Obama gets $400,000 to speak at conference organized by Wall Street investment bank

Sound familiar? Like what Hillary Clinton did when she got over $200,000 for each of two speeches to Goldman Sachs a few years ago?

Yep, Obama—our Barack Obama, former President—is scheduled in September to get nearly twice as much as Clinton for a speech: $400,000 for one hour’s work (I bet others will write the damn speech). Further, it’s a speech at a health care conference organized by Wall Street bank Cantor Fitzgerald. It’s also exactly the same amount Obama earned per YEAR as President of the U.S. The New York Times reports this:

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama’s spokesman defended the former president’s coming speech, saying Mr. Obama decided to give it because health care changes were important to him. The spokesman, Eric Schultz, noted that Cantor Fitzgerald is a Wall Street firm but pointed out in a statement that as a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama raised money from Wall Street and went on to aggressively regulate it.

Mr. Obama will spend most of his post-presidency, Mr. Schultz said, “training and elevating a new generation of political leaders in America.”

If health care changes are important to Obama, there are plenty of venues where he can express his ideas and program without lining his pockets.

Well, at least Obama isn’t in a position to make policy about healthcare any more, but I find it unseemly for him to be so grasping and acquisitive after he left the Presidency. After all, the man is already wealthy from his earlier books (if you don’t believe me, I’ll show you a picture of his mansion about two miles from where I’m sitting). For one thing, he’ll cop several million bucks as an advance on the book he’s writing. And he won’t lack for opportunities in the future. The fact that Obama regulated Wall Street and cares about healthcare is just an excuse: the real reason is that he wants lots of money. He doesn’t need tons of extra money, especially from Wall Street firms. If he has a message, let him convey it to the American public.

I’m sure there are many readers who will say, “This is fine: more power to him. If somebody’s willing to pay Obama that much for an hour’s work, let him take the dough.” But would Jimmy Carter do that? Can you keep an image as a humanitarian while taking big bucks from Wall Street? Many of us criticized Hillary Clinton for giving $200,000+ speeches to Wall Street firms, and if we now say that what Obama is doing is okay, that’s a bit of a double standard. And yes, I know Clinton did it when it was clear she would run for President, but remember that Obama will still act as an advisor to Democrats.

In fact, even other Democrats, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, were critical of this news. From The Independent:

Bernie Sanders has said he thinks it is “unfortunate” Mr Obama opted to receive the fee and argued the decision signifies the profound influence big business has on the political system.

“I think it just speaks to the power of Wall Street and the influence of big money in the political process,” the Democrat Vermont senator told Bloomberg.

“I think it’s unfortunate. President Obama is now a private citizen and he can do anything he wants to but I think it’s unfortunate. You have the former president of Goldman Sachs is now the chief financial advisor for President Trump, and then you have this, so I think it’s unfortunate”.

. . . Senator Elizabeth Warren has also expressed her reservations, saying she was “troubled by” the speaking fee.

“I was troubled by that,” Warren said on SiriusXM’s Alter Family Politics during an appearance to promote her new book.

“One of the things I talk about in the book is the influence of money. I describe it as a snake that slithers through Washington. And that it shows up in so many different ways here in Washington.”

120 Comments

  1. Posted April 28, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I’m less concerned by the audience, the amount, and even the source of the funds, than with the fact that he is apparently pocketing it all for himself. If he takes it but then donates all of it or most of it to a worthy cause, I would commend him for it.

    • Karen Fierman
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      We don’t know what he plans to do with the money. He may well start a foundation for some great cause. Me? I think it’s none of anyone’s business. Hell’s bells: if Attila the Hun offered me $400,000 to speak for an hour, I’d prate on with all my might. In any case, we shall see what we shall see.

      • Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        If it was being donated to a worthy cause, I’m sure this would have been mentioned in the defense that was quoted in the post. I hope I am wrong on this.

  2. Rita
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I would not defend him either. But, he revealed his establishment ties back when he appointed Summers, Geithner and Bernanke. It was apparent then where his allegiances lie.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      I think Geithner and Bernanke ended up helping to bail out the world economy. I wouldn’t say that was a failure on Obama’s part. It was part of his claim to fame.

      “Bernanke was a tenured professor at Princeton University and chaired the department of economics there from 1996 to September 2002, when he went on public service leave.” That doesn’t sound to me like the career of a selfish bastard.

      Just because an appointee has a background in a financial institution with intimate knowledge of large scale economics is no reason to condemn them. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting.

