Of Course You Should Have to Pay Taxes on Olympic Winnings, Dummies

The dumbest story to come out of this year's London Olympics isn't about the judo competitor who alleges he accidentally ate a weed brownie before coming to London, or whether the guy from America's crew team had a boner while getting his bronze medal (though he definitely did, and that's alright, it happens). The dumbest story is that American politicians are now attempting to exempt Olympians from the taxes they have historically paid on their prize money. Even Obama, the socialist who hates victory, is on board with the plan. And you thought Ryan Lochte was simple?

This nonsense all started last Wednesday, when Republican vice presidential contender Marco Rubio introduced the Olympic Tax Elimination Act, a bill that would waive taxes on the money the Olympic Committee awards to medal winners. Currently, gold medal recipients earn $25,000 each to supplement their victories, and silver and bronze medalists get $15,000 and $10,000, respectively. In a statement introducing his bill, Rubio called America's tax system a "complicated and burdensome mess" that "too often punishes success." To make the tax code simpler, Rubio—and now President Obama, apparently—thinks it would be a wise decision to carve out a special exception for a fraction of a fraction of Olympic athletes competing once every four years, usually overseas. Because when you think "simple," who doesn't think of additions to tax law?

Even if we ignore the paradox that says complicating things uncomplicates things, the other obvious question is this: Why do Olympians deserve to not pay taxes for doing well at sports?

NFL players, many of whom make far less than, say, 40 Million Dollar Man Michael Phelps, earn bonuses of almost $50,000 just for being on the team that loses the Super Bowl; the winning players get double that. And in the NBA, the 2010 Lakers squad got $2.1 million to divide amongst itself for winning the finals that year. Does Rubio think all that money should go untaxed in order to avoid "punishing success," also? And if not, why not?

Probably the ugliest part about the "fewer taxes for Olympians" movement is how many Olympic athletes surely benefited from public funding while still novices. Venus and Serena Williams, for instance, 2012 gold medalists in tennis, began their careers on public courts in Compton. And the vast majority of America's track runners almost undoubtedly ran their first races on grounds provided by a local park or public school, perhaps under the tutelage of a coach whose salary was paid in part by taxpayers. Marco Rubio, President Obama, and everyone else who supports not taxing Olympic income—and it is income—are essentially supporting a law that takes away from the chances of future Olympians. Looked at from that angle, I think I'd support punishing success rather than destroying success before it even has an opportunity to begin.

[Image via Getty]