Affluence police tee off on Mickelson

Mickelson's taxes, Cagle, Jan. 28, 2013Jan. 28, 2013

By Steven Greenhut

SACRAMENTO — After hearing the criticism directed toward golfer Phil Mickelson for his modest comments about California’s highest-in-the-nation tax rates giving him cause to consider relocating, I was left wondering: What country do we live in? Did you ever have one of those moments?

“If you add up all the federal, and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate is 62, 63 percent,” Mickelson said. “So I’ve got to make some decisions on what I’m going to do.” He pointed to “drastic changes” that are driving his decision — an obvious reference to the income tax hikes California voters imposed on millionaires like him. Media and public critics were aghast and mocked this poor rich guy for his complaints.

The sight of Mickelson apologizing, then doing so a second time later in the week, was the worst part of this spectacle.

“I think that it was insensitive to talk about it publicly to those people who are not able to find a job, that are struggling paycheck to paycheck,” Mickelson said.

To an Associated Press reporter, Mickelson wasn’t sufficiently apologetic: “He didn’t apologize for what he said, only that he said it.”

Mickelson is just trying to get his mind back in golf, so I don’t begrudge him for using the lingo that our society requires from the chastened. It’s now “insensitive” for a wealthy person to complain about a confiscatory tax rate as long as there are other, less-fortunate people out there somewhere. That’s not a healthy attitude in a free and prosperous society.

“A generation ago, the vitriol his comments triggered would have been surprising, and somewhat isolated,” CalWatchDog.com’s Chris Reed argued.

“Griping about taxes used to be something of an American tradition. No more.” This attitude, Reed notes, now comes from the highest level of government.

Consider the president’s second inaugural address, which was a celebration of the wonders of government. It appears, at least from their rhetoric, that many Democrats who run the Golden State view private business as something ranging from a blight to a necessary evil that can be tapped to fund every new program they envision.

If you think the “blight” characterization is an exaggeration, consider this:

Recently, the California Air Resources Board issued a press release celebrating a $300,000 fine it imposed on a business. A quote from CARB’s chief enforcement officer included this warning: “All business owners should pay attention to this case.” That’s like something uttered by a villain in an Ayn Rand novel.

I’ve always sensed a deep understanding that transcends Left and Right in America: You can make it big and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

During the early days of the labor movement, the hard-leftists never made much headway because of that deep-seated idea that, no matter how humble one’s beginnings, an American can make it big someday.

Envy

Something has changed, even as our society has become wealthier. Sure, businesses have to comply with regulations, and millionaires need to pay taxes, but somewhere we’ve shifted from honoring success to envying it, from viewing government as a limited tool to achieve a few necessary things (infrastructure, enforcing the rule of law) to seeing it as the be-all and end-all of our society.

Why is it assumed by these moralistic Affluence Police that the rich are mainly greedy people who spend their money on luxuries?

Charities and nonprofits are funded by wealthy people. Real capitalists invest millions of dollars into ideas and often create good jobs in the process. I have no idea what Mickelson does with his money, but it isn’t any of my business. Given California governmental attitudes, one can’t blame him for looking to live elsewhere.

For instance, during a recent Capitol news conference, Orange County Register’s Sacramento reporter asked Gov. Jerry Brown about the spending increases in his supposedly austere budget. Brown joked about there being no hope for Orange County readers, according to a Register editorial referring to “this doctrine that government is the problem,” which he said is promoted by the “Orange County Register or whoever all these people are.”

At the Capitol, the free market is viewed by some as an arcane joke. Yet I look at everything government does — at all those programs and bureaucracies and entitlements that Brown and Obama seem to prefer. I see enormous debt, abuses of power, union-enrichment schemes, shoddy services and an endless sea of scandal and greed. Just read the newspapers.

But the scorn should be expected. The state uses a static model for calculating revenue. It assumes that if you raise taxes by, say, 20 percent, that the state will get 20 percent more money. In the real world, people move to lower-tax places or work less or hide more of their income, and the government gets 20 percent of a smaller pie.

If wealthy people keep leaving, then the state will have to pare back its budget. Perhaps the backlash against Mickelson is a sign of desperation by those who understand there just might be limits to how many golden eggs the geese can keep laying.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Write to him at: [email protected]

13 comments

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  1. Ted Steele, Navigator
    Ted Steele, Navigator 28 January, 2013, 08:50

    LOL– “Tee Off On Mickelson”— You’re lucky that the tired overused lazy cliche police have not at least contacted you as a person of interest!

    Reply this comment
  2. Pinko Firefighter
    Pinko Firefighter 28 January, 2013, 09:20

    10 Planks of The Communist Manifesto

    #2 A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. Americans know this as misapplication of the 16th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 1913, The Social Security Act of 1936.; Joint House Resolution 192 of 1933; and various State “income” taxes. We call it “paying your fair share”.

    #10 Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production. Americans are being taxed to support what we call ‘public’ schools, but are actually “government force-tax-funded schools ” Even private schools are government regulated. The purpose is to train the young to work for the communal debt system. We also call it the Department of Education, the NEA and Outcome Based “Education” . These are used so that all children can be indoctrinated and inculcated with the government propaganda, like “majority rules”, and “pay your fair share”. WHERE are the words “fair share” in the Constitution, Bill of Rights or the Internal Revenue Code (Title 26)?? NO WHERE is “fair share” even suggested !! The philosophical concept of “fair share” comes from the Communist maxim, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need! This concept is pure socialism. … America was made the greatest society by its private initiative WORK ETHIC … Teaching ourselves and others how to “fish” to be self sufficient and produce plenty of EXTRA commodities to if so desired could be shared with others who might be “needy”… Americans have always voluntarily been the MOST generous and charitable society on the planet.