  3. Posted April 28, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I will be interested to read what others say as a part of me thinks, “Fleece the b___rds as much as you can.”

    • Craw
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      Fleecing implies there was never a quid for that quo.

  4. Randy schenck
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I would not defend him but I am also not surprised. The fact of money and politics has never been a problem for Obama. Recall, he opted out of the matching funds to run for president because it would have decreased the amount of money he could raise. So he never had any problem with money in politics. Therefore, he never really had any intention of fixing Washington and politics. You cannot live one way and talk the other…unless you are a politician.

    • bobkillian
      Posted April 29, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Why do we assume that the audience will *like* what they hear?

      I for one will wait to see
      a) if he pockets the money (that’s 1/180 the size of his book advance)for himself
      b) if uses the forum to advance health care as a right
      c) offers a plan to improve the ACA.

      It seems premature to judge now without evidence.

  5. Posted April 28, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I didn’t realize Obama lived in a mansion, but I wonder how much of that was paid for by his book profits and how much of it was paid for by “other means.” I voted for Obama twice and even worked for both of his presidential campaigns, but I’d also been disappointed twice that he did not do more to help the working class. He could have written more Executive Orders, but didn’t.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Just whisper “Tony Rezko” in the ear of any right-wing nut job, Irena, and you’ll hear all about it. It’s one of their shibboleths.

  6. Posted April 28, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I love and respect President Obama; but, I am with you on this, Jerry: I cannot defend this…

  7. jwthomas
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    The Democratic Party sold out to the big banks under Bill Clinton. Why start complaining about it at this late date?

  8. kubla
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    More that “several million bucks” advance. Informed guessing estimates a $65M advance for the two Obama books, Barack’s and Michelle’s.

    • Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Well Crikey, they’re set for LIFE!

      • rickflick
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Which makes the $400K seem superfluous.

        • Craw
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

          • rickflick
            Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

            Ha! Love it. 😎

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted April 28, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

            One good turn from a Bogart movie on greed deserves another (even if the Bogie character was croaked by then).

    • Sshort
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Payola in the form of books has a long dirty history. I sincerely doubt the publisher will ever recoup $65 million. But that’s not what the money is for.

      As of late, we have Gov. Cuomo getting $783,000 for a book that sells 3,200 copies.

      And don’t tell me it’s all business and speculation. I worked in books. I have friends in publishing. They would consider resigning before putting a big politicians book in their stable. It can blow their whole catalogue when it doesn’t pan out. Possibly their career. You’re not an editor. You’re a proxy and a bag man for a dirty deal done years before the manuscript lands on your desk.

      • Curt Nelson
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        What does “payola in the form of books” mean?

        Why would a publisher pay more for a book than they expect to earn from it?

        I honestly don’t understand.

        • sshort
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          It’s a little inside baseball in the details, but a little searching will show you a long history of political books as payola.

          Often, politicians “write” a book and their PAC’s or operatives then buy them in the thousands to line the pockets of the pol. This took down Speaker Jim Wright in 1989. Tom Delay, the pest control guy got caught on this, the dirty rat. List goes on and on.

          Second is a huge advance under special terms. Special as in complete bribe. No expectation of recouping payout. Money laundering, plain and simple. This caught up with Speaker Gingrich in 1994 when he was payed $4.5 million advance…without the need to repay if sales fell short…from Rupert Murdoch.

          Today, Coumo is vastly overpaid for a book no one, demonstrably, wants to read, by Harper Collins, subsidiary of News Corp. Owned, of course, by Ruoert Murdoch.

          • Curt Nelson
            Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

            I see. Thanks.

            • sshort
              Posted April 28, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

              I may add, this technique is also a well-known ploy on the religious-right church front.

              Recently, former Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll (former as in, he’s gone, along with his 500+ churches)was booted after it came to light he paid hundreds of thousands to firms to “boost sales” … that is, send out teams of agents to buy thousands of copies from bookstores that report to NYT for their best seller list. He had multiple best-sellers on marriage and being a good christian and such.
              His entire catalog has been dropped from christian chain bookstores.

              Not to leave out other cults, L. Ron Hubbard also used this technique to push Dianetics onto the bestseller list for over three decades. Per Wikipedia:

              “…B. Dalton employees have stated that these figures were inflated by Hubbard’s Scientologist-controlled publisher, who had groups of Scientologists each purchase dozens or even hundreds of copies of Hubbard’s books, and who sold these back to the same retailers”

              And so on.

