Biden Joins the Supply Siders — Pushes Tax on Violence [Reader Post]

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Supply-siders, led by Arthur Laffer, have made the case that taxes affect behavior — a proposition rejected by the Obama Administration until now. In a closed-door meeting at the White House, Vice-President Biden endorsed a new tax on violence, a move that would force film producers, writers and software developers to reconsider the material they are creating. In essence, Mr. Biden is conceding that a higher tax would impede development and encourage creators to move their energies toward other endeavors.

According to participants in the meeting, the vice president endorsed evangelical preacher Franklin Graham’s proposal to tax movies, books and video games that glorify guns. Biden wrapped his arms around the proposal, telling the group that there is “no restriction on the ability to do that, there’s no legal reason why they couldn’t.”

But there is a clear problem with the proposal. It’s unconstitutional on its face.

The United States Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the First Amendment of the Constitution protects words and speech that includes violence. It is violent acts, or their inducement, that is not protected. In June 2011, Justice Antonine Scalia wrote an opinion striking down California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors. Scalia noted that violent video games were being singled out, identifying a number of children’s literature features brutal imagery. Hansel and Gretel baked their captor in an oven, Scalia notes, while other children savagely killed Piggy in “The Lord of the Flies.”

Scalia wrote that: “This is not to say that minors’ consumption of violent entertainment has never encountered resistance. In the 1800’s, dime novels depicting crime and “penny dreadfuls” (named for their price and content) were blamed in some quarters for juvenile delinquency … When motion pictures came along, they became the villains instead.” Today, it’s video games that get singled out for scrutiny.

A tax on violence would force government officials to tax “Call of Duty” and its scenes based upon the D-Day invasion of France as it would the movie “Saving Private Ryan” for showing similar imagery. A tax would be imposed on the content of the works and is clearly violative of the constitution.

With the White House in the back pocket of Hollywood, it is unlikely that such a scheme will see the light of day. However, it will be an interesting debate when the GOP calls for tax cuts and the White House claims such a move won’t affect the economy. Chalk this one up to Mr. Laffer.

7 Responses to “Biden Joins the Supply Siders — Pushes Tax on Violence [Reader Post]”

  1. 1

    Nan G

    The meeting had Biden, but, according to folks in the room, it was Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham, who actually posed the idea that violent media could be controlled by subjecting unsavory works to additional taxation.

    According to the Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, “[Graham] floated the idea that media and entertainment that portray violence should be subject to a special tax, with the proceeds going to help victims and their families.”

    Joe Biden tried to meet with around 20 representatives of the faith community to discuss the President’s gun agenda. Apparently Biden let the meeting get out of his control.
    Then Biden took this out of control, off the agenda, idea to the next level:

    “They really need a good scientific study, which they’ve done on things like smoking. There’s no restriction on the ability to do that, there’s no legal reason why they couldn’t.”

    Now Biden is sheepishly refusing to comment on this.
    And who can blame him.


  2. 2

    oil guy from Alberta

    You want to ruin something that’s productive- tax it. The best example is the US economy.
    Taxing violence. That’s as asinine as Maryland taxing rain.

  3. 4


    Seems to me that when the gob’mint taxes a product or action for social engineering purposes — that it is in fact, legitimizing the product or action. Cigarettes and booze — legitimate products – Gob’mint says so by taxing them.
    Marijuana has never been taxed because it was illegal – but now that some states are making it legal – next action they take — taxing it!

    Haven’t many communities taken traffic ticketing – running a red light – to a revenue source level by contracting with non-gob’mint companies to set up cameras, snap the offenders pics and then billing them – sending the ‘vig’ to the community that hired them? So, it’s no longer a crime in those cities, it is the price of driving dangerously.. or somethin’….

  4. 5


    First of all, I am all in favor of higher taxes on Hollywood and their products. I’m sick of big stars telling us they they don’t mind higher taxes. Great. Let’s stick it to them big time.

    On a more serious note, if the VP had a brain [If only…] he would realize the related idea: increase the risks associated with carrying firearms to commit crimes. Specifically, in Boston and New York the police commissioner recognized that drug markets controlled by gangs contributed the overwhelming majority of the violence. Therefore, they lawfully searched gang members carrying guns, found that they were felons in possession of a firearm, and got them prosecuted in federal court. The gang members were easily convicted and sentenced to ten years each. The result was that the gangs dissolved, and the violence they created went away. It is easy, quick, effective, and constitutional. The key issue is: when felons carry guns and get caught, they get “taxed” ten years of their life. They are off the streets for a long time. It works. Democrats won’t do it in Chicago, Detroit, and LA for political reasons.

  5. 6

    Rob in Katy

    Well, I suppose if you can Tax one Constitiutional right you can Tax another…say, maybe we can Tax voting, that may actually help things…unless we have to subsidize that tax too…

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