Let’s Tax Hollywood

Ben Shapiro is a Senior Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. He is the author of the new book "The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration" (Threshold Editions).


President Obama and California Governor Jerry Brown are on the same page: the wealthy in America must foot the bill for the massive debts they’ve run up. Sure, the top 1% of income earners pay 37% of all federal income tax. But they’re not paying their fair share! Let Jerry Brown explain, hot on the heels of convincing Californians to raise their own sales and income taxes:

Revenue means taxes, and certainly those who have been blessed the most, who have disproportionately extracted, by whatever skill, more and more from the national wealth, they’re going to have to share more of that.

This, of course, is pure Marxism – the idea that there is a stagnant pool of national wealth, and that the rich plunge into it, shoving others out of their way, to hog all of the wealth for themselves. And Obama feels the same way:

I’m open to new ideas. I’m committed to solving our fiscal challenges. But I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced. I am not going to ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit while people like me, making over $250,000, aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes. I’m not going to do that.

Fine. Fair enough. If we’re going to tax those of high income, though, let’s start with those who provide that least valuable of services: entertainment. Let’s tax actors, singers, and athletes. After all, should their services disappear, our lives might be a little darker – but aren’t teachers more valuable than bit actors in Red Dawn? Furthermore, they were four square behind Obama and Jerry Brown.  Time to put their money where their mouths have been for so long.

With that in mind, let’s embrace the following solution to reach tax fairness: all income earned above $250,000 shall be taxed at 90% provided that it is earned within a five month period. If you work all year long for your $1,000,000, you should be taxed at normal tax rates. But if you put in a month of work to shoot a film, your taxes should rise to 90%; you’re gypping the rest of us. If we can all work 70 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, why aren’t these actors, athletes, and musicians doing their fair share?

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit also has a fantastic idea: reviving the excise tax on movie profits. “The movie excise tax was imposed in response to the high deficits after World War Two. Deficits are high again, and there’s already historical precedent. Of course, to keep up with technology, the tax should now apply to DVDs, downloadable movies, pay-per-view and the like. But in these financially perilous times, why should movie stars and studio moguls, with their yachts, swimming pools and private jets, not at least shoulder the burden they carried back in Harry Truman’s day – when, to be honest, movies were better anyway.”

Or how about Human Events columnist John Hayward’s suggestion – let’s regulate Hollywood wages and fees. “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?”

Not only that: let’s go ahead and outlaw the buying of individual iPod tracks. It’s unfair that some artists are paid handsomely for their songs, while others aren’t. Let’s bundle them together, so that the best artists subsidize the worst artists. Adele ought to cover Limp Bizkit. Bruce Springsteen ought to cover Kenny G. It’s simply unfair for some artists to prosper while others don’t.

Let’s also place taxes on film equipment. If the federal government can do it with medical equipment, we ought to do it with film equipment, too. The film industry needs that equipment enough to pay a little more for it.

Or how about federal regulation of movie prices? It’s unfair that some people can afford to go to the ArcLight – a really nice theater – while others are stuck at the Regency. Why not mandate that Hollywood subsidize the cost differential? Don’t those greedy one percenters want everybody to be able to enjoy Skyfall equally? Plus, we’ll bring down the deficit, since poorer people will be able to spend money on movies!

We can play the class warfare game too.

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  • Mary Sue

    Eh, I dunno about that, that could probably discourage people from being actors.

    • tagalog

      OMG! Not that! No more Lindsay Lohans? No more Morgan Freemans? No more George Clooneys? I shudder…

      • Questions

        No more Jon Voights or Bruce Willises? Eh, not so fast, then.

        • tagalog

          I suspect that the right-wing political world would spin exactly as it presently does without Jon Voight or Bruce Willis.

      • Mary Sue

        But Morgan Freeman has such a cool voice!

        • wsk

          but he's such a horse'e ass

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    • White Hunter

      Sure, it might. Then they'd have to earn a living at something else, maybe in an industry where cooperation, teamwork, personal hygiene, and mental stability matter. Good luck to them!

    • http://twitter.com/surfcitysocal2 @surfcitysocal2

      Thank you, Mary Sue, another GREAT comment!

    • A 22 Year Old Man

      I think we could do with less actors and more straight talkers in this country anyway :) (double meaning ftw)

      • Mary Sue

        But then they'd take their talents somewhere where the only place they can use them. Politics :(

  • Jocelyn B

    Excellent article. Those 'limousine liberals' should put their money where their mouth is.

  • kafir4life

    I was watching Rob (Meathead) Reiner spkeaing on why Hollywood types are so gung ho ontaxes being raised. He indicated that they should be listened to because they don't have an agenda like everybody else lobbying DC. What he didn't say is that the truth is that he and his other Hollywood buddies know that they really did nothing to deserve their wealth, and think that everybody who has money received it for doing nothing of any real value. That's does seem to certainly be the case.