  9. GBJames
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Much depends on what he does with the money. Has anything been said about that? (Maybe he will donate it to something good?)

  10. Stephen Barnard
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    I have no problem with this at all, and I’d do the same thing if I were in his place. That said, I’m mystified why anyone would pay that much money for a speech.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      That’s my feeling too.

      I’m glad he’s speaking about healthcare, and I think Wall Street is a good place to do it given the power Wall Street has whichever party is in charge, but especially the current government.

      There is a good economic case for single-payer healthcare (I’ve written about it a couple of times) and if he can persuade people with the power to change things that’s good.

      Personally I’m amazed that anyone spends that much money for a speech, but I discovered when writing a post about Hillary Clinton that it’s not that unusual. (Also, less than 10% of her paid speeches were to Wall Street firms, and they didn’t pay her the most.) There are dozens of speakers that get that much. There are hundreds that get a minimum of $50,000.

      Sanders goes on about what a saint he is for not giving paid speeches. However, it would be illegal for him to do so as a senator. I think criticizing Obama as a supposed ally is a good way to get publicity.

      • Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        Persuading people also involves addressing the conflict of interest issue arising from taking large sums of money from entities that have been demonstrated to cause grave damage to our society. Perceived independence is as important as independence in fact.

        If Obama is concerned about truly changing hearts and minds, this cannot be ignored. A crucial part of Obama’s potential for having a great post-presidential career is the (largely true) perception that he is a class act, well above the average politician in terms of character and willingness to help others rather than simply line his own pockets. But this will be hard to maintain if behaves no better than a grifter, taking large sums of money all for himself from questionable industries for just a few hours work.

        I think that he can take the money and continue to command large speaking fees, but that it should be crystal clear how this money is being spent.

        • Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

          This aligns well with my opinion. At this point a few $10,000 here, a couple $million there does not matter. It is about the appearance of taking the high ground.
          He is giving his opposition a nice, fat talking point.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

          I see part of your argument, but I’m not sure how independence comes into it in this case.

          I doubt very much that Obama is suddenly going to start abandoning his principles in regard to healthcare because he is talking to Wall Street. Many on Wall Street support a single-payer system for economic reasons. (I know because my brother used to work for Goldman Sachs on Wall Street. He and many former colleagues think single-payer systems are better than what the US has.) Therefore, I don’t see where independence comes in. Assuming he talks about single-payer to Wall Street, would that mean his opinion is suddenly no longer independent? I do not see how making the same argument he’s always made suddenly lacks independence because he talks to a particular group.

          There is much about the financial industry that is corrupt, greedy, exploitative, parasitic and more. But it’s not all like that, it doesn’t have to be that way, and parts are necessary to society.

          • Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

            “I doubt very much that Obama is suddenly going to start abandoning his principles in regard to healthcare because he is talking to Wall Street.”

            I am speaking about independence in the general sense of taking money from industries with a less than stellar track record and putting oneself out there as a humanitarian and reformer.

            As Mark says, this is a gift to the opposition. The pathetic defense from the NYT that Jerry cited will itself be used as a weapon by the opposition.

            Few people will make the distinction that you are making about the how the source of the funds is from one industry and the topic of the speech concerns another. They will only see the movement of lots of money from a reviled industry to an already wealthy man for a mere speech.

            In fact, one could criticize my position that even if he uses all the money for a worthy cause, he would still be beholden to the donors. But I don’t go that far.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

              And that’s perhaps the problem. Too many (I’m not accusing you of this, or Jerry: you’ve both obviously thought about your positions) rush to judgement without thinking about an issue. There is an issue with who pays the bills; I’m the first one to criticize tobacco company sponsorship for example. I oppose taking money from Templeton too, though I didn’t always – my mind was changed by better arguments than my own. I just think that in this case we’re talking about a genuine discussion of multiple viewpoints, and the source of the money will not effect Obama’s pov. Also, I think the assumption that Wall Street universally opposes single-payer is likely incorrect.

              Also, since Obama is wealthy, he’s not beholden to anyone. He doesn’t rely on Wall Street for his income, so he doesn’t have to say what they want him to if that was ever a question. There were decisions he made as president, such as the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline which I thought were the result of huge donor money from a particular donor. It seemed to me that Obama wanted to approve the project.

              • Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

                “Also, since Obama is wealthy, he’s not beholden to anyone.”

                You never know, he may have expensive tastes or large expenditures and therefore need a steady stream of high income. So many ways to spin it, that’s the problem.

