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Here we have the primary residences of two former American presidents:

Jimmy Carter

Richard Nixon

Fun fact: All former presidents for more than a century has been very wealthy either when they entered office, as soon as they left, or very shortly thereafter. Jimmy Carter seems to have done by far the least in this cohort to cash in on his post-presidential fame, but as the author of more than 30 books (some of which surely featured significant advances and/or ongoing royalty payments) he has a fairly modest lifestyle, financially speaking, by choice.

As I’ve mentioned before, the fact that we currently give more than one million dollars per year each in government benefits — not counting the cost of Secret Service protection, which is both classified and a different issue — to Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump (Carter is getting less than half as much, simply because he declines to gouge the government to the current legally allowable limit) is indefensible.

All this is a direct consequence of Harry Truman telling Congress and the American people a series of fantastical tales about his supposedly difficult post-presidential economic circumstances, so they would enact the Former Presidents Act. In fact, Truman was worth tens of millions of dollars, translated into 2021 terms of relative wealth, on the day he left the White House, in no small part because he took a lot of money he had no right to take during his eight years in the presidency.

It’s a sordid story, unfortunately, as obviously there were a lot of things to admire about Truman. Still, in his cranky old man stage he acted as if he was continually on the verge of financial distress, even though he was in fact extremely wealthy. Exactly why he did that remains a mystery to me, but his delusional thinking — if that’s what it was — about the matter has been transmogrified into a completely false historical “fact.” (See for example Truman’s Wikipedia entry, that features this statement, which in turn merely echoes the current semi-official historical record: “As a former president, Truman decided that he did not wish to be on any corporate payroll, believing that taking advantage of such financial opportunities would diminish the integrity of the nation’s highest office. He also turned down numerous offers for commercial endorsements. Since his earlier business ventures had proved unsuccessful, he had no personal savings.”)

Truman was worth approximately $54 million on the day he left the White House, when his net worth is translated into terms of contemporary relative wealth. And again, he was that rich in part because he pocketed enormous sums of government money that he wasn’t supposed to be taking.

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