Green Room

Tapping the Golden Vein

posted at 1:37 am on November 20, 2009 by

Centuries ago, at the beginning of the Obama Administration, we were told that the “obscene” bonuses of AIG executives should be taxed away, with special taxes that amounted to bills of attainder. This is not the first time we’ve seen specific industries targeted with massive taxes because they were deemed immoral. The outstanding example is the tobacco industry, which the government uses as a trained vampire, sending it forth to suck tax revenue from the lungs of smokers. Big Oil gets soaked with a lot of taxes, too, justified in part by the merciless profiteering and environmental disdain of its chief executives. Of course, Big Tobacco and Big Oil still make money, but the government makes more from their products than they do.

One industry has thus far been able to escape punitive taxation, despite routinely employing shadowy accounting practices, spending fantastic amounts of money, and reaping obscene profits. It produces a product that often causes significant damage to the social environment. It raises its price to the consumer relentlessly, with no measurable increase in quality. Top employees can rake in $20 million or more in a single year, while frequently maintaining foreign residences to escape high tax rates. They often extract fat paychecks from their companies, even when their failures cost the company staggering amounts of money. While it generates much of its income in the United States, it’s one of the worst industries for outsourcing jobs overseas.

It’s time to tap the last untouched golden vein in the American economic bloodstream. Let’s tax the crap out of Hollywood.

Hollywood actors are generally outspoken in support of “social justice,” so they shouldn’t mind picking up the tab. Will Ferrell, recently named Hollywood’s most overpaid actor by Forbes, is an aggressive advocate of socialized medicine – but strangely enough, he hasn’t used any of his millions to buy insurance for the poor. We can change that with some carefully targeted taxes. After pulling in $20 million a pop for a string of lousy movies, Ferrell is Salvation Army kettle full of undeserved loot just waiting to be rolled into the soup kitchens.

Canadian actor Jim Carrey railed against “personal greed” after collecting millions to record the voice of Scrooge in this year’s computer-animated A Christmas Carol. Carrey’s not dumb enough to submit himself to the wonders of Canadian health care or economic policy, but he thinks you should. We could help him overcome his bad feelings about personal greed by grabbing seventy or eighty percent of his huge fortune, and using that money to fund emergency medical services for the poor.

Let’s just ponder Michael Moore for a moment, and move on.

Big-name actors aren’t the only sources of golden fleece in Hollywood. Studio executives could teach the Enron crowd a few things about creative accounting. They spend gigantic amounts of money on awful big-budget “tentpole” films, while some of the biggest hits in recent years were modestly-budgeted movies like The Hangover, District 9, Paranormal Activity, and the Twilight films, to name a few titles from this MSNBC article. Those huge budgets obviously aren’t buying proportional amounts of quality.

Hollywood is a source of both social and political corruption. Its movies are often toxic waste thrown in the faces of parents trying to raise their children with decent values. Its stars and directors gain disproportionate influence within the Democrat party, and relentlessly shove their politics into the faces of their audience. They’re certainly entitled to their opinions, but perhaps a little fiscal restraint would focus them more on the business of entertaining, and give them less money and idle time for proselytizing.

Why should actors and directors be the super-wealthy patrician class of America, gazing down upon toiling masses they claim to speak for, but scarcely understand? Why should the guy who brought you Land of the Lost be hauling in twenty times the loot of a top surgeon, brilliant inventor, or hard-working businessman?

You might wonder if our entertainer-monarchs would give us the same level of performance, after we began confiscating their huge salaries. The price controls and fee limits on medicine in the Democrats’ health-care proposals assume doctors will provide the same care and effort if their incomes are controlled, so why wouldn’t actors? They constantly claim to have a high degree of devotion to their art, so wouldn’t they give their best even if we limited them to a handsome upper-middle-class lifestyle? And would the cinematic arts really suffer if some of the dreary, overpaid Hollywood elite stopped appearing in all our movies, making way for more young talent that would be overjoyed to receive a mere five or six-figure paycheck?

