Biden’s Violent Media Tax is Stupid, But Not for the Reason You Think


A couple of days ago, Vice President Joe Biden said that there was “no legal restriction on the ability” of Congress to enact a tax on violent video games, and “no legal reason why they couldn’t.”  That is a completely true statement (maybe).  It is not illegal to tax violent video games, only illogical.  One would hope that the standard rubric for lawmaking would not only include the question, “Is the proposed law legal?” but also questions like, “Does the proposed law make any sense?” or “Does the law do anything to help the problem it proposes to solve?”  In the grand scheme of things, whether Congress can create a law is a little less important than whether they should.  Let’s go over a couple reasons why they shouldn’t create this one.

First, there is the obvious reason.  Does the proposed law make any sense?  As many others have pointed out, taxing violent media to help curb gun violence assumes that there is a direct link between violent media and said gun violence.  In Biden’s case, he built the evidence against that claim right into his argument.  After the V.P. proposed the tax on violent media, he went on to suggest that Congress should fund more research into whether such a link exists.  In other words, he first proposed a tax on violent media to curb gun violence, and then he admitted he is not sure whether there is a link between the two.  That is like beating your son with an extension cord, because he got an “F” in math, and then opening his report card to check his grades.

Hypothetically, even if there was a link between violent media and gun violence, it certainly wouldn’t account for all of the country’s gun issues.  Even if violent media caused gun violence, its contribution to the total problem would be so small that it would have to be accompanied by a litany of other taxes to make any substantial progress toward a solution.  Maybe poor diet causes gun violence, or cell phone usage, or watching the news, or laser tag, or water guns.  Are we going to put a tax on all of those things?  How many items must we tax to tackle even 30% of the problem? 40%? 50%?

These kinds of taxes are simply too indirect to be largely effective, and their blanketed structure is inefficient at reaching the target audience.  I play violent video games, and I do not own a gun.  Therefore, it is impossible for violent video games to cause gun violence in my household, and I am in the majority.  Why should people like me be taxed?  Cigarettes are harmful to our health, so we tax them, but every single person who buys a cigarette is within the target demographic for that tax.  Taxing violent video games is a nice talking point, because it sounds good on television, but it just doesn’t pass the logical sniff test.  A tax meant to lower gun violence should at least affect a population that has some chance of committing gun violence.  The only products we can tax that fit this criterion are guns and bullets, and it doesn’t take any research to make that deduction.  A tax on violent video games is a joke.  It’s like taxing solo cups to stop date rape.  It is indirect, ineffective, and insane.

Second, there is the less obvious, but even more important, reason.  Does the proposed law do anything to help the problem it proposes to solve?  This is where Biden’s argument really starts to fall apart.  Biden’s proposal is that the proceeds from the violent media tax go to a fund which is donated to the families of gun violence victims.  Don’t get me wrong… it is certainly very nice to help these families, but donating to them does nothing to actually stop future gun violence.  This is not a solution, but rather a distraction from the solution’s absence.  If the tax went to fund things like increased security measures, to research new safety technologies, or to fund police officers in schools, it might make some contribution toward solving the problem.  However, raising a tax on violent media solely to contribute to the families of victims is basically a means of accepting gun violence as an eventuality, not preventing it.  “We know there is going to be gun violence, so instead of trying to prevent it, let’s raise an arbitrary tax so the victims’ families don’t feel so bad.”  How about preventing more families from being victimized?  This proposal is like combatting drunk driving accidents by distributing Band-Aids.  Not only does it not solve the problem, but it shows a lack of true interest on Biden’s part in developing a real solution.  Tax video games.  Help the families.  Kiss some babies.  With a measure like this, he makes his priorities very clear.  Look good on television and don’t ruffle any feathers.  He’s really sticking to his guns.


Thomas Shamburger
Thomas is one of the original creators of "What's Jump?" As a lifelong gamer, writer, and comedian, his goal is to provide readers with humorous, entertaining, and thought-provoking perspectives on current gaming news and culture. His early career successes in the business world helped to pave the way for the site's launch in 2012. As the Editor in Chief of "What's Jump?" he combines his passions for gaming, writing, entrepreneurship, and comedy.
Thomas Shamburger
Thomas Shamburger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


HTML tags are not allowed.