The new movie Killing Them Softly, from director Andrew Dominik, is reportedly well-made, well-acted, and well within the mold of Hollywood’s anti-capitalist value system. The film uses organized crime as an analogy to capitalism – a ridiculous proposition, considering that organized crime is based on use of force and monopoly, two concepts that are anathema to capitalists. “This is America,” says low-level mob enforcer Jackie (Brad Pitt) by way of explaining why he kills people for cash, while the mob bosses get rich. “And America is a business.”
In other words, business is about rich people exploiting poor people. And America is about business.
This message isn’t unusual in Hollywood. There’s a short list of possible villains in Tinseltown. It ranges from Nazis to Southerners to rich white people. Muslim radicals? Never. Communists? Don’t be silly. The most obvious target for the Hollywood left, however, is corporations.
This might seem counterintuitive. After all, Hollywood is run by corporations. Comcast and GE own NBC, the History Channel, A&E, the Biography Channel, Bravo, USA Network, SyFy, Oxygen, Chiller, Hallmark, Sundance, and Telemundo. It also owns Universal Television and Universal Studios. Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, Turner Classic Movies, and CW, as well as Warner Bros. Walt Disney Company owns ABC and its spinoffs, as well as equity in several other channels; its production companies include Touchstone, Miramax, and Marvel Studios. News Corp. owns Fox, FX, National Geographic, and a large chunk of DirecTV. CBS Corp. owns Showtime, CBS Television Studios, and The Movie Channel. And Viacom owns Paramount, MTV, Nickelodeon, and United International Pictures, among others.
Virtually everybody in Hollywood works for a corporation. But when it comes time to pick a villain, the corporation is the obvious choice. When I once suggested to my agent that I write a script targeting a politician as a villain, the agent said that might not fly in today’s polarized political environment – why not try targeting a corporation instead?
The predictable effect of the anti-corporate nonsense spewed by Hollywood is to make Americans think that all corporations are evil. After a line of films ranging from A Civil Action to The Muppet Movie, from Alien to Avatar, it’s no surprise that Americans don’t want to see corporations spending money on politics, don’t care about higher corporate taxes, and trust corporations less than virtually any other institution in American life.
According to a Demos poll from this year, 84 percent of Americans think that corporate political spending “drowns out the voices of average Americans,” and 83 percent think that “corporations and corporate CEOs have too much political power and influence.” Never mind that corporations and corporate CEOs provide virtually all employment in the country. Never mind that corporations and corporate CEOs spend political money only because labor unions have been dumping vast waves of cash into politics for decades. It’s those evil CEOs who are a problem.
As for raising taxes, Americans approve of the idea by wide margins. A recent Gallup poll showed that 67 percent of Americans thought that corporations paid too little in taxes, even though America’s corporate tax rates is the highest in the industrialized world. Our business tax rate is a full 35 percent; put state taxes on top of that, and we’re at almost 40 percent. The worldwide average is 25 percent. Russia and China clock in lower than we do.
It doesn’t seem to matter to Americans that higher tax rates on corporations mean less jobs. All that matters is that corporations are bad. It’s that simple.
The same holds true with regard to taxes on the so-called rich – incomes above $250,000, many of whom represent small businesses filing as individuals. The American people want them taxed, and they want them taxed now. Polls show levels of support for such taxes in excess of 60 percent. Meanwhile, just 19 percent think that it’s possible to balance the budget by raising those taxes. According to Rasmussen, even those who support the taxes, “recognize that won’t be enough to balance the federal budget.” So what’s the point of the taxes? Warren Buffett spells out the philosophy: it would “raise the morale of the middle class.”
That’s pure class envy. And it’s dangerous.
But it’s what Hollywood has promoted for years. Why? Hatred of corporations reflects a belief that wealth is created through luck; systematic success can only be created through corruption. If a corporation is successful, that’s because it’s corrupt. Those in Hollywood truly believe in this philosophy of economics, because those in Hollywood have lived it. They’ve been waiters; they’ve toiled in obscurity. And many of them feel that they’ve made money only because they got lucky. They feel guilty that they got lucky, and remain lucky. But they’re not going to rip themselves onscreen.
And so they focus on those evil corporations that hire them and pay them. Corporations, meanwhile, continue to fund these films because they make money. But in the long run, those corporations are funding their own demise. The more Americans believe that corporations are evil thanks to the propaganda of Hollywood, the better chance that in the long run, the American people will seek to punish the same corporations that produce the films and movies they love.
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