California golfer Phil "Lefty" Mickelson says he will no longer publicly criticize the government for taking most of his paycheck. That's a shame. But even if it's now socially unacceptable for high achievers to suggest they should keep the fruits of their labor, that doesn't mean they will keep supplying that labor.
After a brilliant round Sunday at a tournament in La Quinta, California, Mr. Mickelson hinted that new tax burdens might drive him out of the state, out of professional golf, and perhaps even out of the country. "There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state, and it doesn't work for me right now," he said. "So I'm going to have to make some changes."
The fan favorite who has won 40 events on the PGA tour described various state and federal levies and concluded that his tax rate now exceeds 60%. The sticker shock is understandable, now that President Obama has succeeded in raising the top income-tax rate this year to 39.6% from 35% and the top Medicare rate almost a full point to 3.8%. Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown persuaded Californians last fall to raise the top state income tax rate to 13.3%.
Mr. Mickelson was beginning to spark a useful conversation about the way that confiscatory tax rates discourage productive effort. But the critics began to emerge on various websites, and, alas, on Monday night the golfer took a rhetorical mulligan. "Finances and taxes are a personal matter, and I should not have made my opinions on them public," Mr. Mickelson said in a statement. "I apologize to those I have upset or insulted, and assure you I intend to not let it happen again."
Too bad Lefty will no longer help educate the lefties on the incentive effects of marginal tax rates. But he can still vote with his Gulfstream and take his tour winnings and his endorsement income to a more friendly locale, such as Florida, Nevada or Texas. All three still have no state income tax, which may be one reason Tiger Woods and so many other golfers (including many Europeans) also live in Florida. Expect a continued migration.
A version of this article appeared January 23, 2013, on page A14 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Mickelson Vote.