If President Obama had collected a $400,000 fee from the founders of
Solyndra, the failed energy company that left taxpayers liable for $535
million in federal guarantees, the corruption would be obvious. But
because he is taking money from companies that benefited from his
policies in less obvious ways, we assume no corruption has occurred.
maybe it hasn’t. Maybe Obama never made a decision while he was
president in which he considered how it would affect his future
finances. But even if he didn’t, he’s sending a signal to future
presidents (just as Bill Clinton did) that if you play your cards right,
your tenure in the White House is an assured path to multi-millionaire
This is also why former U.S. military generals should not
be accepting “speaking fees” from foreign countries. Even if Lt. Gen.
Michael Flynn did nothing wrong in collecting $45,000 for giving a
speech to a Russian propaganda outlet, he set a standard for those who
will come after him. If you believe there’s the potential to someday get
rich off your country’s adversaries, then you may be tempted to promote
policies that are in their interest and not in the national interest of
the United States.
The signals we send matter, especially to
politicians and government leaders. And if we signal to them that
intertermporal corruption is a shrug-worthy offense, we should expect to
see more of this type of cronyism in the future.
Trump should propose a 90% excise tax on speaking fees for former
Executive Branch officials — including ex-Presidents. And when people
point out that that’s easy for him because he doesn’t need the money, he
can say “exactly.”
Make that tax 90 percent, and the
dynamics changes. To give Obama the $400,000 he’s earning from this
speech, they’d have to pay him $3.6 million. That’s talking about real
money. Stockholders will have every right to get ticked off.
add one more clause to that excise tax. Money so spent cannot be
considered a corporate expense. They have to pay that $3.6 million and
the taxes on it as if it were profit. Oh, and encourage states to also
levy a state income tax in the state where the speech is made.
You want honest government? Make corrupt government painful for all involved.