    See how Will Smith reacted to the new 75% top tax rate in France. Youtube has the video.

  • Rich

    Great article Let the big mouth socialist actors and sport figures get some "skin in the game".

  • Demetrius M

    I have had the same thought for some time now. To go a step further, how about everyone registered with a "D" next to their name can pay 15% higher federal income tax to help pay for Obamacare. I don't want it, why should I have to support such an outrageous bill. The flaw in the whole scheme is there are probably not enough "D"s working and paying taxes to cover the bill.

  • erica

    Brilliant !
    And shouldn't there be an attractiveness tax ? I mean how unfair is it some people are born better looking and can use it to get rich while children are born with hair lips and missing limbs.

    Next go for pro athletes . Do they really deserve millions of $ for playing kids games ? Is it fair they can run like the wind when people have MS,MD,Lupus etc and can barely function ? How many drug,alcohol and video game rehab centers could be built for the cost of one stadium? How many free abortions could be performed by taxing merchandising licenses and goods ?

    And since whites are the cause of all problems in the US shouldn't there be a birth,melanin, eye and hair color tax ?
    A tax on Jews,cause every liberal will tell you,they are unfairly rich.

    And way overdue is a tax on fat. $5 a lb for those chubbies that drive up healthcare costs for everyone else.

  • cynthiacurran

    Ben will not agree but since hispanics and asians that tend to voted a lot for the Dems let's tax remiittances money . This is money that sent home to India and Mexico and so forth. California is 27 percent foreign born so it would make more money by taxing money that goes to foreign countries.

    • Kalman42

      Excellent idea Cynthia! Now we are thinking creatively.

  • tagalog

    I notice that, in the press conference held after the election, and in the quotation that appears above, Mr. Balanced President Obama, who was quite clear that there would have to be both tax increases AND cuts in spending, has yet to say a single word about those cuts in spending that were going to form the other half of that "balanced" approach he espouses. He talked quite a bit about the tax increases, though.

    As far as taxing the Hollywood folks, I'm all for that. I've always believed that the rest of us should take our place behind those who speak the loudest and purport to lead us down that self-sacrificing path. Go for it, stars and moguls! I'm right behind ya!

    How about taxing some of that really crappy pop music that passes for entertainment these days? And the oldies too! If your name is Springsteen, ALL of your money should be taxed at the 90% rate!

    • kasandra

      Well, his "aides" walked back his rhetorical feint at a willingness to compromise on taxes this morning when no one was looking. So the expiration date of the quoted statement from yesterday's news conference was less than 24 hours. I do have to say I love Ben's solution. It would be wonderful to see these people who are paid more for acting in a 90 minute movie (that's usually not too good ) than most people would make in several dozen lifetimes do without their aroma therapists and personal organic chefs.

    • johnnywoods

      It is most unfortunate that promising "spending cuts" is all you need to "hoodwink" Rinos into going along with tax increases. It is also interesting that the Hollywood stars, athletes and billoinaires like Buffet seem to want to pay more taxes but never do. It may be time for a "wealth tax" then we will hear them cry out in agony.

  • rbla

    How about a steep retroactive tax on currency speculators? Guess who would be affected most. If the Republicans weren't the stupid party they would play these class-envy games as Ben suggests and watch the Dems squirm and run for the tall grass.

  • Parenthetical Phrase

    I suspect a great deal of this article was written "tongue in cheek." Too bad. These are great ideas. The steven Spielbergs and Michael Moores speak one way but live another. Susan Sarandon, Streisand, Oprah, etc. need to experience cosmetic surgery the Obamacare way. I heard something about Streisand having cancer. Hmmm…the woman is about 70: according to Rahm Emmanuel's doctor brother who authored the idea that people over 50 should not receive life saving health care, that would put the arrogant diva clearly in the "recycle bin" where she belongs!

    • Jim_C

      And can you explain, precisely, how Obamacare would hinder Streisand's treatment? What part of the ACA (for which the American people have voted and the Supreme Court upheld) would do that?

      You've got the boogieman stories–but do you have facts?

  • Robert

    its all opiate for the masses . . .

  • Tanstaafl jw

    Certainly, teachers are more important than say, Miley Cyrus. (What's that haircut all about?)

    • wsk

      Union teachers? That's debatable.

      • johnnywoods

        You took the words right out of my mouth.

  • Spider

    I have been saying this for a long time. Some of the hollywood set make more money than the company CEOs that they constantly bash. I guess they don't think of movie making as a big business – It is actually the most shallow and crass business of all. How about a 90% tax on anyone involved in movie or TV show production? I wonder how much they would support this if it was their wealth being re-distributed instead of the middle class and companies that create millions of jobs?

