Tag: Olympics

Sochi Thread

A few months ago I wrote a post over The America’s Cup, a post highlighting the patriotism of progressives would have gotten more attention, well, I’m doing it again.

For those so inclined to chime in on anything Sochi related, here ya go.

No, I did not watch opening ceremonies last night. I figured Putin would use this to rewrite history and play out sketches of how Russia beat Napoleon single handed, had won WW1 and WW2 all by themselves, was kind enough to allow all those satellite states to go it alone, and oh, it is such a great place to live if you are into freedom and civil liberties, so I skipped it. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing good about Russia are the women, so unless they were going to parade a bunch of those around scantly clad, I just Netflixed old episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I did notice (through reporting over the internet) that the stands were conspicuously empty (I’d a guessed all the gulags emptied out to fill the seats) and their little light glitch with the Olympic Rings (tee hee).

A good choice for lighting the torch, all things politics, remember?

And, as fitting, the USA took the very first medal, a gold.

Although I will not be watching much, if anything extra ordinary happens ( and my sincerest prayer is that nothing terror related occurs, not being able to drink the water or flush the toilet is bad enough) I will post it here.

I guess I’m obligated……………..GO USA.

A Gold Medal in Pandering

There’s been a bit of a furor lately over Olympians having to pay taxes on cash bonuses they get for winning medals. Yglesias has the details:

In this particular case, the issue is that the U.S. Olympic Committee—the nonprofit group that organizes Team USA for the games—rewards athletes with cash bounties for medals won. Gold medalists receive $25,000, silver medalists get $15,000, and bronze medalists receive $10,000. That’s income, so come spring of 2013 when medalists are filling out their tax forms, it’ll be reported and taxed like any other income. Their after-tax income will be higher if they do win a medal than if they don’t. There’s no “extra tax bill” waiting for anyone. There’s simply extra income, and the income would be taxed.

Just to clear up a piece of misinformation: the bonuses will be taxed at the marginal rate. For athletes who are making a lot of money, that could be 35%. For most, it will be much lower. And it seems very unlikely that the medals themselves will be taxed; just the bonuses.

Marco Rubio has proposed and President Obama has indicated he will sign a bill that exempts the Olympian bonuses from income tax.

I think it’s a bad idea.

Look, I’ve loved watching the Olympics and our athletes have made me immensely proud. It’s not just the performances; it’s the way they have carried themselves. With a few notable exceptions, they go into interviews well-spoken, polite, enthusiastic and patriotic. They’ve been respectful of the sport and their fellow athletes. I was particularly impressed last night with Allyson Felix, who was gracious, winning and plans to become a school teacher when she retires.

But does this mean we should be exempting them from taxes? Yglesias again:

The underlying issue is that taxes aren’t supposed to be a cosmic judgment on the underlying worthiness of people’s activities. The earnings of a great artist and a reality TV show producer are taxed the same. That can seem a bit perverse at times, but having Congress try to assess which professions are important and which are bad would be much worse. The goal of the tax code should be to try to raise an adequate amount of money in a way that’s economically efficient and meets social equality goals. That tends to mean as broad a tax base as possible—few deductions or exemptions, in other words—to make it possible to raise revenue with relatively low tax rates. Exceptions should generally be justified in terms of broad benefits to society.

Now, to be fair, Olympic athletes in other countries tend to have public support. And prizes of any kind were not taxed until 1986 (the law was changed because companies were hiding salary in ‘prizes’ given to employees). It also should be noted that Olympians make tremendous sacrifices for our national pride. To take Gabby Douglas as an example: she basically hasn’t had a personal life, moved across the country to train and her training bills bankrupted her family. I recently saw an estimate that a typical Olympian spends $250,000 to get there. I believe it when I see parents spending thousands a month just for cheerleading.

But making yet another wrinkle in the tax code is not a proper response to this. It’s merely a ridiculous bit of pandering to popular sentiment and the issue of the moment. We’ve heard all this bullshit from the Republicans and Democrats about how we need to overhaul the tax code to remove the hundreds of billions of dollars in deadweight loss it inflicts on the economy. Yet the second a pet issue comes up — Olympians having their bonuses taxed — that goes out the window.