                I, like you think that he should not have extreme purity tests for who pays the bills, but that obvious independence in appearance issues like this should be better dealt with.

              • Posted April 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

                Also, since Obama is wealthy, he’s not beholden to anyone.

                Wealth and independence are unrelated.

                Consider, for example, the ascetic monk sincerely devoted to a vow of poverty. Money couldn’t even hypothetically tempt him. Also consider those with insatiable, oversized appetites, such as Drumpf; no matter how much they have, it’s not enough — and, so, even a little bit more constitutes a temptation by which they could be potentially swayed.

                It is worth noting that, almost of necessity, those in the statistical tail of the distributions of power and wealth came by their positions in no small part by some sort of drive to achieve them. They trivially could enjoy most fulfilling upper-middle-class lifestyles with a fraction of what they control, and yet, for whatever reason, they continue to pursue more…more…more….

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

                I completely agree.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted April 29, 2017 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

                Trevor Noah weighs in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB2gEJLd_p8

              • Ken
                Posted April 29, 2017 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

                While I’m sympathetic to Noah’s point that Obama shouldn’t have to carry the can as the first black president, he seems to not understand that loose Wall St regulation and intense lobbying aren’t “other issues”, but exactly the same issue.

            • Posted April 28, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

              Who cares who Obamas is beholden to now? He’s not the president anymore, he’s a private individual.

              • GBJames
                Posted April 28, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                There’s one reason one can reasonably care. If the pattern is “Don’t take bribes when in office because the payments will be delivered later on”, then this would be a serious problem.

                I think many Congress-critters may be exploiting this sort of process.

                I don’t think Obama is, though.

          • Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            I should add that people severely underestimate the difference between independence in fact and independence in appearance. The former can be maintained with less diligence and rules (often far less) than the latter. But the latter is what is ultimately important for those in the public eye and/or those serving a public interest.

            I know this intimately b/c until very recently, I was an auditor with a Big Four firm. Our independence rules were oppressive, far beyond what was needed to maintain independence in fact, but necessary to maintain public confidence, especially for an industry that has such a black eye from the events of the early 2000s.

            So I find it extremely odd that folks working in politics, who have an order of magnitude greater issue with independence in appearance than public accounting does, to not take steps to avoid exacerbating this problem.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

              I agree with you on this point. It is a very important factor.

      • Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        I agree, Heather. Put differently, if there is nothing wrong with speaking to rich bankers about the healthcare system, is there any reason he should cut them a deal and give them a low price? Should anyone but the bankers prefer that he speak to them for $10K? I bet he spoke at the University of Chicago for a nominal fee, and similarly at the JFK Library. As long as he is not selling favors and is paying tax on his income, he should charge a fee at a venue according to the listener’s ability to pay, just like the tax system. And these bankers have lots of ability to pay.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

          I really like your point about the listeners’ ability to pay.

          That takes us in another direction too. People assume that the one paying the money is the one in control. Maybe an entity like Wall Street has to pay more to get him? As in settling a lawsuit, it’s often the one receiving the money who is in control.

          There are always other factors besides money people take into account when deciding on a job.

          For longer term jobs some businesses offer things like childcare, free meals, on-site gyms, pleasant surroundings etc to attract people, and those things can be more important than salary.

  11. Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    “And yes, I know Clinton did it before she became President”

    Jerry, this looks like a typo.

  12. dd
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget that it was attorney general, Eric Holder, and his Department of Justice, who refused to prosecute any banks or bankers under the ruse that they were “systemically important”.

    In other words, that despite the great economic hardship and flat-out robbery of millions, they barely got a wrist slap.

    Oh, don’t forget that Obama’s first treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, is now head of Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget that it was under Obama’s watch that the world economy was saved from total collapse. Although wrist slaps seem inadequate(I agree), I think, at the end of the day, the overall outcome was heroic. Keep in mind that we now live under a corporate-centric republican government at risk of inducing an economic collapse due to pure, unadulterated, greed –
      Geitnner, pretty much, is responsible for saving the world economy. I don’t worry that he now works in the private sector. Even Jefferson and Monroe, no slouches when it came to service to the public, schemed in ways to profit from land investments in the Western territories.

      • Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        Don’t forget that the lessons are already forgotten, and Drumpf is poised to simultaneously eliminate the token regulations the banks deigned to accept from Obama and slash their taxes at the same time.