I can see nothing but upsides to dropping massive new taxes and regulation on Hollywood. To those who object that I’m supposed to be a champion of free markets… well, I am. But why should Hollywood be the last one?

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This suggestion might make a large number of new fiscal conservatives to bloom overnight.

Browncoatone on November 20, 2009 at 3:33 AM

I’m all for it. The one thing, though, what about the few Hollywood actors and actresses who actually have their heads on straight, like, say, Adam Baldwin?

TheQuestion on November 20, 2009 at 5:14 AM

I had a bad professional encounter with Will Farrel – he’s a complete douchebag.

I agree Doc, we can’t have one free industry tainting everything we’ve worked hard to destroy change. Organized and empowered, we can personally impose this particular tax.

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JCred on November 20, 2009 at 6:38 AM

Naturally, Dr Zero says it best. There is this paradox: the more socially “valuable” what you do is, the less you own it. The things a surgeon, inventor, hard-working businessman are so important to the rest of us that their freedom and salaries need to be controlled. Athletes and movie stars not so much.

casel21 on November 20, 2009 at 7:12 AM

You hit it right on the head Doc. I was just thinking yesterday why someone like Lindsay Lohan has so much money when my own kind, caring & intelligent son works 60+ hours/wk to support himself. My son has so much more to offer this world than that skank.
Also, tax professional sports too please.

SWChance on November 20, 2009 at 11:53 AM

Somebody on Big Hollywood wrote a similar article a couple months ago. Can’t seem to find it though.

TheUnrepentantGeek on November 20, 2009 at 1:03 PM

great article.

don’t you hate it when you try and watch a movie and then start thinking about an actor’s political headupassishness? i can’t tell you how many it’s ruined for me. _sigh_…

DrRansom on November 20, 2009 at 1:22 PM

That’s one golden goose turkey I’d happily serve for dinner next week…..


acat on November 20, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Let’s not stop at Hollywood. Entertainers of every stripe have engaged in largess both of political nature and incorrigible behavior that in many cases trumps Hollywood, when not commingled with Hollywood.

Admittedly some sports heroes have done some jail time, certainly more often than the Hollywood elite. They field themselves as role-models, rake in extraordinary paychecks, and often as not deliver little bang for the buck.

On to musical heroes. Hmmm, there’s a crew for you. OK, OK, there are some in this category just as there are in sports or Hollywood that have their act together, their heart in the game, but I just don’t need a Dixie Chick. And can you say Phil Specter? Count the number of times ZZ Top didn’t mention fellatio in a song, then divide into the sales-take on the album. Is that a way to calculate bang for the buck? (Pun intended)

A good hearty dose of taxation to relieve their suffering, used to open some detox centers, feed the hungry, bandage the injured may be appropriate. Somehow a 5% tax on Botox injections doesn’t feel like it would trickle down to the 2nd string left tackle of any NFL team, nor the latest keyboardist for the Stones (Harry, Nancy, Obamaramadama, you listening?) but a Windfall Profits Tax on all entertainers should be much easier to monitor off the form 1040’s, the box that says occupation. And failing to enter “Entertainer” in this box could result in a heavy fine as well. You guys are really missing the Golden Vein

Robert17 on November 20, 2009 at 3:18 PM

I am going to print out this post and mail them disguised as fan letters to all the actors you mention…fun fun fun!

javamartini on November 20, 2009 at 8:30 PM


Spot on.

Liberals like to be generous with other people’s money.

rbj on November 20, 2009 at 8:38 PM

Stands and claps.

At least sports types sacrifice their bodies.

Chubbs65 on November 20, 2009 at 8:40 PM

Let’s just ponder Michael Moore for a moment, and move on.


katy on November 20, 2009 at 8:40 PM

And there’s another wealthy group of Obama voters that should be hit with an 80 or 90% tax- team sport athletes.

