Being Phil Mickelson

My first diary on RedState!

The fruits of tax-and-spend fiscal policy came into full view this week in California when golfer Phil Mickelson threw his hands up and more or less said two-thirds of his taxes are too much and he dis going to make changes in his domicile.

Some background:  California’s Prop 30 passed in November, stealing 13% of Mr. Mickelson’s income every year and retroactively to Jan 1, 2012. Add to this the Obama success taxes, Obamacare, FICA, and myriad other taxes, user fees, surcharges, and other taxes, and Mr. Mickelson is only the first of many high profile earners to call it quits on California.

But what made this story so poignant was not that a rich, successful guy was going to leave California — this is becoming routine and similar to the morale people experience at a company that is quietly laying people off or otherwise “giving packages” to cut costs: it’s a grey, dull feeling with a faint hope that maybe some big company will come along and buy us and save us. Except there is no IBM or Google for the state of California. As we’d say in Silicon Valley, we’ve “chosen to remain independent”. Yeah right. No —- what is most striking about the Mickelson case is what a bright light it shines on the sickest tax system in the world.

Sick to take money from a multi-millionaire? Yes, particularly in the case of golf, where you are (really) only paid if you are a winner. If you show up repeatedly and don’t win on the PGA Tour, you won’t be on the tour long. There are too many excellent and hungry golfers who would kill to take your place on the Tour. And they are (mostly) broke. They sleep two-to-a-room on the Nike Tour or some other Tour you never heard of, practicing constantly, many avoiding alcohol in a fastidious way, eating healthy, on the road away from their families, and swinging for the fences that they might get their big break.  Just maybe.  One day.

Most will never come close. And no government is subsidizing these guys, their forfeited revenue opportunities, their missed family opportunities, etc. They are putting it all on the line to have a chance at being the next Nicklaus, Woods, Hogan, etc.  And for the elite few who make it to Mickelson’s level, it’s a payday that everyone else in pro golf can only dream about. And it’s those dreams that fuel the drive, the ambition, the courage to get up every morning while it’s dark and workout or head to the airport for the next flight to somewhere to compete for little or no money. For any of us who are enterpreneurs, the feeling is similar.  I’m writing this at 2:46 a.m. while I am thinking about a big product launch my company is working on and while it’s a huge opportunity, risks are everywhere.

But when crazy dreamers like the guys on the Nike Tour or guys in Silicon Valley see the most successful among us are being punished once they reach “the top” by having two-thirds of their earnings confiscated, we can’t help but think:  maybe we should have just taken a lower paying, lower risk job that would give us more time with our families, more lean body mass, more hair, and perhaps more money in the end for our retirements.

Golfers like Mickelson are not some lucky trust-fund babies who didn’t earn their wealth.  They don’t have a golden parachute if their crappy management leads to a takeover by another company.  And many of them probably don’t even have IRA’s or 401(k) plans (the younger guys).  They put it all on the line and only get paid when they win (let’s put aside endorsements, which are like a bonus for winning).  And Mickelson can’t hide his earnings in the penumbras of the shadows of global capital gains tax laws.   He can’t hide the earnings from the 6th hole at Cypress and put them in Luxembourg.  Those earnings are out in the open for Barack Obama and Jerry Brown to claim their fair share.  It’s Phil’s patriotic duty to pay, don’t forget.

Taking two thirds of Phil Mickelson’s earnings is the most inspiring exhibit of many to come of how “progressive” tax laws punish the most successful among us and gnaw at millions of dreamers who make our capitalist engine hum every morning of every day.  Phil may not be creating many jobs directly from his golfing, but the teachable moment remains:   the more we continue to siphon the spirit from the most successful among us, the more we all suffer.  The more we pummel Phil Mickelson for his success, the more we deter future Phil Mickelsons from even trying to be Phil.

Unfortunately here in California, the Democrats are in complete control and the near-literal orgy of spending and regulatory revelry will only accelerate.  Free dental is next!  More $700K salaries for prison psychologists!  And of course, it won’t be more than a year or two before we are called on to do our duty and pay even more.  California is for all intents and purposes a failed state and why I am writing this from California can only be explained by the still-vibrant ecosystem of Silicon Valley.  But even this will come to pass in the next few years for my family and me.

Preserving the legions of “future Phil Mickelsons” to drive our economy for the next 100 years can be achieved only by a complete flattening of the U.S. tax code.  Allowing the current system, which behaves like a parasite on the Phil Mickelsons of our nation, to continue is a moral failing and what historians in 500 years will attribute in large part led to the downfall of the USA.