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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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March 26th, 2013
06:30 PM ET

Ex-presidents cost taxpayers millions

As if we needed further proof that being leader of the free world is a cushy gig, a new report shows that the perks keep rolling in long after a commander-in-chief leaves office.

According to the Congressional Research Service, taxpayers forked over $3.7 million last year to pay for the four remaining presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. And that number doesn't include the additional money we spend on their lifetime of Secret Service.

The Former Presidents Act became law during the Eisenhower administration, just after Harry Truman left office. After leaving the White House, Truman could barely pay his bills. Since then, everyone who's taken the oath has been guaranteed an enviable allowance that covers their pension, office, staff, travel, even postage. Those numbers can quickly add up.

George W. Bush racked up a $1.3 million tab last year, the report says. Part of that money went to fund 8,000 square feet of office space in Dallas. Bill Clinton apparently feels like a million bucks too. He also spent most of his money on office space. The first President Bush enjoyed taxpayer-funded benefits to the tune of $850,000 dollars. For Jimmy Carter, it was close to $500,000.

Not exactly chump change, especially when you factor in how much these former presidents make from book sales, speaking engagements and appearances. Bill Clinton and "Bush 43" pocketed speaking fees in the $10 million – $15 million range just last year alone.

With all the talk in Congress these days about wasteful spending, you'd think lawmakers would be falling all over each other trying to reign in presidential perks. But last year, when Rep. Jason Chaffetz,R-Utah, introduced a bill to limit costs to a $200,000 pension, plus another $200,000 in pocket change, the bill didn't even make it out of committee.

Just when we thought Congress couldn't see eye-to-eye on anything, it seems lawmakers are pretty content to let the men who've done time in the oval office run up the bill.

But not everyone's looking for a paycheck. The only presidential widow - Nancy Reagan - turned down her $20,000 pension last year.

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