Friday, 19 September 2014

Why I Am NOT a Democrat: Reason #852

I have been living in France for a while now; I am very happy to be here.  

Don't get me wrong - I love my country, and I am proud to be an American.  But being an American is at times just exhausting.  And when I feel like I miss the old country, I know I can count on my friends back home to remind me that there are more benefits living in Europe than just efficient trains and good, affordable wine.

A Facebook friend today posted yet another link about how American politicians are looking to strip the National Football League (NFL) of its tax-exempt status.

Yes, I know.  I, too, am shocked that a league that paid its chairman $44 MILLION in 2013, and generates $9 billion in revenues is not subject to tax.  Apparently, it's true - the league files under 501(c)-(6) business organisation.  Which is to say, it is a business association created not for its own enrichment, but to promote the activities of its members.

It's insanity, of course, but one that other leagues (the NHL, the PGA) also avail themselves of, as did the professional baseball MLB until 1997, when it agreed to give up such status.

I have -no- problem at all with asking an obvious for-profit business to pay taxes.  I suspect few do.  In fact, conservative senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced legislation a couple of years ago to do just that, and got nowhere.  It was not reported, and died quietly.

No - the two-pronged attack here illustrates why I find the Democratic party ultimately less palatable than virtually any alternative.  

On the one side, we have Harry Reid (D-NV) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) proposing to strip the league not because it's grossly unfair, but because the NFL "allows" the franchise in Washington to use a mascot that is offensive to some.

Cantwell helped craft legislation specifically to allow the other tax-phobic leagues to continue not to pay:

The bill is narrowly crafted to prohibit tax-exempt status only for professional sports leagues that promote use of the term used by Washington's football team, meaning it would not affect other sports leagues, such as the NHL and PGA, which also receive the exemption.
"American taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize a $9 billion league that promotes a dictionary-defined racial slur," Cantwell said in a statement. She announced she would introduce such legislation at a Tuesday news conference held by a coalition of Native American tribes and social justice groups who are pressing the Washington team to change its name.
There is further moral preening and grandstanding, which is what all this is.

It's not that I disagree that the term "Redskins" is offensive, or that really, for the sake of decency, the team should voluntarily change it.  

But the tax code exists solely to raise funds to run the government.  It is not and should not be a cudgel to enforce manners.  

On the other side, camera-friendly Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) has proposed legislation to remove the tax exemption and use the funds that would come from the NFL- approximately $100 million per year - to pay for various programmes dealing with domestic violence.

All of this ostensibly because of the recent disgusting cases where Ray Rice violently assaulted his fiancee (she later married him) or Adrian Peterson beat one of his multiple children (all from different mothers, none of whom he married), the injuries captured on film.

Again, I find domestic violence appalling, and I think funding programmes to fight it are laudable.

But the tax code exists solely to raise funds to run the government.  It is not and should not be used as a tool to discipline a league filled with thugs to clean up their behaviour.

This is something that seems to escape most Democrats, and why they simply cannot be entrusted with the power of the purse.  

Taxation is a tool.  We have government services that we need, and some others that we want.  We can and should discuss these services, and of course, if we demand them, we can and should discuss how to pay for them.  

But once the tax code is turned into a weapon, and that weapon is put into the hands of arbiters of what is proper behaviour, we cross a quite dangerous line.  

I don't know if Cantwell or Reid or Booker actually believes that their pet legislation has a Cleveland Browns Super Bowl Championships' chance of ever passing, and I suppose that each, sensing that the Democrats are in deep trouble in the 2014 mid-terms, is trying to pander as quickly and obviously as they can to revive the "War on Women" trope.  

But I say, let them pander, preen, and pronounce in front of fawning cameras and then leave the serious discussion of tax policy to the adults.

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