Obama’s striking message to leaders accumulating illegal wealth


BARACK OBAMA PHOTO/COURTESY
BARACK OBAMA PHOTO/COURTESY

In Summary

  • Mr. Obama urged leaders to shun illegal or unjust acquisition of wealth, saying “there’s always enough money and food for everybody”, hence there is no need to raid the public coffers to amass wealth.
  • The former U.S. president said since he left office in January, 2017, he is surprised by the money he is making.
  • The Head of State was insinuating he did not have to raid public coffers during his time in office to be wealthy.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama has urged governments, especially in Africa, to embrace inclusive capitalism, which ensures there is equitable distribution of wealth, resources and knowledge across social and economic divides.

While delivering a lecture in Johannesburg in South Africa on Tuesday, July 17, Mr. Obama urged leaders to shun illegal or unjust acquisition of wealth, saying “there’s always enough money and food for everybody”, hence there is no need to raid the public coffers to amass wealth.

He spoke for 1 hour and 24 minutes at the 16th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture – an event that honors the life of South African leader Nelson Mandela.

The former U.S. president said since he left office in January, 2017, he is surprised by the money he is making. The Head of State was insinuating he did not have to raid public coffers during his time in office to be wealthy.

“Right now I am actually surprised by how much money I got. Let me tell you something; I don’t have half of how much these folks have; or a tenth of 100…,” said Mr. Obama to a cheering crowd.

“There is always so much that you can eat. There’s only a so bigger house you can have. There’s only so many nice trips you can take. I mean it is enough! You don’t have to take a vow at poverty just to say let me help out a few of the other folks; let me look at that child out there who does not have food to eat; who needs some school fees. Let me help them out by paying a lot more in taxes; it is okay. I can afford it!” he added.

Taking a swipe at corrupt and selfish leaders, Mr Obama said: “It shows the ambition of just wanting to take more and more and more, instead of saying: ‘Wow, I got so much. Who can I help?’ How can I give more and more and more? That’s ambition; that is impact; that is influence. What an amazing gift to be able to help people, not just yourself.”

Mr. Obama urged world leaders to adopt a social inclusivity system, which would help in narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor.

“We have a responsibility to ensure social justice is observed. We have to figure out how to close the widening gap of wealth and opportunity – both within countries and between them. How we achieve this, is going to vary from country to country.

“We can learn from the last 70 years that it won’t involve unregulated, unbridled and unethical capitalism. It also won’t involve old-style command and control socialism from the top. That was tried; it did not work.

“For almost all countries, progress is going to depend on an inclusive market-based system; one that offers education for every child; one that secures the rights of every worker; that breaks up monopolies to encourage competition and uplift the small and medium-sized businesses; one that has laws that root out corruption and ensures there is fair dealing in business; one that maintains some form of progressive taxation so that rich people are still rich, but they give a little bit back to make sure that everybody else has something – to pay for universal healthcare and retirement security; and invest in infrastructure and scientific research that builds platforms for innovations,” he said.

Mr. Obama’s statement comes amid media reports that he is making thousands of dollars from speeches and lecturers that he gives in different parts of the world.

In April, 2017, UK’s Independent newspaper reported that the former President made at least $800,000 (Ksh80 million) from just two speeches since he left office in January, 2017.

“Mr. Obama met up with presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin at the A&E Networks advertising upfront at the Pierre Hotel and was rewarded $400,000 (Ksh.40 million) for a 90-minute interview with her in front of advertisers for the cable network,” the Independent reported in April, 2017.

Other sources of income for Mr. Obama, according to Time magazine, include pension, with the magazine reporting that: “All ex-presidents get pensions, to the tune of $205,700 (Ksh.21 million) annually, and the amount increases regularly to keep up with inflation”. This is topped with other perks, US media say.

Book deal (Mr. Obama memoir) could be another source of the ex-President’s income. Time says: “Obama’s book contract would be worth somewhere between $12million (Ksh.1.2 billion) and $30 million (Ksh.3 billion).”

In 2009 alone, Obama reported $5.1 million (Ksh510 million) in income just from the sales of his two books.

-NET WORTH-

American media estimate Mr Obama’s net worth at $40 million (Ksh.4 billion).

Barack Obama earned $400,000 (Ksh40 million) a year throughout his entire eight-year term as President of the United States.

On April 15, 2016, Mr. Obama released his 2015 tax returns, which showed that he and his wife filed jointly and reported an adjusted gross income of $436,065 (Ksh.44 million). They paid $81,472 (Ksh.8.1 million) in taxes according to their 18.7 percent tax rate. They also donated a total of $64,066 (Ksh.6.4 million) to more than 30 charities.

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Brian Okoth
Story By Brian Okoth
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