    Do changing words, change the end result? … By using different words, is it all of a sudden OK to ignore or violate the provisions or intent of the Constitution of the united States of America?????

    Reply this comment
  3. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 28 January, 2013, 10:40

    @ Pinko Firefighter,

    Is your moniker facetious? You seem very sensibly anti-pinko to me. Be forewarned though, the hit-and-run collectivists who pop up here from time to time will be very upset that you have criticized their hero Karl Marx. Expect to get blow back from ignorant, regressive, reactionary hobgoblins claiming that The General Welfare clause is the equivalent of the Communist Manifesto. All the really smart people know that James Madison and Co. were secret socialists!

    As to Michelson, what a pathetic, emasculated wimp. He makes some tepid and sensible remark complaining about obscene taxation levels and the Big Media buffoons crucify him. Then he whimpers and whines and apologizes for having dared to utter the truth. If he had any testosterone (doubtful since he’s a golf pro) he would double down and give the Big Media creeps an earful, then invite them over to watch him move out of state. Just another deer in the headlights victim of The Big Media slime machine.

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  4. us citizen
    us citizen 28 January, 2013, 10:52

    You go Pinko!!!

    Yes, I was freakin dancing in my boots when Michelson stood up and ridiculed the state and then I wanted to bitch slap him for apologizing for his actions. Im sure some PR guy got to him and made him feel like cow poop.

    No one has any guts anymore. They are PC brainwashed. No wonder this country is in the down spiral. Courage and convictions have flown out the window.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ted Steele, Navigator
    Ted Steele, Navigator 28 January, 2013, 13:45

    Poor Dysphoric– not quite able to get it!

    Reply this comment
  6. Hondo
    Hondo 28 January, 2013, 16:36

    It is the very rich like Phil Mickelson that can up and move to Florida. Tiger Woods admitted thats why he went there. Those are the people who pay the most taxes. Some of the biggest chunks of tax revenue from prop 30 will be on the way to Florida. The 62% tax rate is too close to Frances 75%. A financial minister in France said recently that his country is bankrupt.
    Once again, socialism fails when you run out of other peoples money and the money men run out on you.
    Hondo…

    Reply this comment
  7. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 28 January, 2013, 19:58

    Hondo says:
    January 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm
    A financial minister in France said recently that his country is bankrupt.
    Hondo…

    LOL Well Honda— lol it’s settled then! zzzzzzzzzzzzzz tea baggy dreams……zzzzzzzzzz

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 28 January, 2013, 20:36

    The Moron Ted Steele Methodologies (doofus) says:

    “Teddy don’t know jack”

    Reply this comment
  9. Hondo
    Hondo 29 January, 2013, 18:44

    I watched the final round of the Torry pines golf event and it showed the endless stunning ocean landscapes, time after time. It is a place only billionaires, not simply millionaires, can afford to live anymore. Even someone as rich as Phil Mickelson, can’t afford to live there anymore.
    Tiger saved a hundred million moving to Florida. I’m not sure even he could afford to live in California anymore.
    That 100 million he took to Florida wouldn’t pay the pensions of a hundred GED educated public union employees. Let alone the salaries.
    Hondo…..

    Reply this comment
  10. BobA
    BobA 29 January, 2013, 18:54

    Hondo:

    I know two former colleagues who recently pulled up roots and left California for the same reason and I can hardly blame them. Although they aren’t in the multimillion dollar income bracket they are high income professionals that the state of California seeks to punish and so chose to flee California.

    I know several others who are contemplating the same thing. Might as well leave now before the state gets around to passing a law that imposes an exit tax on businesses and individuals for leaving the state of California. It’s coming…..

    Reply this comment
  11. Ted Steele, Navigator
    Ted Steele, Navigator 30 January, 2013, 15:00

    LOL— I shed huge tears—- Phil Mickelson has mismanaged his finances so badly that he can’t live at his preferred course….lmao—-poor guy—–

    Reply this comment
  12. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 30 January, 2013, 17:54

    Phil Mickelson’s corporate endorsements include Anderson Consulting, one of the largest accounting and asset management firms in the world. If Mickelson or Anderson Consulting can’t do any better than keeping him in the 62% marginal rate, then he should drop the endorsement and find another accounting firm.

    Reply this comment
  13. Ftheunions
    Ftheunions 31 January, 2013, 19:34

    What the morons in Sacramento always fail to realize is that high-capital is highly mobile. When they seek to punish those like Mickelson even further with outright confiscation, they inevitably chase out of California those the state could use the most. The liberal castigation of success and affluence is reprehensible and, one would expect only supported by those with limited ambition and upward mobility. My only criticism of Mickelson is how he so easily caved to the pressure. And BobA, good for your two former colleagues. I’m sure the seemingly constant persecution at the hands of the state was too much to bear. I wish more would do the same to finally choke off the bureaucracy!

    Reply this comment

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