"Dear Mr. Ryan Lochte,
"Congratulations on your fine showing so far at the Games of the XXX Olympiad! As of this writing, my advisers tell me you have won two gold medals and a silver in swimming.
"However, before your ego grows, I must tell you, you didn’t earn those medals. Someone else made that happen. After all, the federal government built the roads and bridges you used to attend practices. Also, you attended a government high school and graduated from a government university, so your government teachers clearly led to your success.
"Because we can’t have successful people free riding on the hard work of our government workforce, I’m afraid you must pay some of that back so we can spread the wealth around. Therefore, you owe the federal government $23,357 for your three medals. And, if you should happen to win any more medals, the tax bill will understandably increase.
"Yours truly, His Majesty, President Barack Hussein ‘Barry Soetoro’ Obama II."
OK, so the letter is, somewhat, in jest, but the underlying fact is true. The U.S. government will be taxing any of our hardworking 529 Olympians who succeed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Worse than that, the nation is almost alone in that distinction. According to Americans for Tax Reform: "Not only do our Olympic athletes have to pay taxes on their medals and prizes — chances are their competitors on the field will face no such taxation when they get home. Because the U.S. is virtually the only developed nation that taxes ‘worldwide’ income earned overseas by its taxpayers, our Olympic athletes face a competitive disadvantage that has nothing to do with sports."
Many of these athletes are still children in high school. For example, 17-year-old Missy Franklin, a senior at a Colorado High School, is already facing a possible tax bill of $14,000. Of course, if she wants to maintain her status with the NCAA, she might have to decline her prize money, which all by itself is ridiculous and perhaps fodder for another day.
We are not talking about a lot of prize money for these athletes, given the large amount of money and time they have expended to rise to the top of their fields: a $25,000 honorarium for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze. Based on that prize money and the value of the medals (yes, athletes actually have to calculate the value of each medal based on its precious metal content), a gold medalist could have to pay as much as $9,000 for each medal to Uncle Sam. Silver medal winners will pay up to $5,385 while bronze medal winners will pay up to $3,502.
And, to be fair, the ATR analysis is based on the highest marginal tax rate and it is possible an athlete will pay significantly less in the end, after deductions and so forth.
Still, this is yet another example of the U.S. government punishing success. Would it not make more sense to award success and punish freeloading? Should we not punish those who contribute nothing to society instead of awarding them with free money taken from those who succeed?
To that end, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced a bill Wednesday to eliminate the government’s tax on Olympic medals.
"Our tax code is a complicated and burdensome mess that too often punishes success, and the tax imposed on Olympic medal winners is a classic example of this madness," said Rubio, who many believe is on the short list to be GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate in the November election. "We can all agree that these Olympians who dedicate their lives to athletic excellence should not be punished when they achieve it."
As of Wednesday, when Rubio introduced his bill, U.S. athletes had earned 57 medals — 28 golds, 18 silvers and 19 bronzes — which comes to a tax bill of nearly $350,000. That medal count includes every member of a winning team in team events, because each member of the winning team will owe the tax.
In other words, the U.S. government earns a gold medal in fleecing its own citizens at the Games of the XXX Olympiad, and that is obscene.