More than catnip, this latest conservative tax myth is like a designer drug for the Fox News set, tailored perfectly for maximum impact at a time when Americans are hungry for anything Olympics-related. The offense: According to Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist’s anti-tax outfit, President Obama’s IRS will tax Olympic winners up to $9,000 after they return home victorious from London. Conservative blogs are having a field day and Republican politicians are clamoring to capitalize on news. Darling Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida introduced a bill to exempt Olympians’ winnings from taxes and an adviser to Mitt Romney told reporters today, “He believes that there should be no taxation of the type you are describing.” They’re calling on Obama to support the plan.
The only problem: It’s not really true. In addition to their medals, American winners are given prize money from the U.S. Olympic Committee: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze. Their medals are also worth about $675, $385 and under $5, respectively. ATR says this all gets taxed at 35 percent, meaning a gold medalist owes $8,986, silver winners owe $5,385, and bronzers owe $3,502.
First off, the medals aren’t subject to taxes. Mark Jones, the communications director for the U.S. Olympic Committee told Salon in an email, “There is no ‘value’ to medals and there is no tax associated with it.”
As for the prize money, according to Politifact, ATR’s claim is “mostly false.” Consulting accountants who have worked with athletes, the fact-checking website noted that while the money is certainly taxable, athletes could deduct all the expenses that went into getting them to the podium, including travel costs, equipment, training and coaching fees from the previous year. Those are all considered business expenses, and could lower or even eliminate an athlete’s tax liability, depending how much they spent. Moreover, the 35 percent rate assumes athletes are in the highest income bracket, earning over $380,000 a year. While some Olympians certainly make millions, the majority of athletes probably do not. Many are barely scraping by, lacking sponsorship deals and unable to work full-time due to training demands. (We wrote yesterday about marathoner Guor Marial, who works from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. at a home for mentally disabled adults every night so he can spend his days training.) This would put them in a lower tax bracket where they would pay far less, or even nothing, on their winnings, even before deductions.
A quick Nexis search revealed zero stories from 2004 and 2008 about Olympians being taxed for their winnings. One would think, judging by how much attention the story is getting today, that there would have been articles written then about disappointed athletes who returned home to find a hefty tax bill. We did find several stories like that, but they were all from Canada.
Moreover, while it may be politically popular to exempt Olympic winnings, there’s no real reason why they should be treated any differently from, say, the prize money that comes with winning a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize, or even the lottery, all of which are taxed like any other income. Past Nobel laureates have complained about being taxed for their prize, which at about $1.4 million, would produce a much larger bill than the gold medalist’s winnings.
“There is no principled basis to tax Olympic prizes any less than Nobel prizes, earnings or lottery winnings. If Congress wants to give Olympic winners more money, it should transparently give them more money rather than create an obscure tax expenditure to do exactly the same thing,” David Miller, a tax attorney with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York, told Salon.
So Rubio and Romney, are Nobel laureates any less deserving than Olympians of special treatment?
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, August 2, 2012
The animal kingdom has been inhospitable to Mitt Romney in this election cycle.
First there was the damaging story of Seamus, the Irish setter he strapped to the roof of the Romneys’ car on a family trip.
Now it seems that, when it comes to Romney’s political aspirations, Seamus may not be the most dangerous animal in the family menagerie. This past week belonged to Rafalca, the dancing horse.
Rafalca, a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare owned in part by the Romneys, qualified as a member of the U.S. Olympic team and will compete in London in the dressage competition — a form of ballet for horses and their riders in which the animals do pirouettes and serpentines. They also do piaffes, which, according to the International Equestrian Federation, is a “highly collected, cadenced, elevated diagonal movement” in which “the haunches with active hocks are well engaged.” Rafalca, after qualifying, flew across the Atlantic on a FedEx jet (no, they didn’t strap her to the roof) and reportedly dined on an in-flight meal of watermelon.
Understandably, Romney was wary about discussing dressage when NBC’s Brian Williams asked him in London on Wednesday about his equine Olympian. “You actually have a horse in the race. What’s that gonna be like?”
“Well,” Romney replied. “It’s — a big — exciting experience for my wife and — and for the person that she’s worked with, the trainer of the horse who’s riding the horse. And — obviously, it’s fun to be part of the Olympics in any way you can be part of them.”
Williams followed up: “When is the event, and for those of us who don’t follow the sport, what happens? Are there rounds that — of competition? Is there just one chance? What happens?”
Romney pleaded ignorance. “I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not — be — watching — the event. I hope — her horse does well.”
It was arguably Romney’s worst interview since Chris Wallace asked him about Seamus. The flustered candidate went on to disparage the British preparation for the Olympics, setting off an international incident.
It’s understandable that Romney would be reluctant to discuss dressage. Seamus may have made him look odd, or insensitive. Rafalca makes him look like a super-rich playboy.
John Kerry was made to look effete in 2004 by Republican mockery of his windsurfing, his Turnbull & Asser shirts and his French fluency. Now Democrats have a chance to do something similar to Romney, with his Swiss bank account, his Grand Cayman and Bermuda tax havens, his multiple homes, his $10,000 bet, his friends who own NASCAR teams, and now the six-figure horses his wife imports from Europe. Nothing says “man of the people” quite like horse ballet.
Ann Romney takes umbrage at the criticism, saying that dressage has helped with her multiple sclerosis. That was enough to get the Democratic National Committee to back away from a video campaign showing Rafalca spliced with Mitt Romney “dancing around” questions about his tax returns.
