Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden stated publicly again that he wants violent video games to be taxed and sees “no legal reason” why we should not move forward with a new tax. The story was telling in two respects. First, there is no evidence that such games produce the type of attacks seen at the Boston bombing and school shootings. Yet, this was the first thing that various politicians grabbed to show a response to the killings — besides of course reducing our civil liberties further. Second, Biden again seems intent on fulfilling the stereotype of a liberal politician where the answer to every problem is a tax. There is no discussion of how such a tax would accomplish any economic or public policy objective beyond moving money from people Biden disfavors to people he favors.
Experts are divided on the impact of violent video games with some finding no real longterm impacts and others finding a contributing factor in violence or delinquency. Putting aside this debate, there is no discussion of why a tax would serve any purpose beyond driving up costs and of course producing more revenue for the government.
As many on this blog know, I am fairly hostile to the tax-first approach to public policy and the use of high taxes to address worsening economic situations in countries like France. This is an example of how reflexive the call for taxes is from politicians like Biden. Biden announced that he would like to tax the game and give the money “help victims and their families.” It is an all-too-common approach to tax politics. Find an unpopular industry, tax it, and then give the money to a more popular group. It appears the later group this term is a generally defined group of “victims” — not of video games but crime. It is not clear how such money will be awarded to victims or whether it would go to government offices that support victims.
When he was later asked if he could point to any study showing the effect of violent games on behavior or the effect of the tax on game playing, Biden simply said that the government would study the problem.
While I disagree equally with the no tax mentality of people on the other side of the political debate, I am constantly amazed by how taxes seem the first reaction of politicians like Biden. In this case, the tax seems to come first and the rationale will be supplied later. We simply tax them all and let God sort them out.