Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

January 25, 2013

Morgan: Lefty and taxes, no need to apologize

By Ron Morgan
CNHI

Corsicana — A few days ago, Phil Mikelson came out and said he would have to make some drastic changes because of taxes. Currently, he has to pay out 63% of his income in taxes. Think about that for a minute: $.63 out of every $1.00 he earns. What does drastic include? Lefty doesn’t say. It could be moving out of California with their 13.5% state income tax. It could be giving up golf. It might even include pulling a Gerard Depardieu and leaving the country for someplace with lower taxes.

Within a day or two, Phil was issuing a preemptive apology. By preemptive, I mean an apology before an uproar could hit the metaphorical fan. Phil said, “Finances and taxes are a personal matter, and I should not have made my opinions public. I apologize to those I have upset or insulted and assure you I intend not to let It happen again.”

I don’t know the origins of his preemptive apology, but I guess that it came from either the PGA Tour, his sponsors, his Twitter responses or his wife’s bridge group. I just think it’s sad that someone should have to apologize for their opinion.While his finances are a personal matter, I don’t think taxes are. If you can insult people by complaining about taxes being too high, then I need to apologize as well.?

Oh, I can hear it now.  Phil can afford it.  Mikelson has made millions and millions of dollars from what? Playing golf? Yes he can afford it.  His family won’t go hungry or shoeless.  However, that’s not the point. The point is that his money is money he made. To think that well over half goes to government if obscene whether he made $20,000 last year or $20 million (actually it was closer to $47 million.) That is Phil’s golf swing, and yes, he did build it.

Lots of people will read about this and think it’s ridiculous for someone to make that kind of money for playing golf. Hey, that’s what the market pays. People are willing to pay good money to watch Phil play golf. Sponsors make the financial decision that paying him all that money will make them even more. That’s the free market. That’s free enterprise.

No one is willing to pay me $47 million to play golf. Heck, no one would be willing to pay me $47 to play (actually, they charge me to play).  Phil makes what the market will bear.

It is a shame that people have to apologize these days for being successful.  Successful people make what they make because of hard work and talent. There is a reason that Larry McMurtry sells millions of books, while 14 people read this column.  There is also a reason that Todd Wills gets a six figure income while I get Raymond’s leftover Halloween candy for writing this column. It’s all about talent and the hard work to make use of it.

It’s not just hard work. People who dig ditches work hard, probably harder than Phil does (certainly harder than I do.)  Which is harder to find, someone who knows how to use a shovel well, or someone who can work magic with a sand wedge? I can work as hard as is humanly possible, but I’ll never be able to wield a scalpel as well as any of the Doctors Campbell in town. They have a skill through their education that I will never have. People make sacrifices to perfect their skills. If there is a big demand for those skills, the market will reward them. There are several million people with the skill to sack groceries; therefore they can never expect to make what a doctor does.

So, apology or not, Phil Mikelson will make a decision based on economics. Does he stay in California where his parents live and his kids have always attended school, or does he move to say, Texas or Florida where there is no state income tax (or will Vlad Putin offer him Russian citizenship as he did Depardieu?).

Actions have consequences, intended or not. If we tax corporations at a higher rate than any other country, we shouldn’t be surprised if they move somewhere else. If California raises their tax rate, they shouldn’t be shocked if those who can move elsewhere.

As an aside to Phil: About two miles from my office is the Vaquero development where several PGA golfers live. It has a Fazio designed golf course, great practice facilities and it’s only minutes from the DFW airport. Just sayin’.  Hey, multimillionaire golfers need insurance too.