Why not a 100% tax on politician’s book royalties?

From The Washington Times:

As he empathized with recession-weary Americans, President Obama arranged in the days just before he took office to secure a $500,000 advance for a children’s book project, a disclosure report shows.

The terms of the book deal were disclosed in a Senate financial disclosure report filed Tuesday.

Analysts say there don’t appear to be any rules that would bar such transactions after a president takes office, but it’s unclear whether an incoming or sitting president has ever signed a book deal upon entering the White House.

[…]

Mr. Obama approved the $500,000 advance on Jan. 15. The advance is against royalties under a deal with Crown Publishing, a division of Random House. The project calls for an abridged version of his book “Dreams From My Father” for middle-school-aged children, according to the disclosure.

A White House aide said that the deal had been in the works for weeks and that the publisher will abridge the book. The aide, speaking on a condition of anonymity, said the publisher will get half of the money while Mr. Obama will sign off on the final version.

[…]

Just as in 2007, public interest in Barack Obama the presidential candidate helped Barack Obama the author earn lots of money from book royalties, according to his latest financial disclosure report.

Last year, Mr. Obama reported earning $949,910 in royalties from “Dreams From My Father” and $1.5 million from “The Audacity of Hope.” In 2007, he reported $3.2 million in book royalties from Random House.

Mr. Obama’s books have helped boost the Obamas’ income considerably in recent years, from about $1 million in 2006 to more than $4 million in 2007.

After getting permission from the Senate ethics committee in January 2005, Mr. Obama agreed to a $1.9 million advance for two nonfiction books and a children’s book, of which $200,000 was to be donated to charity, according to his 2007 financial disclosure. (emphasis added)

Now, $500,000 seems measly compared to the combined $20 million in royalty advances that was paid to the Clintons for their respective memoirs, or the $4.5 million paid to Newt Gingrich in 1995 that so enraged Democrats that the House of Representatives amended its ethics rules to prohibit House members from receiving royalty advances from book publishers.

But in an era where Big Government seems to relish grilling Big Business over things like salaries, bonuses, and profits, doesn’t President Obama’s new book deal deserve scrutiny as well? After all, a royalty advance is really nothing more than a retention bonus, so to speak, used by a publisher to entice an author into joining, then remaining with, that publisher. What will President Obama be doing — instead of the job we elected him to do — in order to justify that compensation? And wasn’t payment for a “children’s book” already included in that $1.9 million advance that President Obama received in 2005?

Interestingly, President Obama’s only contractual obligation seems to be signing off on the abridged manuscript, which will be prepared by his publisher. Considering how tired and overwhelmed he is these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if even the simple task of reviewing the manuscript was delegated to someone else in the White House. Half a million dollars for a signature. Where do I sign up?

On the other hand, President Obama is an author, and authors are due royalties, aren’t they? Random House hasn’t been bailed out by the government, so why should anyone care what they pay their authors? Partisan politics aside, we usually don’t. But in this case, the author is the newly-elected President of the United States. As a public servant, what he does is absolutely our business.

About a year ago, Congress grilled “Big Oil” executives about salaries, bonuses, and profits in the oil industry as Americans were struggling to come to grips with rapidly rising fuel prices. “Big Oil” had not been bailed out by the government, nor were they in control of the over-inflated prices of crude oil futures, yet Congressional Democrats felt compelled to conduct a show trial for oil company executives and then threaten them with windfall profits taxes. Congress has no qualms about attacking portions of the private sector when it believes that it can turn such populism into votes at the ballot box. Likewise, We The People ought to be afforded a similar opportunity to hold our elected officials accountable.

And since threats of confiscatory government taxes on “unmerited” or “windfall” income seem to be all the rage these days, I am simply proposing that all elected government officials who write books should be taxed at 100% on any royalty advances that they receive while in office — while they are employed by us as our public servants. That’s only “fair” … isn’t it?

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