Piece of Trash

A recent story about an upcoming golfing event struck me as most interesting. As we are told:

Vijay Singh is apparently going to participate in the Korn Ferry Challenge — the first Korn Ferry Tour event of the revised season after the COVID-19 hiatus — next month at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

That move, though, didn’t sit well with at least one other professional golfer, who called Singh “a piece of trash” on Twitter after seeing his name on the list of participants.

Now Vijay Singh, for those of you who are out of touch with golf, is a very wealthy professional golfer who has been playing golf for many years  and decided to crash the Korn Ferry Challenge to tune up his game for an upcoming PGA event. The Korn Ferry tour is something like the minor leagues in baseball — except the players are not paid a salary and must rely on winnings to make ends meet. These are mostly young players who hope one day to play on the much more lucrative PGA tour. In the meantime they play off the stage and out of the spotlight for peanuts.

To get an idea of the vast difference in the size of the purses on the two tours, we might note that the total purse of a single Korn Ferry event is $1 million, with $180,000 going to the winner and the rest of the field receiving proportionally less. By contrast, the total purse on the PGA Championship is $11 million with $1.98  going to the winner — nearly twice as much as the entire purse on a typical Korn Ferry event.

I listened to a discussion of this story on the Golf Channel and it was intriguing. While one of the talking heads, a young woman, defended the young player for trashing Singh another older player defended him on the grounds that there is no rule against his playing and it’s “just how things are.”

The young woman reminded him that during these last couple of months the golfers have all gone without any income whatever and while the very wealthy ones at the top can make do (!) those at the bottom — like those on the Korn Ferry tour, must take other jobs to pay the bills. Many of them have families with young children. Singh is older and very wealthy and, so far as I know, does not have young mouths to feed.

What intrigues me about this is the fact that someone (anyone) could defend Singh for basically elbowing his way into the tournament! And, given that there is a limited number of players who can play the Challenge, he takes the place of a younger player who truly needs the money he might make by winning the tournament — or even placing high in the final standings.

Is it possible that this man doesn’t see the moral problem here? He says Singh is not breaking the rules, and this is true. But doing the right thing is often a matter of ignoring the rules. What we have here is another example of a very wealthy man who fails to recognize the plight of others who are in need.

It makes me just a little bit sick.

Phil Is Troubled

I was struck by the following story on Fox News about golfer Phil Mickelson’s tax problems:

For golf legend Phil Mickelson, the low 60s makes for a great score on the links — and a lousy tax rate in his home state of California.

Mickelson said “drastic changes” are ahead for him due to federal and California state tax increases that have pushed his tax rate to what he figures adds up to “62, 63 percent.” The left-hander will talk more about his plans — possibly moving out of California or even retiring altogether. . .

I must confess I didn’t read about this problem at Fox News. I don’t make a habit of watching that TV “News” program or reading their drivel. But I had heard about Phil’s problems and checked it out and was (not surprisingly) directed to the Fox News item. It is being carried there, I suspect, because it is a story about an American icon who is being burned by the terrible tax burden he is now under as a result of the recent events in both Washington and California. Fox’s readers and viewers are expected to sympathize with Phil. Phil’s taxes are going up and he is distraught. Poor Phil.

Consider the fact that Phil makes an estimated $48 million a year, $43 million in endorsements alone. This puts him in a very high tax bracket indeed, not only from the Fed but also from California which recently passed Proposition 30 that raised taxes on the wealthy — which Phil certainly is. In any event, Phil will now be left with a meager $18 million to somehow try to get along on. I must say, I think I could manage, but then I am not accustomed to living the lifestyle Phil undoubtedly lives. I suppose he may have to buy a smaller plane. But, seriously folks, doesn’t that still seem to you to be an incredibly large annual income?

I heard about Phil’s plight on the Golf Channel while I was watching “The Morning Drive.”  The talking heads on that show were disappointed that Phil would drag out his dirty laundry in public. They didn’t comment on the obscene amount of money Phil would still be left with, but they thought it would have been best if he had kept this sort of thing between himself and his wife or his accountant. Good point. I give them high marks for that — though as you can imagine I would have gone a bit further. They did point out, however, that the average bloke out there who is  having trouble putting food on the table probably doesn’t want to hear a millionaire piss and moan about the fact that he has to pay higher taxes this year. Indeed.

But the larger point here is the lack of perspective of the very wealthy — which we saw in many of Mitt Romney’s comments during the recent campaign. They just don’t get it. Most people would have no idea what to do with $18 million in a lifetime, much less in a year. And yet Mickelson is now threatening to leave California or retire from golf because he is miffed about the fact that he will have to share a great deal of his money with those less fortunate than himself. After all, that’s what taxes are about: promoting the “common good.” And it might be wise to remind ourselves (and Phil) that this country enjoyed its greatest prosperity right after the Second World War when the wealthy in this country were paying taxes at the rate of around 90%. It might also help if we all think about the fact that Norwegians are taxed at a rate of 45% of their income and according to a recent study they are the happiest people on earth. Be cool, Phil.