staff that costs $96,000 a year per president, and taxpayers pick up the rent for their office space.

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Credit: Bill McGinty Photography

A recent congressional budget report says President Bill Clinton’s rent in New York is about $429,000. In Texas, George W. Bush spends even more. His office space costs taxpayers $434,000.

Taxpayers also cover their phone bills. In 2006, taxpayers shelled out $104,000 for Bill Clinton's bill, according to government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

We also pay for mundane things, like mail, satellite TV packages and office supplies. 

“President Trump’s earned benefits as an ex-President may be in danger because of the second impeachment,” said Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University in South Carolina. 

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Credit: Bill McGinty Photography

Congress regulates and approves this money for our former presidents. In 2015, congress tried to cap it, but President Barack Obama vetoed it citing protection concerns.

Do former presidents need this money? 

In retirement, President Bill Clinton’s speaking fees in the first 10 years earned him more than $40 million and his book deals put another $12 million in his pocket. Clinton's net worth now valued at $120 million. 

President Obama received $400,000 in one month for speeches on Wall Street. Obama’s net worth is now well over $100 million.

“We have no idea the little particulars that we are picking up the tab for people that are currently in office and former officeholders," Huffmon added.

Credit: Bill McGinty Photography

With millions of people unemployed and COVID-19 numbers spiking, the American family’s budget is scary and uncertain.  Retirement has never looked scarier for many average Americans -- unless you can go "Presidential."

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