        Would there have been immediate pain to those at the top of the food chain had we let the bankruptcies proceed and the prosecutors pursue them for organized fraud? Obviously. And would some of that have trickled down? Of course.

        But it also would have protected us against the next iteration of the exact same scam, currently proceeding ahead full throttle.

        The bill always comes due. It’s just that, the way it’s coming due, we’re the ones paying it, with usurious interest.

        Great deal for those wondering where to harbor their fifth yacht….

        Cheers,

        b&

        • rickflick
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          What’s all this about yachts? Does Obama own a yacht? If not, why not? If so, how many yachts? I own an airplane. Am I suspect?

          • Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

            Your disingenutudity is transparently shallow. Rather than a deflection, it is a concession of vacuity.

            You clearly know the difference between the upper middle classes, such as yourself, who can afford small luxuries like GA aircraft, and the 0.01% financial class whom you’re (poorly) defending. So why are you trying to convince yourself and everybody else that your interests are aligned with theirs?

            Cheers,

            b&

            >

            • rickflick
              Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

              Then 5 yachts is a metaphor? I don’t defend the ultra wealthy. With a man in the WH, they are doing pretty well on their own. I just want to know if Obama is being blamed for having too many yachts.

              • Posted April 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

                If you don’t think Obama is the personal representative of the ultra wealthy, you’ve missed the yacht.

                Remind us, if you would, who it was who bailed out the too-big-to-fail banks with taxpayer money and not a single prosecution, even after bailout money went to executive bonuses?

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • Randy schenck
                Posted April 28, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

                What we know is consistency. The $400,000 speech is reward for being such a good provider when things got rough in the high story buildings on wall street.

              • Posted April 28, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

                Indeed, that’s exactly what it is.

                Another way of looking at it is that it’s an investment in the future.

                What better way to let current and future people in positions of power know that their “generosity” will be repaid than by repaying the generosity of their predecessors? Consider if they didn’t reward Obama handsomely. What would do to their ability to influence current and future power brokers?

                If you want a reputation for taking care of your own, and the perks that come with such a reputation, then you’ve got to take care of your own.

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • rickflick
                Posted April 28, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

                So, no actual yachts.

  13. Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    FWIW, I have absolutely no problem with this. The man gave eight long years of honest work to his country, and he is not influence peddling. Unlike the case of Hillary Clinton, his presidency is behind him so he will not be in a position to return favors.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Although, he’s only 55 years old. Given that Drumpf, Sanders, Clinton, and Warren are in their 70s…

      I, for one, would welcome another 8 years of Obama. With a little luck he might be able to enact full population single payer government subsidies health care, which would bring us into the 20th century with the rest of Europe.

      • GBJames
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        There’s this little problem of the Twenty-Second Amendment.

        • rickflick
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          Good point. Thanks for the info. I was unaware of that law. Anyway, suffice it to say, despite some reservations, I think Obama was a fine president and I hope he goes on to help fulfill his intent in whatever capacity he finds efficacious.

    • Harrison
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      Given how little love there is for corporatist Clinton and the modern Democratic party, it’s just generally a bad idea for the most recent Democratic President to also be seen leaning in that direction.

    • Kurt Lewis Helf
      Posted April 29, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Agree. I don’t have a problem with it at all. I’ll go one further, however, to say that I didn’t care about HRC’s having given a paid speech to “Wall Street”, either.

  14. alexandra Moffat
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Well, if he gave it all to the ACLU or some truly worthy group that is working for rational government…FFRF??? Fat chance.
    Taking such a fee for talking to Wall St is kinda disgustingly greedy. Why is enough money never enough???

  15. Simon Hayward
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I’m with the “it’s none of my business” crowd. He is a private citizen and not running for office again (in contrast to Clinton, and for me that’s a big difference). When he makes the speech he’ll be able to do what he wants with the money – and it may well be something productive. That would seem consistent with his character, however he can blow it on weed and hookers and I still don’t think it’s for me to comment – although I’d probably make a mental judgment.

    I note that in 1989, soon after his presidency, Reagan gave a $1m speech in Japan (and that was in 1989 $, so this is less by a very large factor in real terms).

    • Sshort
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      I remember that, and, if i recall correctly, he had a private 747 provided for his considerable comfort. and, of course, a full retinue of secret service at our considerable expense.

      But, man, he did look good in a tux.

