McCain Weighs in Again on Campaign Finance
Brad Pitt's Movie Critiques American Financiers
Everybody wants a better world, either for others or for themselves. We trim, blend, and append three 2012 articles from: (1) Los Angeles Times, May 22, on Brad by A. Hubbard; (2) First Things, May 22, on welfare by J.R. Rogers (Texas A&M U); and (3) USA Today, May 18, on McCain by C. Camia.
by Amy Hubbard, by James R. Rogers, and by Catalina Camia
Brad Pitt, Money Maker, has Bone to Pick With Capitalism
Brad Pitt has brought his new movie "Killing Them Softly" to the Cannes Film Festival. He and the film's director had an anti-capitalist message (or, at least, a message aimed against capitalism as recently practiced in the U.S.) to go along with it.
And that message is coming from the mouth of the man who is the new face of Chanel No. 5 -- a job for which Pitt reportedly will receive seven figures.
The new movie's "touchstone piece of dialogue," as The Times put it, is "America isn't a country -- it's a business." And Pitt has done very well in that business.
It seems uniquely American for a celebrity to make money hand over fist, thanks to Hollywood ... and then become the highly paid face of a Parisian perfume maker, to boot.
A Pitt representative didn't respond right away to an email request for comment, but the actor said at Tuesday's news conference that at the time he decided to get behind the film, it was the "apex of the home mortgage debacle and people were losing homes right and left."
As you watch the film, he said, it seems like a gangster movie, but at the end, it coalesces, "saying something about the larger world."
It likely doesn't say that Hollywood celebrities should turn down money.
True, with Pitt and Angelina Jolie's history of philanthropy, it could be that a good chunk of his incoming take-home pay from this film and from Chanel will not be taken home at all but will go toward their good works.
The pair have the charitable Jolie-Pitt Foundation, and Pitt has 36 charities and foundations he supports, according to the Look to the Stars celebrity-giving website.
But here's a vote for Pitt keeping those seven figures from Chanel -- just be a selfish capitalist. That's one figure for each of his children plus one to grow on.
To read more
JJS: Since those celebrities are so generous, may they successfully guide all that vast income past the snares set by the taxman. I’d also be curious to know if the percentage they give is a tithe (the old Biblical tenth) or more or less. People at the other end of the income spectrum have a harder time being so charitable.
Welfare State as Spiritual Temptation
One difference between liberal Christians and conservative Christians is how much weight each places on the violence inherent in government action or, more usually, the threat of violence.
This means that the conditions under which the government transfers wealth are different than the conditions under which the church transfers wealth.
The average Protestant donates a paltry estimated 2.5 percent of after-tax income, and Catholics less than that. Of this 2.5 percent from Protestants, I’d guess that the largest proportion of those funds go to support services provided to the congregation itself -- to the meeting of the congregations’ own needs rather than the charitable assistance of those outside it. First, there is pastoral support. Then there are mortgages [to bankers, no taxes to neighbors], building upkeep, and the like. That leaves a small residual of the 2.5 percent to go to the needy.
“Rent seeking” is not limited to corporations seeking to make a profit through government largesse rather than through making a better product.
For churches, it is easier to aid the poor by asking the government to coerce money out of one’s congregants (and non-Christians as well) than it is to inspire lay folk to embrace the new humanity that Jesus Christ has created, to make a friend of violence. With the magisterial sword, no need to change hearts and actions. We only need to threaten. It’s all in service of a good cause, after all.
To read more
JJS: There’s another advantage to private charity over public welfare (for the poor, not corporate welfare). If private individuals can cover the costs of that social program and all others like medicare and schools, there’d be no good reason to let elected officials decide how to spend -- or waste -- public revenue. Then rich individuals and corporations would have little reason to give to candidates, solving that problem at its root.
McCain Weighs In Again on Campaign Finance
Arizona Sen. John McCain is returning to one of his favorite topics: campaign finance.
The GOP senator teamed up with Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Montana's ban on corporations paying for election ads.
"We are deeply concerned about the rise of unlimited, anonymous money now funding our elections," McCain and Whitehouse said in a joint statement. "This unregulated and unaccountable spending invites corruption into our political process and undermines our democracy. We urge the Supreme Court to make clear that legislatures can take appropriate actions against corrupting influences in campaigns."
One of McCain's signature achievements is co-writing a 2002 campaign-finance law with Democrat Russ Feingold. The law banned political parties from accepting unlimited donations known as "soft money" from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals.
Fast forward to the Supreme Court's ruling in 2010 in the Citizens United Case, which opened the door to unlimited spending in elections. McCain and Whitehouse joined on a friend of the court brief in American Tradition Parternship v. Bullock, a case dealing with Montana elections law.
To read more
JJS: If politicians couldn’t spend public revenue willy-nilly, then nobody would donate money to their campaigns in exchange for favors later. If elected officials could no longer spend public revenue, then who could? It’d be the citizenry, once they receive their fair share in the form of a Citizen’s Dividend.
When the people receive a Citizens’ Dividend, then they could afford to cover the costs of teachers and doctors. And they’d no longer need to pay so much charity because there’d no longer be so many poor. Who’d be poor, getting a dividend?
The funds would not come from redistributing the income of Brad Pitt and friends. It’d come from society’s spending for land and natural resources. It’s like the Bible and many other religious texts say: the fruit of the earth belong to us all.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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