  • Louis B Knockel

    Great ideas, and oh, how would the pampered few whine and howl.

  • Dennis X

    Why not tax right wing radio hacks!

    • Kalman42

      Yes, and in the process how about taxing the mainstream media reporters that so eloquently made the case for re-electing you know who?

    • JCS

      Right wing radio talk show hosts already pay a lot more tax than liberal radio talk show hosts.
      But then they are actually successful.

      • wsk

        Boooyeah!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/surfcitysocal2 @surfcitysocal2

    "If you work all year long for your $1,000,000, you should be taxed at normal tax rates. But if you put in a month of work to shoot a film, your taxes should rise to 90%; you’re gypping the rest of us. If we can all work 70 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, why aren’t these actors, athletes, and musicians doing their fair share?" Let's do the same for all the whiny, strike-ready teachers' unions who earn their salaries over nine months, have 3 months off, and send their millions in union dues to anti-taxpayer measures across the country.

    • tagalog

      One question: do we REALLY want the Hollywood crowd we know working 40-hour weeks and 50-week years?

      I think I'll pass on that. How many Oliver Stone movies can he make if he worked full time? Yech!

  • Goldie Lox

    I am not a customer of HOLLYWOOD.

    • Questions

      I am.

  • Questions

    Even by Ben Shapiro's usual standards, this piece is "laugh-out loud funny," to use a common movie comedy promo expression. Whether or not intended as parody, it reveals his objective to be punishing the Enemy Within. He and similar Irving Kristol-descended culture warriors want to use State power to stick to people they don't like. And they imagine multitudes to be cheering. Any honest libertarian (like me) could make mincemeat of people like Shapiro and their contempt for rule of law.

    • Gislef

      You could, but apparently you're not.

  • Jim_C

    I've always found it ironic that "Hollywood Stars" are the one type of person against whom "class warfare" is OK, presumably because they are good looking and talented and generate billions of dollars and support a nationally important, globally influential industry, not by making widgets in a shop, but by being good at the arts? Is that it? Wow.

    Doubly ironic that somehow their liberalism is deemed "hypocritical."

    They are saying "Yes, tax us more." That ain't hypocrisy.

    But this article is the very height of hypocrisy. And typical of Ben Shapiro's work.

    • tagalog

      When rich people say "tax us more," it always makes me think of that book, What's the Matter With Kansas?, a book written by a guy who was amazed that voters would vote for ideas that don't reflect their immediate interests. Then the kind of people who found that book endlessly fascinating want to pay more in taxes, and in some states have voted that for themselves. What's The Matter With Hollywood?

      I also found it dismaying that Candidate Romney would talk down about the 47% who don't pay income taxes. What was his problem? The fewer people who are paying taxes, the better; we need to extend that to as many people as possible.

      Similarly, I recently took my wife out and next day bought her some flowers. My step-daughter immediately told my wife "He's having an affair." At work, I told the story and my assistant and the receptionist started to demean my stepdaughter, but I told them, "Bless her heart for thinking I'm stud enough to have an affair." The same goes for Mitt Romney's 47% Remark. He should have should "bless their non-tax-paying hearts."

      • tagalog

        I received my first Social Security retirement check. I took my wife to dinner, bought her flowers, and I'm taking her to the movies today. Next week it will be a Tannahill Weavers Celtic music concert.

        Your Social Security tax dollars at work. Just thought you'd like to know.

        Any time anybody in Hollywood would like send me some money to supplement that, I'm available.

        • Jim_C

          That is an interesting comment. I guess I would say that while the people of Kansas are actually voting for the wealthy in Hollywood, the wealthy in Hollywood are voting for the people in Kansas. Would that be fair?

          Social security–you paid for and earned that–therefore you are…"entitled" to it. You may not need it. If you wish, you could donate it. If not no problem, I'm glad you and your wife are enjoying life!

          When it was first introduced, it literally kept elderly people from freezing and starving. It still does. And it is an overwhelmingly popular program. I'll allow that one can make a case for rolling back this stuff. I've heard some good arguments, and some bad arguments. But people who actually need it never do.

          So, SS is pure welfare. Other liberal spending, though, has to do with investment, which means we get a return. Infrastructure is the obvious one here. A bridge built in the right place can literally save trillions of dollars in fuel and time long term. Education provides us with doctors, engineers, teachers, etc. Sometimes people want what they want, sometimes they don't know they want what they want. That's not condescending, that's just human nature.

          When conservatives show how they can do things better, and not throw us into social chaos which undermines our national security, they'll win elections. All they seem to do now is pretend tax cuts for wealthy people make jobs, a claim disproven time and again. Doesn't mean conservativism is dead, but it's presentation is moribund. Reagan's gone. It's time to reinvent.

