Shut Up and Swing, Mickelson: We Only Broke Five Bones, Not Six
Golfer gets clubbed in culture war over Entrepreneurial America
by KEN BRAUN
Welcome to the culture war: Entrepreneurial America versus its opponents. One side understands what causes the creation of prosperity, jobs and wealth; the other doesn’t. Each of us is in one camp or the other, but most don’t know or bother to think about it. Professional golfer Phil Mickelson was probably one such person.
This week he found out the price for discovering which side he’s on.
He has never revealed a strong bias in politics. The second-highest money earner in PGA history, his combined prizes and endorsements in 2011 reportedly paid him $62 million. Yet despite allegations that he was playing politics when discussing “drastic changes” in his life in the face of tax hikes, a federal campaign finance search on his last name in his home state (CA) reveals not a single donation to any candidate or cause for his entire professional career (dating back to 1992.)
Absent political motives, we must assume that he gave a truthful account of his business worries, not realizing the offense that would be taken by the enemies of Entrepreneurial America.
If you’re with him, then it all makes sense. All else being equal, when government policy - or anything else - makes success less rewarding, successful people change behavior or redefine success itself. They adapt. They didn’t succeed by being complacent.
Raise their taxes, and they will go where taxes are lower and/or find different ways to find fulfillment. Highly successful people don’t suffer as much from tax hikes as those who benefit from the wealth they create: they have options. If you’re an entrepreneur, grew up with one, or just understand them, this isn’t news.
But this is a mystery to the enemies of Entrepreneurial America. They assume that the successful will continue producing success and wealth no matter what government obstacle is thrown at them, and that Mickelson is no different. “He won’t quit golf,” they say. “He won’t move. We’ll just get more money from him.”
Consider his 2009 season, in which he missed several tour events because first his wife and then his mother were stricken with breast cancer. Behavior can and often does change when the relative value of success is reduced and there are other options that become comparatively more valuable. If the reward for spending yet another year away from his family is reduced by millions of dollars in 2013 and beyond, does it seem possible that a man with this history and wealth might just hang it up and take the easy life?
Yes it does. If he walks away, he closes down or downsizes what is basically a highly successful small business. There are numerous charitable causes that will get much less money, coaches and business assistants who will lose work, and who knows what else.
Of course, the taxpayers will get less from him than they did before his taxes were raised. Everybody loses - but Phil least of all.
At a minimum, does it seem plausible that such a man would leave California so as to mitigate the damage on him and this enterprise? Absolutely.
Similar versions of Mickelson’s “drastic changes” are being made by successful entrepreneurs and CEOs every day. His home state of California is experiencing a multi-billion-dollar exodus of jobs and capital because of punishing taxes aimed at making successful people and businesses “pay their fair share.”
Many of the workers at those California companies don’t have the mobility to chase their jobs. Their company will survive elsewhere, but they will be much worse off because of a policy sold as HELPING middle class people just like them.
There may be two sides fighting the culture war over Entrepreneurial America, but employees stand to lose the most if the enemies win. The enemies deem it rude - whining even - to speak such truth, and they ARE winning.
Under pressure, Mickelson now says he should have kept his mouth shut. He is far from alone: The CEO of Whole Foods was hit with a boycott threat last week when he criticized the damage done to businesses when government nationalized health care; the Papa John’s Pizza CEO faced same when he explained what his business would do to avoid the cost of government health care mandates; and there are others.
Perhaps the most laughable spectacle is those who nit-picked Mickelson’s numbers and concluded that his taxes would not rise to 62 percent - as he claimed off the cuff when talking to a reporter - but instead would rise to “only” 52 percent of his income.
“Shut up and keep swinging, Phil. We only broke five of your bones, not six, you moron.”
Such is the state of Entrepreneurial America. Those who know the score - the successful people who create wealth and jobs - are shown that they will be publicly flogged as political hacks for speaking basic economic truth.
As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said in another context: “This is no time to go wobbly.” American workers need them to find their voice anyway.
Mr. Braun is the Director of Policy for Job Creators Solutions.
Permission to reprint this item is granted, provided that Job Creators Solutions and the author are cited properly.
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