Like many people, I found the idea that athletes for Team USA receiving a tax bill for any prize money that goes along with a gold, silver, and bronze medal an outrage. These athletes worked very hard to get where they are. They made sacrifices. They spent many hours getting their bodies in shape so they might one day stand on the podium. Why should the IRS get one cent from any of this?
When I first learned of the bipartisan effort to correct this outrage with a bill dubbed the Olympic Tax Elimination Act, a tax cutting measure President Obama actually says he will sign, my first thought was that this is something all Americans should support. After giving this some additional thought, however; I couldn’t help but think of President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line when he was extolling the virtues of government and how those who have been successful are only successful because “somebody else helped out along the line.”
If President Obama was being consistent, rather than supporting the Olympic Tax Elimination Act, he would say something like the following:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great coach somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to reach your athletic potential. Somebody invested in roads and bridges that your parents drove on to take you to practices and competitions. If you’ve got an Olympic medal, you didn’t win that. Somebody else made that happen.
Notice, the above sentences are exactly what Obama was saying about successful business people except I replaced the business references with athletic references. Now imagine the president actually saying that these world class athletes didn’t earn these medals and that someone else “made that happen.” How would most logical thinking people respond to such a nonsensical statement? Even in this “everyone gets a trophy because everyone’s a winner” culture we have now, I would expect that most people would be put off by the president’s lack of appreciation for all the hard work that goes into becoming an Olympian who has reached the full potential of human athleticism.
What the president and his supporters fail to understand is that it’s not just Olympic athletes who work very hard to be the best at what they do. Businessmen and businesswomen who aspire to achieve the American dream make sacrifices, spend many hours educating themselves, and take risks so they might someday be financially secure. Why aren’t these job creators worthy of being celebrated like athletes representing Team USA? Why don’t these entrepreneurs deserve a tax break?
While I still support the Olympic Tax Elimination Act, I would prefer to one day see an Income Tax Elimination Act in my lifetime. No one should be taxed on earnings regardless of whether the earnings come from cleaning a swimming pool or from cleaning up with gold medals at the London Olympic Games in most of the swimming events.