  16. rickflick
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I think the difference between Obama’s accepting of substantial speaking fees and Drumpf’s tax proposals which favor the rich and himself are the measure that we should apply. It could be that Obama is interested only in upping his bank balance, but we don’t yet know that. He may use the income to further his impact on improving the democratic system of government, which he has claimed to want to do. He’s looking to work to solve the inequalities in the problem of gerrymandering. A bunch of moola would come in handy in such an effort. I’d like to see him donate to critical elections such as Jon Ossoff’s runoff campaign for congress in Georgia. Let’s see what happens.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      I would not confuse the issue by comparing what one X president does and what the president does. I join whatever group says, who cares what Obama does now. He should be judged by what he did before and during and that was not particularly good when it comes to money in politics. Why some think he was doing anything in particular to change the way politics works is beyond me. He was generally very friendly to wall street and the financial businesses.

      There is no confusion concerning Trump except to the followers of Trump who think he cares about them. They may be so stupid that they will not change their minds when it hits them in the head.

  17. Marilyn
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    All you have to do is read “Listen, Liberal” by Thomas Frank and you won’t be surprised by anything the ‘establishment’ Democrats do.

  18. jwthomas
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    American politics is about packs of mad dogs fighting over who gets the biggest bone. Cultivate your own gardens.

    • Kevin
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Indeed, it will be another weekend of landscaping for me.

      Obama will be forgotten like all other politicians. A cipher, vacant, uncourageous. If he or any other political really want to make a difference they will start by telling the citizen of our planet that we need grow up and abandon faith tied to ancient myths.

      • GBJames
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        We will all be forgotten. And then comes the heat death of the universe.

        But in the interim, abandoning faith would be a nice thing.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        I think you’re being a little harsh on presidents (who are politicians). If you read some of the biographies you’ll find, I think, some important contributions to American culture and the history of mankind. Not all politicians are forgotten. Many have legacies of positive impact and importance to the way you and I and many others live today.

  19. Merilee
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Sub

  20. Rob
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I think Obama should spend about $200,000 and buy a membership at Mar-a-Lago.

    What kind of influence could he have while on the golf course?

    Imagine the fun when both Trump and Obama are golfing the same day.

    • GBJames
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      lol

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      🙂

    • barn owl
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. 😀

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      “Mind if I play through, Orange Guy?”

      Imagine the Secret Service guys get edgy any time someone yells “Fore!”

  21. barn owl
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    “It costs a lot of money to send my kids to college (law school/medical school/grad school/Europe etc.),” says every one of my research-intensive faculty colleagues, to justify increases in, or bonuses to, their salaries. This occurs in spite of continued state budget cuts to higher education, calls for decreasing the salaries of or “letting go” teaching faculty (particularly adjuncts or NTT), and the decreasing ability of aforementioned research faculty to obtain federal grants that might support such salary increases.

    Not justifying this particular vintage of whine by any means, but instead pointing out a justification strategy that might be deployed. I hear it quite frequently.

  22. Steve Gerrard
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I have no problem with this either. Besides, both Obama and Clinton have always been pro-business; they just advocate businesses being good citizens while making their piles of money.

  23. Jayabee
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Honestly, I don’t care what he does. We are left with the hellhole that is Washington and nothing BO does or doesn’t do matters a whit at this point. Who cares what he receives for a speech?

  24. Sshort
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Obama was installed from the get go by Penny Pritzker, the Hyatt heiress billionaire.

    Her Superior bank in Chicago went bust on subprime mortgages (after inventing the category) and she was fined almost half a bilion dollars to boot. Then she went shopping for a senator.

    Not to mention his utter failure to prosecute Wall Street. Look no further than Eric Holder, the “biggest revolving door in Washington”… per Matt Taibi. He comes from Covington & Burling where he defended white collar financial criminals to Justice where he refused to prosecute. All the while standing on a floor littered with smoking guns. Then he slithers back to C&B for another big payoff.

    And I did vote for Obama. And he has many admirable qualities and achievements. I like the guy. But he’s a tool of Wall Street, through and through.

    I had Hope, but I’ve changed.

    • Mark R.
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      I’d take Holder over Sessions in a heartbeat.

      • sshort
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        Gotta say… ya got me there.

        The list of Republican Attorney generals, in particular; Sessions, Gonzales, Ashcroft, Meese… enemies to equality and liberty, all. With some war crimes thrown in for good measure.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          If we go back one Republican administration further, to Nixon, two of his attorneys general — John Mitchell and Richard Kleindienst — were convicted criminals for their ignominious roles in Watergate.

