Financial History 144 Winter 2023 | Page 10

Harry S . Truman and friends standing in the Truman and Jacobson Haberdashery in Kansas City , Missouri . From left to right : Harry Truman , Francis Berry , Mike Flynn and Kelsey Cravens . This is the clothing store that Truman and Eddie Jacobson owned , which opened in 1919 and failed in 1921 .
Harry S . Truman Library & Museum of the last times any former President was able to act like a normal citizen . According to Algeo , “ One of the reasons he and Bess drove themselves halfway across the country and back was that they couldn ’ t afford a more extravagant trip .”
In the late 1950s , Truman urged Congress to pass legislation that would grant funds to former Presidents to help offset administrative expenses . He wasn ’ t asking for a pension for himself , just relief from the financial responsibilities of being an ex-President . Sam Rayburn , the Speaker of the House of Representatives , and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson worked together to pass the Former Presidents Act of 1958 . The Act provided former Presidents with a $ 25,000 annual pension , $ 50,000 for office expenses and franking privileges .
Two former Presidents were eligible for the new benefits . Herbert Hoover was independently wealthy and didn ’ t need the money , but he accepted the benefits anyway to spare his friend Truman embarrassment . Truman , who pushed for the legislation , was grateful for Congress ’ s largesse .
The Former Presidents Act was more than Truman hoped for . It gave him financial security for the rest of his life and provided his wife with a pension upon his demise . 2 Over the course of time , the Act has been updated and expanded . Today a former President ’ s annual pension and benefits can easily exceed $ 1,000,000 annually .
The scale and scope of Truman ’ s financial struggles were similar to those experienced by the average American of his day . Unlike most modern-day Presidents , Truman ’ s personal experience allowed him to relate to the money problems of the masses . While he often displayed outright hostility to the financial markets , Truman ’ s financial pain gave him unique insight into the plight of the common man and allowed him to govern with an eye toward the betterment of the average American .
Brian Grinder is a professor at Eastern Washington University and a member of Financial History ’ s editorial board . Dr . Dan Cooper is the president of Active Learning Technologies .
1 . A 2007 New York Times article called Truman ’ s refusal to monetize the presidency “ Harry Truman ’ s Obsolete Integrity ” in light of Bill Clinton ’ s garnering $ 40 million in speaking fees in the six years following his presidency .
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