Stephen King is anything but my favorite horror writer – and after all, he can afford to ignore my snark. Literally. And that’s precisely the point. But in that regard, he just substantially redeemed himself in my eyes – with a scathing and passionately profane article in The Daily Beast on just what he thinks the taxation policy towards his c.$400 million celebrity net worth ought to be.
Just as a reminder, the context was a radio address by Paul R. LePage (R.), Governor of King’s home state of Maine, claiming that the celebrated author had moved out of state because of high local income taxes. LePage erred just ever so little in demonstrating his fitness for elected office by showing that he didn’t even know where one of his own state’s most famous residents actually resides. Apparently, he’s not been in a huge hurry to apologize for this oversight either. Still, King saved him the bother, by not only saying exactly what he thinks of the Governor, but also launching a broadside against his – and by extension, all right-wing plutocrat-friendly – tax policy. First in line, admittedly, was LePage’s fellow Republican governor Chris Christie, but King didn’t tarry there long.
“Some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions,” King noted. “My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.”
King’s point is that private donation from rich individuals – including himself – just isn’t enough to fuel the public purse with what it needs. And unlike many of his rich peers, he’s not afraid to shoulder the implications. “Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny … That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.” And his message to his fellow High-Net-Worthers is: “I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share.”
And unlike his fellow rich who did not make their money by the sweat of their pens, King is equipped to do something that plutocrats can’t do: He can send a message. And the message he sends is that fair taxation is “a practical necessity and a moral imperative. Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) or Ebenezer Scrooge (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn’t fairly addressed, last year’s protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head. Think about it.”
I won’t hold my breath waiting for James Patterson and his ilk to say “Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake!” like King. But they had better remember that Wall Street is not far from their Manhattan publishing fleshpots, and if they don’t heed King’s warning, both could burn together.