          • sshort
            Posted April 28, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

            Wow. Of course. I think my brain froze in terror after checking off the brief scoundrel’s list above.

            Yikes.

  25. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Hey, Barry gonna feather the nest, same as his predecessors done. The man had eight years in office without a hint of scandal, a hint of malfeasance, a hint of cupidity. He ain’t doin’ us proud here, but I can’t begrudge him the spoils of office either. Plus ça change …

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Some days, my youthful idealism curdles into a hard-bitten cynicism. This is one of those days; I’m in a NY state of mind.

  26. jeffery
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I think Obama did pretty well as a President (especially when compared to the POS we have in that office now)- he entered the office presented with a terrible economic situation and, although the way in which he addressed it has, and will continue to be, questioned (as well as whether it actually “worked” at all), things DID turn around. He got the “toe in the door” of universal health care for all Americans even though that was badly flawed as well. I DO know, however, that money runs everything in Washington and pretty much determines ALL politicians’ stances and actions; the top ten wealthiest Congressmen are equally divided between Teapublicans and Democrats. I am under no illusion that just because a politician is a “Democrat”, that they automatically know what’s best for the American people. That being said, I’d vote for him again, even if he’s doing this out of sheer greed, as I KNOW that he would NOT be against abortion, gay rights, and whatever other issues that those who wish to make this country a theocracy would outlaw.

  27. Mehul Shah
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Maybe Obamas are the new Clintons​. Their time to cash in on “public service”.

  28. CJColucci
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I can’t imagine what Cantor Fitzgerald thinks it is buying for $400,000, but since that is couch cushion change for them they may not be looking too closely at the likely payoff.
    But I can’t help thinking of the old Tammany pol who once said: “If you can’t smoke their cigars, drink their whiskey, f**k their women, then look them in the eye and vote against them, you don’t belong in politics.”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I’d always heard that one attributed (by Molly Ivins among others) to Jesse Unruh, an old-school California pol.

      The famous Plunkitt of Tammany Hall said “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.” That one fits here, too. 🙂

      • CJColucci
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the correction. The internet is a wonderful place.

    • Craw
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

      Voted against the bank bailouts did he?

  29. Mark R.
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    In light of the Republican coup that is currently under way in DC, I can’t really get too excited over Obama’s pricey speech.

    As others have noted, it would be nice to know if the money will line his pockets or be used for charity or another good cause.

  30. Frank Bath
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I wonder how much The Donald will coin come the day. Shortly I hope.

  31. Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    And people wonder why I call the Democratic Party the Plutocratic Party.

    (For what it is worth, the Republicans are the Theocratic Plutocratic Party.)

  32. Ashutosh Jogalekar
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Considering that Obama did not prosecute a single high level Wall Street banker for the financial crisis, his behavior is “eminently reasonable” indeed. The hypocrisy on the regressive grows exponentially every day.

  33. Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    What happened to the principle of “freedom of speech”? Not applicable to former presidents? Of course, I know the speech wasn’t “free”. It was handsomely paid for. Obama and Michelle managed to maintain Robinsonesque demeanors, behaviors and speech while he was president. No mean feat as he was attacked from all sides. I think he deserves some latitude as a former president.

    Why go ballistic over Obama making some money giving speeches (a traditional way for ex-presidents to make money) when his (as per a previous post pointed out) pay while president obviously didn’t pay enough to cover the stress and pain of the job. (Note his hair color change and the lines in his face.) Also, why assume his paid-for speeches will be done by speech writers, not Obama? His best speeches were written by him. Let’s hope that level of thought and speech is maintained, even if paid for.

    We now have a president who is making every effort to undo all achievements of Obama. Dumpf seems to have connections with all the corporate and international demons, is possibly
    mentally ill and doesn’t give a d**n about any non-1 percenter. Oh to have someone similar to Obama back in office!

  34. Curtis
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Let’s be honest, banks don’t pay $400,000 for nothing. They think they are getting their money’s worth because Obama will do _____ for them. You can fill in the blank as you see fit.

    Before Obama was elected to the Senate, he earned about $200,000 a year. Since then, he has averaged about $1.5 million. Politics pays well. Look at any senator and you will see.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      Look at most Senators and you will see millionaires. Many already very rich before running for office. Many get much richer after arriving and particularly when they head on over to K Street where the real money is. It is called the millionaire club for good reason.