The last thing we need is to be putting more complications into the tax code. We need to be streamlining it. If they can’t resist the outrage of the day, how the hell are they going to stand up to really powerful lobbies that want their special break protected?

If you want to subsidize Olympians, do it honestly like other countries do, with direct spending. That would actually be better, since it would support all Olympians, not just the tiny fraction that happen to win medals. (Think of the poor 4th place finishers who made as many sacrifices but don’t get the benefits). I’d be against that — we have plenty of private resources to support the Olympics — but at least it would be honest. At least it would be fair to all the athletes. And at least it wouldn’t clutter up our tax code with more bullshit.

Olympic Stuff

Let me complain one more time, taped delay blows ass. If I did not have Live Extra (and the inclination to use it) I would probably be the last one here to know what the hell happened.

First off, some political stuff. Everyone night about 1 in 10 commercials have been Obama ads telling us how lucky we are to have him watching our backs, but just last night I saw my first RNC commercial thanking him for bankrupting our kids. NBC is doing it’s best to keep the riff raff out.

Has there ever been a more secure strangle hold on any Olympic event then what the Chinese have on anything diving related, its incredible.

Congrats to the American lady gymnasts, I don’t usually watch gymnastics, but that show last night was special. And it gives me another opportunity to voice my distaste for all sports where judges judge, I hate it.

Big ups to Micheal Phelps. Some nice stories about first time Olympic gold winners in swimming (Nathan Adrian, OMG, one one hundredth of a second).

Badminton gets a black eye, and that poor S. Korean fencer, she got jobbed big time.

I was watching soccer today, sorry CM about NZ getting beat, but the big story was what happened to Spain (bye bye), you can see their poor luck (have you ever seen so many shots on goal hit the cross bar?) and poor sportsmanship here. Soccer needs a rule like basketball, you bump the official, you are gone.

The host nation did some jersey popping today, nice job Bradley Wiggins.

Watched a bit of rowing today and some boxing. With most of these ancillary events, I will catch the medal rounds.

Any big ups I missed? What are you watching?

Weekend Roundup

It’s a slow week in politics and the Olympics are on. But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of really stupid stories to cover. Here’s a look at what’s going on with the election three months away (and God, it can’t happen a moment too soon, can it?)

Nikki Haley is in big trouble for getting her daughter a state job. Surely, this job must be a six figure cushy … what? … what?! … she’s working part-time in a gift shop? This is what your outrage-o-meter got pinged by? If this is Nikki Haley’s big scandal, she must be the cleanest fucking governor ever.

NBC’s Olympics coverage is coming in for its usual thrashing. Look, I get the tape delay: people want to watch the stuff in prime time. But you’d think NBC would figure out how to make their streaming more accessible: since I don’t have a cable subscription, I’m shut out. More disturbingly, they decided to cut out a tribute to the 7/7 victims from the Opening Ceremonies and their response is that Americans wouldn’t have been interested.

Like hell. When 7/7 hit, every blog in America put up an image of the British flag, expressed its sympathy and solidarity and wondered why the terrorists thought they were going to scared the British of all people. Granted, I move in academic circles and have a Brit in the office next to me. But I have yet to hear anyone tell me, “Boy, I’m glad they cut that 7/7 tribute out.”

With the Olympics, comes the requisite stupidity about athletes being too sexy and Americans focusing on the wrong sports. I respond to this stupidity here. And if the attention to the Michelle Jenneke video seems wrong, read this.

Apparently, Aaron Sorkin’s newest TV show is horrid — even preachier than The West Wing. Cato breaks down the latest stupidity on Glass-Steagel but check out the video clip. This is just horrible television.

The New York Times ran an op-ed this week asking if we should ditch algebra. I’ll let Orac handle this one. Really, the stupidity of the op-ed has to be read to be believed. It’s from a Poli-Sci professor which tells you, really, all you need to know about why our political system sucks.