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Golfing for dollars

I am not the only one to have recently suggested ways for California to ease its projected $42 billion budget deficit on the “supply side.” One of the more interesting and inflammatory suggestions to have come from Sacramento this year is to tax, for the first time (Did you know this? I mean, that it has never been TAXED before?), playing golf.

I must admit that I often feel much the same as the late, 2008 Mark Twain Prize-winning comedian, George Carlin, felt about golf. Mr. Carlin said that he got “more excited picking out socks” than watching golf on TV, which he also likened to “watching flies <analogy deleted>.”

Before we go on, I would like to say that much of the discussion below is tongue-in-cheek, since I realize that many thinking-judging people, who may also play golf, are quite “literal.” These are the same type of folks who misunderstood “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift in 1729. (My ancestors came from Ireland, and it doesn’t bother ME!) I would not want these folks to ruin their blood-pressure monitors over humor. :-)

I understand the immediate gut reaction of golfers. It was only several years ago that I concluded that golf is a metaphor for a “hunting party.” Yes, caddies are “hunting guides.” Everything from the specialized equipment, to the language (“shoot,” hole-in-one,” birdie,” and the use of “clubs”), the fact that golf was originally pretty much a male-dominated bonding activity, the ritualized clothing, and the highly variable nature of golf courses all fit with the hunting metaphor. Hunting is a pretty ingrained activity for humans, and even thinking-judging people who like metaphors and hate recoil must have some aspect of hunting “in their DNA.” :-) Well, embattled golfers from California created their own Web site and formed their own coalition, the California Alliance for Golf – a veritable “militia” of golfers! Yes, I think that Arnold struck a nerve.

Golfers are outraged that their sport has been “singled out” for taxation, since bowling, tennis, softball, and other sports are not taxed.

But has golf really been singled out…?

If golf is a metaphor for hunting, engaged in by some people (some of whom might be fearful of guns) who dislike loud noises (even the “golf clapping” is soft) and recoil (they MIGHT try archery), it might be interesting to look at taxation of the nonmetaphorical (i.e., “real”) hunting in California, and the economics of hunting in California and the United States. Fortunately, California’s Department of Fish and Game has created a Web page with the numbers for 1996. (And fortunately, the good folks at Google have made it possible for me to find the page with almost no effort at all….) Not only is almost every aspect of hunting taxed and regulated (especially in California!), revenue from hunters has a nationwide economic impact of about $61 billion in the U.S. (I know, I know, not much by “banker bailout standards.” Hey! A lot of them golf! :-) ) In California, “hunters added $1.4 billion to state tax revenues, or nearly 1% of all annual state tax revenues.

Many people do not know that fish and wildlife conservation in America has been funded traditionally by “user fees (hunting and fishing licenses; migratory bird stamps; and excise taxes on arms, ammunition, archery, and fishing equipment, and motorboat fuel taxes),” according to the working draft (1) prepared by the 2008 White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy Work Group (2). However, this traditional tax base is now proving insufficient for the current costs of conservation efforts.

(OK, steady your blood-pressure monitors – here comes the tongue-in-cheek “modest proposal” part….)

If traditional taxation of the sporting equipment and activities of hunters and fishermen (fisherpeople?) is currently insufficient for the needs of modern conservation (let alone the $42 billion budget deficit of California), why NOT enlist the efforts of golfers to take up some of the slack? :-)

Taxation and regulation of golf are long overdue! :-) For example, why isn’t there a “waiting period” for, and licensing and registration of, golf clubs? These clubs are clearly “deadly weapons” in the hands of the “wrong people” :-) (even certain former Presidents). :-) Besides, golfers do not have the Constitutional Right to keep and bear clubs (golfing is a PRIVILEGE)! Increased taxation of golfers, many of whom can clearly afford it, might also help to pay for the ecological damage caused by runoff from golf courses, which contains fertilizer and pesticide residues. This runoff, almost undoubtedly, decreases the revenues from taxing fishermen and adds to the economic burden of the state! :-)

If the taxation of golf is insufficient for the budget deficit, it is probably time to start looking at bowling, tennis, softball, and other sports. And a waiting period for baseball bats is probably long overdue…. :-)

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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