Nicklaus may have been a great golfer, but he doesn’t know jack about politics, economics or the way societies work

Jack Nicklaus, who is on everyone’s short list of the greatest golfers of all time, has been travelling with Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for president campaigns through Nicklaus’ home state of Ohio.

Nicklaus is a loud supporter of Mitt and seems to hold the Romney view that people succeed almost exclusively by their own efforts, and that the social infrastructure of roads, bridges, schools, market rules, laws, hospitals, security and the inventions and contributions of other people like computers and the Internet matter not a whit. This belief is summed up by the “We Built That” theme of the Republican National Convention, which was based on a purposeful truncation and misunderstanding of a statement by President Obama.  As anyone who has gone to the tape knows, when Obama said “You didn’t build that,” he was not referring to the individual companies of successful businesspersons, but to the social infrastructure.

Here are Nicklaus’ comments at a Westerville, Ohio rally, as reported by Gail Collins in her column this morning in the New York Times:

“…at the Romney rally here in Westerville, Nicklaus was telling the crowd that he chose golf as his profession because it didn’t require teamwork. (“I didn’t lean on somebody else in tough times.”)

Then Nicklaus introduced Mitt Romney. “What you heard from the Golden Bear … the words he spoke, he touched my heart,” said the candidate.”

While it’s true that Jack hit the long drives and sank the tough putts, I want to ask Jack some questions.  I’ve set up an empty chair to serve as a stand-in for the Golden Bear. It’s a little bit bigger than the chair Clint Eastwood pretended was Obama, because, let’s face it, Jack has put on a few pounds since retirement:

Did you teach yourself golf or did you have a teacher and instruction manual?

Did you own the factory that made your golf clubs?

What about the golf balls?

What about the golf courses when you were just starting out? You build those?

Did you single-handedly design and construct the golf courses that have your trade mark name on them?

Did you keep the greens, serve the drinks in the clubhouse, take the tickets, raise the tents and keep the golfers and onlookers safe?

How did you get to the tournaments? Did you fly through the air like Superman or use airplanes protected in flight by government employees and roads built and maintained by government money?

Did you run the PGA?

Did you run the cameras, broadcast the matches and sell the advertising that enabled millions to see you play on TV and thereby become your fans and buy a whole mess of stuff with your name on it?

The answer, of course, is no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no and no!

You didn’t do that, Jack.

And you don’t know jack about the way that all business owners—from the ma-and-pa who own a candy store to investment bankers like Mitt—depend on society and government to provide infrastructure, goods and services and well-functioning markets.

The infrastructure is crumbling because of more than 30 years of policies that lower taxes, especially for the wealthy, and cut government spending for needed infrastructure and job creation. The markets are weak because of more than 30 years of policies that transfer wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, leaving us with fewer people who can afford to play golf, but more importantly, to feed their families and put their kids through college or vocational schools.

Jack Nicklaus doesn’t like teamwork. He just likes sucking all the wealth he can out of the team called the United States and returning as little as possible. That’s the Republican plan and that’s the Romney plan.


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