Clay Travis has written one of the most painfully stupid columns I’ve read in a while. And I say that as someone who (1) as a life long libertarian has a skepticism about government interference in the market that’s almost genetic and (2) agrees with his conclusion that yanking the tax exempt status of secondary institutions is the one big stick the government has at its disposal if it wants to bring schools to heel on something like a playoff.
But the rest of it – sheesh. It’s not as cranky as your typical John Feinstein screed, but it’s about as deluded. To summarize:
- Some D-1 schools have athletic departments that make lots of money.
- Some D-1 schools have athletic departments that pay their coaches lots of money.
- All D-1 schools enjoy tax exempt status as non-profit institutions under federal law.
- Because D-1 schools don’t pay taxes on their profits, the free market ceases to exist when it comes to schools negotiating contracts with head coaches.
- Because the government subsidizes college athletic departments – and by extension, those people paid by college athletic departments – it has the right to regulate coaches’ salaries.
I kid you not.
… And the government could get involved.
By using the same rationale they’ve used with banks and General Motors. Once we give you taxpayer money — or in this case, don’t demand tax revenue — the government has argued, we have a right to look at how you’re compensating your employees. If the government can set the pay scales of for-profit companies receiving government money, why can’t they do it for nonprofit colleges that they — and by extension we taxpayers — are subsidizing via the tax code?
Put plainly, they can.
Oy. I feel dumber just from copying and pasting that. If we are going to argue that tax code subsidies are grounds for government intervention in what schools pay their coaches, why stop there? I bet I could line up more than a few people who feel that Michael Adams is grossly overpaid for what he contributes to society.
For that matter, why stop with universities? Does Travis have a clue how many winners and losers the feds pick out in the tax code? Start with the mortgage interest deduction – maybe we can limit how much money builders and realtors make (assuming the real estate market rises from the dead, that is). Or take the biggest break of all, on employer health care cost contributions. There’s the way to bring those pesky doctors and insurance company execs around on reforming health care!
Travis is in outright denial about this.
“I go back to professional baseball and Alex Rodriguez making $25 million a year. Or to Julia Roberts and $20 million for one movie. Are those people worth it? Of course not. But if that’s what the marketplace is and enough people are willing to watch Alex play or Julia Roberts in a movie, they have a right to get that.
“I don’t think this is any different.”
It’s very different. You can’t cite examples of for-profit corporations paying salaries to major league baseball players or movie stars in order to justify your college coaching salaries. You just can’t.
Really? How many professional sports franchises have been the beneficiaries of government largess for things like tax breaks and outright subsidies for stadiums? (And check out the regs on depreciation sometime, Clay.) How many states give the movie and television industries tax breaks as an enticement for their business? It’s the nature of the beast in this day and age.
And what’s his point, anyway? If the schools are paying their coaches too much money in Travis’ estimation, why punish the coaches for that? Shouldn’t the penalties fall on the schools who are taking advantage of us gullible taxpayers? Why not make them refund some of their excess profits back to us, or at least to those who made contributions to these schools? (By the way, those contributions are tax deductible, which means that the government is subsidizing those of us who contribute, which by extension means that… oh, never mind.)
I think you get my drift here. We’re all sucking on the government teat, my friends. Well, maybe not that guy holed up in the cave in Utah, but the rest of us. If it makes you feel better to screw over Bob Stoops, so be it. But don’t complain too much when the slippery slope rolls by your house.