Monday, March 3, 2014

What conservatives should be saying.

A few weeks ago, ex-Denver Bronco quarterback John Elway shared his political philosophy with Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “I don’t believe in safety nets,” declared Elway — who is currently executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos. Elway seems like a really nice guy. But he should know better.
The taxpayers of Denver paid $300 million for the stadium his team calls home. Which is a whopping 75 percent of the cost of construction. As a result, Elway’s team owns 100 percent of a beautiful stadium for which they paid only a 25 percent share to build. The money the Broncos saved (courtesy of Denver taxpayers) would have helped underwrite Elway’s $4 million-a-year salary when he was their quarterback — 20 years ago.
Even now — by foregoing any ownership interest in the stadium, those same taxpayers continue to subsidize Elway’s executive salary — not to mention Peyton Manning’s $15 million annual paycheck. After fleecing fans for $7 bucks a beer at Bronco home games, the least Elway could do is stop adding insult to injury by begrudging unemployment insurance to the out-of-work in Orange Crush nation.
Elway must also realize that the “safety net” he’s dismissing (for people who actually need it) is currently cushioning the corporate coffers of more companies than just his beloved Broncos. The National Football League grossed more than $9 billion last year and paid zero taxes. In fact the NFL has never paid any taxes at all because it is a “non-profit” organization — unlike either the NBA or Major League Baseball.
No doubt the NFL’s army of expensive lawyers, lobbyists and PR flacks will insist that taxpayers are supporting a worthy cause — like subsidizing the $44 million annual salary package of their commissioner, Roger Goodell. He too seems like a really nice guy. They’re all nice guys.
Few people have thrown a football better than John Elway. God bless him. And Goodell — son of a U.S. senator, three-sport athlete at Bronxsville High School, and graduate in economics from Washington & Jefferson College — is probably worth every penny of his $44 million taxpayer-subsidized salary.
Don’t get me wrong, they all should earn as much money as their talent and initiative allows. But please at least have the plain old-fashioned American decency to acknowledge that those huge salaries are made possible because of a taxpayer-supported infrastructure. Dare I say, a corporate “safety net”? Let’s just assume there are probably many good reasons why millions of taxpayers should help pump up the profits of a single company like the Denver Broncos. And let’s assume that it also makes good public policy sense for hundreds of millions of taxpayers to subsidize a non-profit corporation like the NFL.
Still, there’s something downright creepy in the soft-spoken, aw-shucks manner of some people who — while benefiting handsomely from taxpayer-subsidized businesses of their own — go out of their way to decry taxpayer support for things like universal healthcare and free public education which are essential building blocks of the very “opportunity society” they claim to want for everybody else.
Let’s face it.  The problem isn’t Ted Nugent, or even Ted Cruz. Most people recognize insanity when they see it. The real problem comes when seemingly reasonable guys like John Elway start popping off about people on Social Security, or Medicare, or unemployment assistance, or public pensions.
Call me crazy but crapping on teachers and cops just doesn’t strike me as a classy thing to do.
My father-in-law, Ed Worth, is a rock-ribbed Republican and a very decent guy: retired Navy, devout Catholic — the whole nine yards. A peaceful family get together at his house usually means keeping the conversation focused on grandchildren and sports — that is, until John Elway opened his mouth.
So earlier this month, we got into it big time. And the results genuinely surprised me. I agreed with him that welfare and pension abuse should be ruthlessly rooted out of the system. He agreed with me that wealth should be taxed at the same rate as work. He even went a step further. He proceeded to lay out for me the “Ed Worth Tax Reform Plan.”
Whatever a family needs to live on — call it the first $50,000 of everybody’s income — should be tax-free. Every last dollar after that — whether from the sweat of your brow or the savvy of your broker — should be taxed at the exact same rate (say 20 percent). No caps. No exemptions. No exceptions.
Amen to that.
Now if only John Elway was listening, maybe we could actually get somewhere.