My View: Violence tax would dilute problems

By Michael E. Douroux

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

I know how Hollywood works and how it thinks. It's not complicated.

It's time to take off the ideological handcuffs.

For those in Hollywood who are proponents of redistributed wealth for the betterment of society, how about a different type of VAT — a Violence-Added Tax — on both the purveyors and consumers of violent media to help fund the mental health care system?

We put heavy tax on tobacco to discourage use; we can do the same for gratuitous violence.

Just this past November in Cook County, Ill. — the county that includes Chicago — the Board of Commissioners passed a "violence tax" on gun sales to defray uninsured hospital costs.

And let's cut through the stall tactic of pitting one scientific study against another with a simple question: Would advertisers pour billions into popular media if it had no impact on behavior?

The costs to society from obesity, diabetes, etc., is the premise of those who want to control what is fed to bodies. Thus, what is fed to minds — particularly the young who are the most vulnerable — is on the table for the exact same reason.

We get how in the name of 'art' it is part of the free market of ideas to appeal to prurient interests as the path of least resistance to the big box office.

However, as far as owning the personal responsibility that goes with it, it's interesting to watch how Hollywood's elite are now desperately trying to twist, turn and distract their way out of the hypocritical trap they have placed themselves in.

Any national debate over violence in America that does not join at the hip Hollywood's cash cow of glorified, romanticized human slaughter will be just another slick political exercise in hypocritical nothingness.

The weekend after the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn. — which left 26 people dead, including 20 children — Obama aide David Axelrod tweeted, "In NFL post-game: an ad for shoot 'em up video game. All for curbing weapons of war. But shouldn't we also quit marketing murder as a game?"

When it comes to selling murder as a game, human beings are fair game? Imagine: if the target of on-screen violence were animals, would it be tolerated?

Up to this point, all appeals for decency and self-restraint on the part of the violence peddlers have been gunned down by naked greed.

So, if greed is the driver of a problem that is poisoning our culture every second of every day, let's get real about a solution that deals directly with greed on its own terms.

If you want a real game-changer in favor of society, here it is: On a compounding basis at all levels, federal, state and local governments, tax violent media!

Check out the Los Angeles Times article from 1999 entitled "Violence Tax Can Stem the Killing" by Peter Navarro. "Besides political will, all it would take is a simple legislative act by Congress authorizing the Federal Communications Commission to implement it," Navarro writes of addressing the "negative externality," a principle "firmly grounded in economics." "Moreover," he adds, "the revenues collected from the violence tax could be used for any number of salutary purposes, from reducing the national debt or other taxes. Better yet, setting up a crime victims' fund, financing educational programs to reduce crime or simply paying for more police."

Michael E. Douroux spent 25 years as a literary agent representing writers, directors, producers and cinematographers in motion pictures and network prime time television. He lives in Corona del Mar, Calif.

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