BKeyser on November 20, 2009 at 8:57 PM

Liberals like to be generous with other people’s money.

rbj on November 20, 2009 at 8:38 PM

C’mon now…that’s not other people’s money, it’s Obama money! You know, from his stash!

bikermailman on November 20, 2009 at 9:13 PM

All in favor, say “Aye!”

james23 on November 20, 2009 at 9:14 PM

Just look up “Jock Tax” and the NHL players when they play in Canada have a tax just to help float the other Canadian teams.

Patricksp on November 20, 2009 at 9:42 PM

Adam Baldwin?

TheQuestion on November 20, 2009 at 5:14 AM

I think you mean Stephen. He’s a friend of Abe.

Blacksmith8 on November 20, 2009 at 9:56 PM

Oh yeah! Oprah, Reiner, Springsteen, Garofolo, Stewart, and Penn – the list of these buffoons is endless. They should be the first to volunteer their personal fortunes for redistribution.

bbh on November 20, 2009 at 9:58 PM

I enjoyed the lead in. I thought for sure Doc was going after trial lawyers. Big surprise it’s the “actors”. Personally, I don’t think some of them are really “acting”.

Blacksmith8 on November 20, 2009 at 9:59 PM

Great point – trial lawyers next.

bbh on November 20, 2009 at 10:04 PM

I wouldn’t mind seeing everyone who is “exempted” from these bills taxed to dust…

Seven Percent Solution on November 20, 2009 at 10:05 PM

How ’bout some government mandated reductions in movie ticket prices (and Hollywierd can eat the losses). Along with foodstamps and unemployment checks the gubmint can issue free movie passes! Goin’ to the cineplex will be like goin’ to the DMV! I smell industry takeover! BO can give a speech explaining how the Weinstein Bros.’ et al. production companies are going to be taken over by a consortium of SAG, the NEA/NEH, and *ahem* Georgi Soros!
Hell, maybe they already ARE!!

sawbuck on November 20, 2009 at 10:08 PM

I’d like to see someone write an article about the write offs most of the Hollywood folks use for their charity events. I have seen little snarky remarks about their time(at exorbitant rates) the clothing, and the supporting staff, being used as tax deductions. I am sure that many are very giving people but I think they play the system every bit as expertly as Turbo Tax Timmy.

Cindy Munford on November 20, 2009 at 10:12 PM

Excellent Idea…I say we go for it! It would be fun to see Zo or Crowder interview some of the celebs out there about giving up more of thoer money… Moore, Afleck Penn, Damon Clooney, Sarandon, Robbins, Jay Z, Combs, West all the vocal big mouths…

CCRWM on November 20, 2009 at 10:35 PM

It’s Hollywood that is responsible for the constant villification of Bush, Palin and Conservatives. Time to bleed the Beast. Don’t support anything that involves Hollywood. I’ve been doing this since 2008. If they don’t like Conservatives then I guess they don’t need their money either.

redridinghood on November 20, 2009 at 10:53 PM

Will never happen since Hollywood is the Left Coast propaganda arm to the Democrat party, and if and when Republicans are in power they will (maybe, if they’ve learned their lesson yet) reduce taxes on everyone. But thanks anyway Dr. Z for the dream.

Christian Conservative on November 21, 2009 at 12:33 AM

Great post, Dr. Z. However, during your “lead in” describing the bad stuff the “perps” were doing you really faked me out!
I didn’t expect the “bad guy” to be Hollywood. Your descriptions fit THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATE-and our EXECUTIVE BRANCH perfectly. Particularly as they throw my healthcare under the bus.
Keep up the good work.
John Bibb

rocketman on November 21, 2009 at 1:12 AM

Having worked for a smallish company in the TV entertainment industry, I can attest to their “cooking the books” to avoid paying corporate -and- personal income taxes on chunks of money, since I was the one they demanded do the cooking.

Guess when I said “no”, and a year later I refused to help one of the officers/stockholder-owners who demanded that I help slip extra money to him and his wife via the payroll processing, I rather hammered the last nail in my coffin. The hit was on, and within 8 miserable months after that last demand I was on the verge of being booted. Except I suddenly came down with a dreadful autoimmune disease and they didn’t have to worry any longer. I had to go on extended disability, after which they laid me off when things took a bad turn.

