Bozell Column: Hard-Rocking Hypocrisy
You know it’s election season when Republican candidates get angry phone calls from liberal musicians telling them not to use their old music (like Survivor whacking Newt Gingrich for using “Eye of the Tiger” from 1982). Meanwhile, Democrats are handed new anthems on a silver platter written with their re-elections in mind.
Bruce Springsteen’s new album has been hailed as a soundtrack for Obama’s re-election, especially the song “We Take Care of Our Own” (“wherever this flag’s flown”). Springsteen is lauded for going on “a tear to raze Wall Street and raise Main Street.” This is where author Jason Mattera comes in to laugh and point with the facts in his new book “Hollywood Hypocrites.”
Mattera takes down liberal entertainers with the devastating truth of their two-faced political lives, and Springsteen isn’t spared. He’s one of the worst.
In 2008, Springsteen’s song “The Rising” was a staple on the Obama campaign trail and Springsteen performed at his inauguration. He lectured the public that Obama was necessary because “We granted tax cuts to the richest one percent...increasing the division of wealth that threatens to destroy our social contract with one another and render mute the promise of ‘one nation indivisible.’”
Mattera’s book reports the problem for Springsteen is he’s a “first-rate tax evader.” He owns more than 200 acres in Colts Neck, New Jersey. The taxes for his house and three acres are more than $138,000. But because of a state tax break for farms, “the Boss” grows a few (organic) tomatoes and has horses, so the tax bill on the 200 additional acres is less than $5,000.
"We granted tax cuts to the richest one percent.” How do these people say these things with straight faces?
In another part of Monmouth County, rocker Jon Bon Jovi has an estate on the Navesink River. Taxes on the mansion add up to $295,680 but his tax bill on an additional 6.85 acres is $104 because he raises…honeybees.
Bon Jovi was named in December 2010 to President Obama’s White House Council for Community Solutions. The White House press release honored how “these impressive men and women have dedicated their lives and careers to civic engagement and social innovation.” That’s probably not praise for the beekeeping. It wasn’t necessarily a community solution, but hey, it sure did solve his tax bill.
Oh, but wait! That’s not so! A spokesman for Bon Jovi issued a statement. “Jon is scrupulous about paying his fair share of taxes. The exemption for raising honeybees existed long before he purchased that land, and he continues to employ a beekeeper and raise honeybees.” New York state requires landowners sell $10,000 in goods for the farming exemption, while New Jersey allows “fake farmers” and only requires $500 in sales.
As Mattera maintains, no conservative begrudges people lowering their tax burden by taking advantage of every tax break that’s legally available to them. But when you hit the campaign trail for Democrats and lament how millionaires don’t pay their fair share of the “social contract,” then you should expect to be exposed as a political hypocrite and a fraud when this is precisely what you’re doing.
Musical activists are often honored far out of their actual power to move charitable mountains. Mattera mocks the rock star Paul “Bono” Hewson as more lauded than the Pope. He was honored as a Time “Person of the Year” and was smooched on another Time cover with the question “Can Bono Save the World?” Bono proclaimed “in the end, you’ve got to become the change you want to see in the world.”
But Bono’s not very effective with his “change.” The New York Post reported Bono’s ONE nonprofit took in $14,993,873 in public donations in 2008. Of that, $184,732 was distributed to three charities, according to the IRS filing. Meanwhile, more than $8 million was spent on executive and employee salaries. They defended themselves by saying they’re an “advocacy and campaigning organization,” not an actual provider of help to the poor.
That’s not the only embarrassing Bono organization. He was also behind a Product (RED) Campaign that Advertising Age reported had spent in its first year up to $100 million in marketing expenses and brought in only $18 million in donations.
Then there’s the matter of taxes. Bono’s estimated worth exceeds $900 million, but when Ireland moved to put a ceiling on “tax-free artist incomes,” suddenly Bono’s band U2 “headed for the proverbial hills in Holland to set up corporate shop,” Mattera reports, cutting its taxes in half. Their manager proclaimed “Like any other business, U2 operates in a tax-efficient manner.”
It’s too bad these rock stars can’t spare us the lectures about the glaring need for the redistribution of wealth. Until they’ve lived up to their own poverty preaching, they should just unplug the guitars and shut up.
PS: At MRC-TV: Mattera discusses book on Fox News