January 28, 2013

AP’s Ferguson Apparently Upset That Mickelson ‘Didn’t Apologize For What He Said — Only That He Said It’

Californians will be surprised to learn that the income-tax increase voters approved in November was, according to Doug Ferguson at the Associated Press (HT Steven Greenhut at Reason.com), “the first tax increase in the state since 2004.” I had no idea that residents of the once-Golden state have been so lucky in avoiding any tax increases of any kind for so long. (/sarc)

It would appear that Ferguson, in his coverage of golfer Phil Mickelson’s mea culpa for having the nerve to observe that California’s onerous taxes might lead him to make difficult decisions which might even include retirement, meant to write that California has seen no statewide income tax increase in nearly a decade. But that isn’t what he wrote. Maybe I should cut the AP reporter some slack because he’s on the sports beat, and in context, one could see that he was probably only referring to income taxes. But I won’t, because of the final excerpted sentence seen after the jump (bolds are mine):

Mickelson apologizes for public airing of tax issues

Phil Mickelson turned to his biggest blunder on the golf course to apologize for his latest mistake with his mouth.

Mickelson caused a sensation this week by saying new federal and state tax rates kept him from being part of the San Diego Padres’ new ownership group and might cause him to move away from his native California as part of “drastic changes” brought on by the political climate.

He said Wednesday it was a “big mistake” to go public with his views, and he illustrated it with his worst moment in golf.

Mickelson was on the verge of finally winning the U.S. Open when he had a one-shot lead on the final hole at Winged Foot. He drove left onto the corporate tents, and then tried to hit 3-iron around a tree. It led to a double bogey that cost him the championship.

After his final round of the Humana Challenge, he said the federal tax rate combined with California passing Proposition 30 — the first tax increase in the state since 2004 — would force him to make big changes.

… “I think that it was insensitive to talk about it publicly to those people who are not able to find a job, that are struggling paycheck to paycheck,” Mickelson said. “I think that was insensitive to discuss it in that forum.”

He didn’t apologize for what he said — only that he said it.

Ferguson is clearly disappointed and possibly angry that Mickelson wouldn’t “apologize for what he said.”

Mickelson “didn’t apologize for what he said,” Doug, because what he said is factually accurate, and his reactions to his and his family’s current circumstances are what he really feels. It’s legitimate to talk about whether he should have said it, but not because of what you think of him. The primary reasons athletes and entertainers should usually be seen and not heard outside of their professional venues are that they are often woefully uninformed or misinformed (not the case here with Mickelson) and that they’re usually better off avoiding distractions which might damage their concentration and hurt their on-field or on-stage performance.

Ferguson would be right at home with Orwell’s Thought Police. The final excerpted sentence crystallizes what has become a clear attempt by the press to intimidate Mickelson and any other well-paid athlete who might consider opening up about how taxes are negatively impacting their lives, business decisions, and their choice of where to live into future silence. Don’t talk about it, guys and gals, or we’ll hammer you mercilessly — even if you’re right. Too bad for Doug and the Thought Police that they can’t stop Mickelson, if he so chooses, from voting with his feet to leave the once-Golden State.

Ferguson, as noted above, wrote that Proposition 30 is “the first tax increase in the state since 2004.” Doug, even setting aside the fact that many counties and municipalities in the state have surely increased taxes during the past eight-plus years, Prop 30 wasn’t even the first statewide increase in nine years (there is no direct reference to “income” taxes in the AP reporter’s writeup), and it took me about two minutes to figure that out by finding the following story:

Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 2010 —

California the tax increase leader for 2009
California, among 24 states to boost taxes last year, raised $11 billion in new taxes, thanks to a 1 percent sales tax increase.

California led the nation in tax hikes in 2009, a year in which 24 states boosted taxes to cope with recessionary budget woes, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

One final question: Why would it even necessarily be a problem if Ferguson had been right and there had been no tax increase of any kind for nine years? Most taxes go up as the basis for their assessment (income, purchases, property values, etc.) increases. So, in general, a tax increase means that the government covets a larger share of the private sector’s output. Apparently in Doug Ferguson’s world, if the government doesn’t get larger and more intrusive at least once every nine years, there’s some kind of problem.

If Ferguson’s lack of clarity in explaining the basics of taxation is typical among his sportwriter colleagues, it would appear that the people who should really stick to sports and avoid politics and other matters off the field are the ones in his chosen profession.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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