Sunday, August 12, 2012

Economics of Olympics

This post isn't about the billions of dollars NBC will spend on US broadcasting rights for the Summer Games, but more on how politicians are trying to capitalize on the event as well.

When Florida Senator Marco Rubio suggested making the financial bonuses for athletes tax-deductable, President Obama indicated it was a good idea. Forbes did not agree:
Let’s not kid ourselves, the Olympics is big business. Paying athletes performance bonuses for winning medals is no less commercial than anything else the Olympic bosses do. But why this extra cash should be tax-free escapes me. At least hedge fund operators have to pay capital gains taxes on their bonuses.

As my colleague Eric Toder reminds me, there once was a time when this sort of special tax treatment was slipped into revenue bills by high-paid lobbyists in the dark of night. Now, the code has been so corrupted that pols propose this junk without even being asked. For that, I suppose, they deserve the gold medal of stupid tax tricks.
For what it's worth, Politifact ruled supporters' arguments for the exemption were based on fuzzy/misleading math. But it's a reminder no event is above politicizing these days.

There was also an interesting post on The Sports Economist blog refuting suggestions that US Olympic training should be subsidized by the government. I can't imagine the idea would go over terribly well in this climate anyway, but there may be no better argument than "The US has a vibrant private sports market that leads to a lessening of the national importance of the Olympics."

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