          • Mary Sue

            nobody ever had a problem with investing in infrastructure.

          • tagalog

            Paying taxes is not investing. Please don't fall for that nonsense.

            On our infrastructure, Congress has a Constitutional obligation in Article I, Section 8, to keep at least the national roads in good repair. If they spend the money that ought to earmarked to meet their Constitutional duties in order to spend it on the NEA or the Department of Education, that's their problem. The roads (and other infrastructure) come before those frills.

          • wsk

            The Hoolyweird types can always write an additional check to the IRS if they feel that they are not paying enough. Like that's gonna happen. Same goes for Warren Buffett, Jeff Immelt and the other CEO's that support the low eared man-child messiah.

          • tagalog

            If I, as you have said, paid for it and earned it, how is it "pure welfare?" Isn't it a return of the thousands upon thousands in FICA taxes I paid into the U.S. government from the time I was 16 (when I got my Social Security card)? Of course, if I'd invested it during all those years it'd be returning the principal PLUS 50 years worth of interest, but let that one go…

            The fact that the U.S. government long ago stole my Social Security taxes and used it to pay for God knows what over the past, say, 50 years or so, isn't my fault or yours, is it?

            Of course, the fact that the government stole the money, together with the demographics on employment in the U.S., insure that Social Security will eventually will go bankrupt unless our political leaders show more stones and ability to think ahead than they have displayed since about 1980 or so. So my money was spent on the WW II/Korea generation, they're spending your money on me, and in 15 or 20 years or so there won't be anything left for the next generation.

            I doubt that when the people of Hollywood vote, they think for one millisecond about the interests of the people in Kansas. Also, I highly doubt that Hollywood stars and moguls voting for increased taxes takes the interests of the ordinary people of America into account at all, but is instead a kind of political posturing by people who feel the need to puff their chests out as if their political views count for something.

    • Babs

      Just have to comment on the "good looking and talented" part…have you seen Eva Longoria without makeup? And even the men who are getting face lifts etc. but yes, you're right. Tax them before they take their make up off and before their surgery.

    • Gislef

      If they're saying "Yes, tax us more" would they be okay with Shapiro's suggestions? Which are… ways to tax them more.

      They're saying they want to be taxed more. They hypocrisy is if they don't _do_ it.

      But setting that aside, will they pay their full taxes and avoid using any loopholes to avoid more than their "fair share"? Keep in mind that Romney was condemned for doing so. Why is it okay for Hollywood types to do so?

      • Jim_C

        No, it is not hypocrisy if they advocate for tax increases on their bracket but do not voluntarily donate their tax money. Sorry.

        George Lucas just donated $4 billion–read that again–to an educational foundation. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet–all veritable economic engines in their own right–are well-known for their philanthropy. David Geffen, outspoken "tax me more" guy, recently built a research hospital.

        The point is, don't try to act like the people who advocate for tax increases don't put their money where their mouth is in terms of things that benefit more people than themselves or their own industries.

        • tagalog

          Well, I'm a bit sensitive on accusations of hypocrisy because I don't think hyprocrisy is the great sin that others seem to want it to be, but I would point that when you vote for taxes going up on everyone whether they want them to or not, then resist putting your own money voluntarily into the government, it may not be hyprocrisy but it's something that's not very attractive. It's sort of like that old joke about "Let's you and HIM fight!"

    • Questions

      You have to understand Shapiro's nuttiness as a product of the "libertarianism" of people like Irving Kristol and Robert Bork. They believe in lower taxes — for people they like. If they don't like you, you pay. So much for rule of law.

      Tom Hanks and Reese Witherspoon have every bit the right to keep their money as any company CEO. If Ben doesn't like it, too bad. Tell him to take some acting classes.

  • riverboatbill

    New simplified tax plan:" How much did you make last year? Send it in."

    • wsk

      That would be the 1040 Super EZ form.

  • Jim Dandy

    Tax their a$$e$ off.

  • Ghostwriter

    There's an old saying,"Be careful what you wish for,because you just might get it." To those in Hollywood who want higher taxes on the wealthy,don't be surprised if one day,the taxman comes to you for their fair share.

  • burt

    just pay them minimum wage….there are many who want to act FOR FREE

  • Max

    Here is another suggestion: tax those in Hollywood who are devoid of talent. This category should bring a ton of money. I mean, you have Barbara Streisand, Madonna, a slew of ape-looking gangsta trash. Then there is shake-your-booty types, lip-synching crowd, Sean Penn-ish characters, etc. The list goes on and on. Also, let's tax their utilities and trash collection at higher rate, because they poison our lives with their liberal existence.