Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio says the American tax code is “a complicated and burdensome mess.” He and his fellow lawmakers who have repeatedly expressed such a sentiment are absolutely correct — the code is indeed chock-full of special-interest write-offs, credits and subsidies that exacerbate the federal deficit. And they are right to criticize the unfairness of such a system, because while these loopholes are typically written to reward tiny groups of wealthy, politically connected and/or high-profile Americans, the rest of us lowly proles are subject to the regular rules, and get no such special treatment.I am completely flabbergasted (and, maybe, a bit naive). No, not at the proposed tax exemption; I wasn't aware that Olympic athletes won prize money on top of their medals. When did this start?
So it is both galling and perplexing to see the same politicians, led by Rubio, this week propose a special tax exemption for the income U.S. athletes earn on their medals at the Olympic games.
This kind of exemption, which yesterday was endorsed by President Obama, is offensive for a number of obvious reasons.
First and foremost, there’s the sheer hypocrisy. A special carve-out exemption for the income a medalist earns is precisely the kind of loophole that has made the tax code “a complicated and burdensome mess.” You can’t purport to be concerned about that mess, while also making the mess even worse.
Additionally, the exemption is largely unnecessary; according to tax experts, existing write-offs mean most Olympians won’t pay any levy at all on the money they make at the games.
But maybe worst of all, if enacted, the exemption would send a troubling message about what kind of income the U.S. government says should be a priority. Effectively, the loophole would say that income earned at high-profile, privately funded, privately administered sports competitions is so important and such a high priority, it should receive a total tax exemption that so many other forms of income do not receive. Put another way, it would have the tax code say unequivocally that athletic income is more important than other forms of income — say, income earned defending and protecting our communities.
~ from Tax the Olympians! by David Sirota ~
Back in the day, the Olympics celebrated amateur athletics. By its very nature, amateur athletes compete for the love of their sport, not to earn money. When you start paying amateurs for their performances, they become professionals.
I suppose they started paying them when they started allowing bona fide professional athletes to compete (which is the main reason I steadfastly refuse to watch or cheer for the NBA-laden US Men's Basketball team).
I suppose it also goes a long way toward explaining why many athletes become so visibly upset when they don't finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd. I thought it was about the feeling that they had let down their country. Now I understand it's really about finishing outside the money!