Now the company’s out of business, and that was many many years ago, so no use dragging details into the public arena. But the things I witnessed, being in top management, just appalled me, while at the same time they constantly assured me it was de rigueur for Hollywood.

Great article as usual, Doc!

KendraWilder on November 21, 2009 at 1:13 AM

Adam Baldwin?

TheQuestion on November 20, 2009 at 5:14 AM

I think you mean Stephen. He’s a friend of Abe.

Blacksmith8 on November 20, 2009 at 9:56 PM

Does it really matter? There are too many Baldwins anyway.

cntrlfrk on November 21, 2009 at 2:15 AM

Go Doc!

I would dearly love to see Oprah’s ill-gotten gains confiscated taxed, as punishment for having inflicted King Hussein of the Teleprompter Manger upon us.

J.J. Sefton on November 21, 2009 at 5:15 AM

The view from across the sea(s) in good ol’ Lithuania, where I currently am teaching, is quite interesting. For all the money spent on foreign aid, for all the money spent on defense during the Cold War, for all the Christian work done in Eastern Europe, it must be acknowledged that it is Hollywood that transmits American values more than any other source.
My best English-speaking students tell me, to a person, that they learned their skills watching American TV, cartoons, and movies.
While I appreciate Dr. Zero’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek piece, the truth is conservatives should stop trying to bludgeon the world with their values and start producing some really good theater. I fault us, not THEM, for this failure. Mel Gibson proved you can promote conservative values without being didactic, obnoxious, or pathetic.
Young Christians and conservatives: hear me now. Get your degrees, go to Hollywood, inject your views via real stories, not semi-transparent allegories, and change the world. And we promise not to tax you to death in the process.

MaxMBJ on November 21, 2009 at 5:43 AM

Great idea, but needlessly modest and short on the requisite Constitutional underpinnings. Clearly, “entertainment” is a public good (even rumored to be recession-proof–an especially attractive feature for the foreseeable future), and thus protected by the general welfare clause; right up there with subsidized housing, health care, food and Buicks (to name but a few). Therefore, the tax proceeds should also fund a public option for the less fortunate: movies, DVDs, live theater, streaming audio and video, whatever. Live performances you say? Of course. If government already owns the airwaves, what’s the argument against the right to tax ALL audio and light transmissions?
Concerned about blowback from the entertainment community? The Chicago Way has a way: threaten to exempt entertainment from copyright and trademark protection.

Send your lobbying dollars to

Barnestormer on November 21, 2009 at 7:49 AM

Adam Baldwin?

TheQuestion on November 20, 2009 at 5:14 AM


mrfixit on November 21, 2009 at 7:53 AM

While it generates much of its income in the United States, it’s one of the worst industries for outsourcing jobs overseas.

Up until this point, I thought you were setting up a lawyer joke.

Count to 10 on November 21, 2009 at 7:59 AM

Adam Baldwin?
TheQuestion on November 20, 2009 at 5:14 AM
I think you mean Stephen. He’s a friend of Abe.
Blacksmith8 on November 20, 2009 at 9:56 PM

Does it really matter? There are too many Baldwins anyway.
cntrlfrk on November 21, 2009 at 2:15 AM

If you want to tax people based on bad ideas, yes, it does matter. Both Stephen Baldwin and Adam Baldwin (no relation) are conservative.

Adam Baldwin has been known to post on

applebutter on November 21, 2009 at 8:44 AM

Mel Gibson proved you can promote conservative values without being didactic, obnoxious, or pathetic.

Did you have to drag that jerk into the conversation?

Nevertheless, there are some entertaining movies being made that don’t have an overt leftist slant. You do have to search for them sometimes.

SagebrushPuppet on November 21, 2009 at 9:38 AM

Perhaps Gibson was a poor choice. But my point remains, the best way to change the world is not with a club but with a delicioius pie, apple of course.

MaxMBJ on November 21, 2009 at 10:17 AM

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Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Ed Morrissey on November 21, 2009 at 10:56 AM

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