The process of cashing in

Well, this isn’t what I was hoping to see. Obama has agreed to do a talk at a health care conference sponsored by a Wall Street investment bank for the modest sum of Four Hundred Thousand Dollars.

Out of office for about three months, Mr. Obama has begun the process of cashing in. In February, he and his wife, Michelle, each signed book deals worth tens of millions of dollars. And Mr. Obama’s spokesman confirmed last week that he is beginning the paid-speech circuit.

A $400,000 speaking fee for addressing the Cantor Fitzgerald conference is a sharp increase from the amounts typically paid to his predecessors. Former President Bill Clinton averaged about $200,000 per speech while former President George W. Bush is reportedly paid $100,000 to $175,000 for each appearance.

I suppose nobody much wants to listen to Bush do a talk, even Republicans.

Aaron Blake at the Post has thoughts on why Obama shouldn’t be chasing the bucks the way the Clintons did.

For one thing, it continues a bad precedent.

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did this, too, as have Hillary Clinton, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan. And the more that Wall Street firms give out-of-office presidents and big-name politicians these paydays, the more they become the norm. Other presidents will know that such payments are on the table, and it risks coloring their decisions with regard to Wall Street and special interests.

Which is already happening with Obama, retroactively. Liberals loved (and miss) his presidency, but if there’s one thing the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders wing is still sore about in the Obama administration, it’s the lack of prosecutions for anybody involved in the financial crisis. In September, Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, requested a formal investigation of why no charges were brought.

And now they’re paying him? Appearances, dude.

Also, this shouldn’t be why people go into government. The more people do it, the more it gets normalized. How’s that working out for us so far?

Blake quotes that bit from The Audacity of Hope that I blogged about recently.

I can’t assume that the money chase didn’t alter me in some ways. …

Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means — law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate. …

And although my own worldview and theirs corresponded in many ways — I had gone to the same schools, after all, had read the same books, and worried about my kids in many of the same ways — I found myself avoiding certain topics during conversations with them, papering over possible differences, anticipating their expectations. On core issues I was candid; I had no problem telling well-heeled supporters that the tax cuts they’d received from George Bush should be reversed. Whenever I could, I would try to share with them some of the perspectives I was hearing from other portions of the electorate: the legitimate role of faith in politics, say, or the deep cultural meaning of guns in rural parts of the state.

Still, I know that as a consequence of my fundraising I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the very particular sense that I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population — that is, the people that I’d entered public life to serve.

And yet here we are.

Word is the deal for the two books the two Obamas will write was $65 million. You’d think they could skip the chats to bankers.

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