  35. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Things Obama could do to make this more acceptable to me:
    1) Make the speech about how the concentration of wealth is leading our country/the world in a bad direction
    2) Make a transcript of the speech public

  36. Posted April 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    So? When will Liberals get it? We have big corporations. They’ll pay high profile personalities big money to speak.
    …and it’s not like he’s running for public office. Get over it…move on to the issues!

  37. Gabby
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Good for him. A black man in America spent his life working hard and studying. Now it’s all paying off. If only I could see that kind of return for my hard work. He’s a good guy and he deserves the opportunity just like Hillary Clinton before him.

  38. Steve Brooks
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I had no problem with Hillary Clinton receiving $200,000 for a speech. I feel the same about Obama.

  39. Ken
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Agree with Jerry fully. The Dems just don’t get what damage has been done to them by associating so closely with Wall St money, and it’s particularly tone deaf of Obama to reinforce that post Trump.

  40. somer
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    very disappointing

  41. nicky
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m just jealous, would love to get paid that amount for a one hour speech, would be willing to give it a few hours more. But alas…..

  42. Marina
    Posted April 29, 2017 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    I think politicians are among the despicable species in the world but at the same time I do not expect them to be saints. I expect them to be capable, reasonable, visionaries, smart, law abiding, mentally sane (or “not Trump” in short). Obama has made mistakes and was sometimes a little “coward” but all in all he was IMHO a very respectable President. And no one can say now that he should refuse money for his new job, being an ex President. Furthermore:who in their senses could think that not saving the banks – ok, some of the bankers deserved jail and got away with the worst – could save a country or the world?

  43. Posted April 29, 2017 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    Is this the same Wall At mob that used to oppose him sovehemently when he was in office. Is that right they now want to hear what he has to say and pay 400K to hear him say it.
    What sweet irony, go for it baby, screw the buggers for what you can, just like they tried to screw you.

  44. Posted April 29, 2017 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    I am not an American, so I have no stakes in this particular issue, but this type of behaviour is, of course, widespread across other countries, including the one I am a citizen of.

    What never ceases to amaze me is the (charitably interpreted) naivite of the people who say there is nothing wrong with this, who imply that this is just the going rate for hearing that person speak, getting advice from them, or whatever.

    I always want to ask: Do you really believe that an hour-long speech by anybody, even by the most amazing speaker on the planet, would be worth more than, say, $10,000? I cannot imagine anybody could affirm that with a straight face.

    So what is going on then? Apparently some people will only recognise corruption if the culprit says, publicly, “thanks for paying me in advance for what I am now going to do”. But if the reward is indirect, or in the form of a job offer, or if it is given after leaving office, then it doesn’t register.

    Which is why few people in developed countries are as crass as to offer a bribe. They have virtually all moved to the model where they carefully let it be known that all politicians who do not rock the boat can look forward to receiving cosy contracts, jobs, or fees after leaving office. Much more deniable, but same result.

    • Dick Veldkamp
      Posted April 29, 2017 at 5:12 am | Permalink

      Alex, I totally agree with you.

      To my mind, this is a typical example of “corruption after the fact”. be nice to us while you are in office, and you will be rewarded afterwards.

  45. Mike
    Posted April 29, 2017 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    On Wednesday, Mr. Obama’s spokesman defended the former president’s coming speech, saying Mr. Obama decided to give it because health care changes were important to him/ If it’s so important , give it for free.

    • Dick Veldkamp
      Posted April 29, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      Give the $400k to Doctors without Borders!

  46. Filippo
    Posted April 29, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    “Further, it’s a speech at a health care conference organized by Wall Street bank Cantor Fitzgerald.”

    Will some corporate entity be able to take a tax deduction as a “business expense” on this $400,000 fee?

  47. Michael Benson
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying to figure out why this is an issue> All ex-presidents do it. The fee depends on how much people want to pay. Who gives a flying fig what a private citizen does?

    However, the “do it for free” idiocy is appalling – my jobs important, but that means I have to do it for free otherwise it’s somehow tainted? I assume the people advocating that position are against all speakers fees?

    • Posted May 1, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      So because “everyone does it”, that makes it right???

      I’m not against speakers fees (at least in the current economic system) but I *am* against politicians (anywhere) having “revolving doors” with plutocratic power.

  48. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted May 14, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Trevor Noah had an interesting take on this on The Daily Show. All ex-presidents did it. Trump isn’t even waiting to be an ex-president before lining his pockets with taxpayer money, so yes, it is reprehensible, but dammit, they need to make it illegal after Obama (the first black president) has his kick at the can. 🙂


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