While it’s heartening that Ann Romney has been helped by the horses, most MS sufferers don’t have the luxury of importing $100,000 horses from Europe. And the candidate’s disavowal of dressage as “Ann’s sport” isn’t quite right.
In an interview with the Web site Chronicle of the Horse, Rafalca’s trainer, Jan Ebeling, said Mitt Romney selected the music for the horse’s routine at an international competition; Ebeling, in another interview, said the former Massachusetts governor, inspired by his wife, “really enjoys the horses.” Romney joined his wife at an Olympic qualifying dressage event in April 2008, and the couple declared a $77,731 loss on their 2010 tax returns for their share of Rafalca’s care.
That’s a lot of hay (and another possible reason for the candidate’s disinclination to release more tax returns), but consider what the Romneys get for their money: a horse that can do not only a Reinback, a Shoulder-in and a Travers, but a Flying Change of Leg, a Renvers and a Half-Pass.
“The object of Dressage is the development of the Horse into a happy Athlete through harmonious education,” the equestrian federation explains. “As a result, it makes the Horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen.”
Sounds as if this is worth seeing. For the record, the dressage events begin Aug. 2 at Greenwich Park. You can bet Mitt Romney won’t be there.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 27, 2012
Mitt Romney’s slips of the tongue aren’t the problem: It’s what he says when he’s thinking.
Mitt Romney is getting a lot of grief for the not-so-auspicious beginning to his first overseas trip as leader of the Republican party. In case you’ve been trapped in a well for the last two days, when he was asked by Brian Williams how, in his expert opinion, he thought London was doing in preparing for the start of the Olympics, instead of offering the expected polite banality (“I’m sure it’s going to be terrific”), Romney said something a bit more honest, saying that there were “a few things that were disconcerting” about the preparations. The Brits were not amused, and he got very public pushback from both Prime Minister David Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson. It’s all well and good to enjoy Romney’s misfortune on this score. But let’s not forget: The real problem with Romney isn’t what he blurts out by accident, it’s what he says when he has plenty of time to consider his words.
As I’ve written a zillion times, running for president is very difficult, and one of the hardest things is having every word that comes out of your mouth recorded, analyzed, and often twisted around and taken out of context. No one, and I mean no one, can go through that process without saying something that gets them in trouble on a fairly regular basis. Even the most talented politicians had their share of “gaffes.” Barack Obama has. Bill Clinton did. Ronald Reagan did. No matter how good you are, it’ll happen. And if you’re not very good (and even Mitt Romney’s admirers won’t say he’s a natural politician) it’s going to happen even more.
Many of Romney’s gaffes can be pretty easily forgiven. When he said “Corporations are people, my friend,” for instance, he was trying to say that corporate profits eventually find their way to humans. In the case of the Olympic gaffe, other than being undiplomatic, there wasn’t anything inherently horrible about what he said. But if you look broadly at Romney’s rhetoric, what you see is not only that he tells extemporaneous lies quite frequently, but more important, he repeats lies long after it has become clear that they are in fact wrong.
There are plenty of examples; one of my favorites is how for years, Romney has been saying that Barack Obama “went around the world apologizing for America,” a claim that is just false. And the latest example is how Romney has dishonestly ripped from context an Obama quote about how businesses benefit from the collective effort of other citizens and from government. It would be one thing if Romney used his distortion of Obama’s words to needle him in a couple of speeches. But Romney has practically decided to base his entire campaign on it, from making ads about it to printing signs about it, to organizing events around it. And I promise you, neither Mitt Romney nor any sane person who works for him actually believes that what Obama meant to say was that people who own businesses didn’t actually build their businesses. They know what he said and they know what he meant, but they decided that they don’t really give a crap.
And this tendency, far more than all of Romney’s “gaffes,” is what really gives us insight into who he is. Perhaps as president Romney would only lie about unimportant things, and to no greater degree than the average president. But his performance so far suggests otherwise.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 27, 2012
“Anglo Saxon Statesman”: Romney Brags About Meeting With Chief Of U.K.’s Top-Secret MI6 Intelligence Service
Eyebrows going up about Romney’s claim to have met the Sir John Sawers, the chief of MI6. Asked about Syria by an American reporter whether he and Cameron spoke about Syria and he replies: “I appreciated the insights and perspectives of the leaders of the government here and the opposition here as well as the head of MI6″
As The Guardian explains:
For our American readership, this isn’t like bragging you just met David Petraeus. The British take on the national secret intelligence service comes with an extra-heavy dollop of the whole secret thing. The very existence of the MI6 was not officially acknowledged until 1994.Good luck, Romney handlers: this is only stop No. 1 on a three-stop international tour. What will he say in Jerusalem?
Maybe if MI6 also handled Romney’s tax returns then he could have kept his mouth shut?
Or perhaps he was simply distracted by trying to put out the fire caused by his other gaffe: saying that he doubted Great Britain’s ability to pull off the games.
“You know, it’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” Romney said. “There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the – private security firm not having enough people – the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”
Prime Minister David Cameron reassured Romney that everything would turn out just fine, adding a bit of a rebuke to Romney: “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world,” Cameron said. “Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.” Romney, who has made “No Apology” the centerpiece of his foreign policy, subsequently apologized, walking backhis comments doubting London’s readiness.
I guess the moral of the story is that Mitt Romney has all of Dick Cheney’s diplomatic talent … with none of his charm.
By: Jed Lewiston, Daily Kos, July 26, 2012