Marco Rubio has lost this conservative’s vote. Here is how he did it:
“Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill Wednesday to eliminate the federal government’s tax on Olympic medals, saying the levy amounted to yet another way the government tries to punish those who succeed . . . Athletes who win a gold medal also earn a $25,000 honorarium — and with it an $8,986 tax bill to the IRS, according to Americans for Tax Reform which crunched the numbers. That covers both the honorarium and the tax on the value of the gold in the medal itself.” (The Washington Times, August 1, 2012)
Senator Rubio, mentioned often as a possible choice to run for Vice President on the Republican ticket with Gov. Romney, has been presented as one of the most solidly-conservative Republicans on the short-list of possible nominees. Apparently he is not all that conservative.
My short list of conservatives would include such luminaries as Hayek, Friedman, and Reagan, each of whom made abundantly clear his opposition to any use of the tax code as an instrument of social policy, whether in the form of progressive rates of taxation or in the form of special breaks or privileges (e.g., “crony capitalism”) for particular individuals or groups. Our conservative icons were strongly opposed to picking winners and losers via the tax code. While they were more or less willing to go along with special breaks for the truly needy, one would have a particularly difficult time in trying to characterize today’s Olympic athletes as falling into that category. In that regard, one quote attributed to Sen. Rubio is revealing: “We can all agree that these Olympians who dedicate their lives to athletic excellence should not be punished when they achieve it,” he said.
The Rubio comment reveals not only a curious view of the taxation of income as a form of punishment, but a tacit acknowledgement that does he not view Olympic medalists as needy, he merely views them as meritorious – and thus deserving of the benefit of being exempt from the “punishment” of having to pay taxes on their income like the rest of us. The comment also reveals the mindset of a tinkerer, a micro-manager, an instinctive central-planner. This leaves one to wonder whether Rubio would extend his tax-break to US Olympians such as LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Michael Phelps, who, with their multi-million dollar sporting incomes, are meritorious but hardly in need of a tax break. Would Sen. Rubio’s inner liberal lead him to limit the tax-break to archers, badminton players, and shot putters? What about a coxswain who married up a bit, and found himself co-signing a joint tax-return with an heiress? I mean, could we even do the whole thing without means-testing?
Boy, talk about a slippery slope! Talk about picking winners and losers! Talk about fake conservatives! Say it ain’t so, Marco.