Political Nutz

Observations on the pathetic state of American politics

Tax Exemption for Olympians? Phooey!

So President Obama has again sided with the Republicans; this time on Marco Rubio’s proposed Olympic Tax Elimination Act.  No need to “punish success,” Senator Rubio says.  Give me a break!  What about policemen, doctors, teachers…?  They contribute mightily to America and get no special tax treatment.  Never mind the fact that Olympians already get to deduct their expenses for training, equipment and travel.  Singling out a few hundred elite athletes just makes no sense… and it’s eminently unfair to the  rest of us.  But, then again, tax fairness in the Republican mind means only that those with the least money should pay the most.

August 8 addendum, Matthew Yglesias gets it right: Tax the Olympians:  Sen. Marco Rubio and President Obama team up for a ridiculous new tax break for Olympic medal winners.  He writes…

If they gave out awards for dumb new policy ideas, President Obama and Republican rising star Sen. Marco Rubio would both be medaling this week. Their achievements? Rubio’s completely pointless bill offering a tax break to recipients of Olympic medals and—even worse—the president’s decision to hop on the bandwagon rather than show the country he has a firmer grasp on the issues than his adversaries do. In the scheme of things, of course, winning Olympic prizes is not an important sector of economic activity, and the medals’ tax status doesn’t really matter. But the overall shape of the tax code does matter a great deal, and the speed with which a bipartisan consensus emerged around making it worse bodes quite poorly for efforts to make it better.

In a bit of counter argument, Smart Money notes that Olympic stars and wannabes can confront expenses as high as $250,000 with little chance of any financial return on investment. Well, it’s their choice and their dream. Go for it but don’t expect me to foot part of the bill. What about the graduate or medical student taking on tens of thousands of dollars of loans each year to prepare to contribute in a meaningful way to society? Or artists or musicians who follow their muse with no help from the taxpayers?

I cheer for U.S. athletes and hope those who are able contribute to the U.S. Olympic Committee. But let’s not muddle the tax code to give a few hundred kids a tiny, specialized tax break.

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