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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