Olympic athletes are very special people, but are they more special than, say, Nobel Prize winners, or police officers, or nurses, or spiritual gurus, or brilliant inventors or researchers whose discoveries enhance our lives?

If an election year happens to fall in an Olympics year, yes.

Both presidential candidates have embraced an astonishingly silly but highly populist measure in Congress to exempt Olympic medalists from taxes, an idea that, naturally, originated with that bastion of silly but populist tax proposals, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

The U.S. Olympic Committee awards honorariums in the amount of $25,000 for each gold medal, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze, which means, Norquist’s group sputters, that a gold medalist would be on the hook to send up to $8,986 of his or her winnings to the IRS.

Never mind that the fact-checking organization PolitiFact ruled this claim “Mostly False,” because any decent accountant could reduce that tax bite to as little as zero by deducting the expenses paid to win that medal, such as travel, uniforms, classes, payments to coaches, cost of equipment, etc.

Republicans, with some Democratic support, quickly sponsored legislation in the House and Senate to make Norquist’s notion law, and the White House weighed in by saying that if Congress approves the bill, President Barack Obama will sign it.

Why? There’s no legitimate tax policy reason. Politicians in both parties complain endlessly about the complexity of the U.S. tax code and its many needless loopholes, yet they’re only too happy to add to the complexity and drill another loophole in an election season when liberals and conservatives alike are rooting for Team USA in London.

This mindless bill should be rejected with the authority of a Kerri Walsh Jennings block.

— Los Angeles Times, Aug. 9

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