Missouri State Rep Proposes Stupid Tax On Games
In a clumsy and misdirected response to the Sandy Hook massacre and other recent outbursts of violence, a Missouri state representative has proposed an ‘emergency’ tax on what he terms ‘violent video games’ that so broadly defines the term ‘violent video game’ as to render it meaningless.
The proposed law, House Bill No. 157, would add an excise tax of one percent that would be levied in addition to any existing sales taxes. The law would be applied “upon persons storing, using, or otherwise consuming,” and would be “based on the gross receipts or purchase price of such property.” Revenues from this tax would be added to the state general fund, but paradoxically would be used only “for the treatment of mental health conditions associated with exposure to violent video games.”
For the purposes of this proposed law, violent video games have been defined thusly: “a video or computer game that has received a rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board of Teen, Mature, or Adult Only.”
Frankly, if this sounds like the dumbest goddamned idea you’ve ever heard, that’s because you’re not a stupid person. Study after study has indicated that violent video games do not show a corresponding increase in mental health problems (here’s one recent such report). More importantly, even if there may be some effect on one’s mental state from playing violent games – and we must stress that in fact, studies show no such link – studies also show there is no correlation whatsoever between consumption of violent video games and rates of societal violence.
This proposed law also contains one of the funniest restrictions possible. Though the money gained from this tax is restricted to use for mental health services, it would be put the funds into the state’s general fund. As the anti-abortion zealots are so fond of pointing out whenever they’re freaking out about Planned parenthood funding, money is fungible. There is absolutely no way this provision will result in anything other than state coffers being generally increased on the backs of people who have hurt no one.
But finally and perhaps most importantly, the definition of ‘violent video games’ is so broad that it essentially feels intended to punish video game playing in general. Anything rated T, M, or AO would be affected. To get a sense of how absurd this definition is, note that the following games are rated T:
Dance Central (!!!)
This bill has not yet passed and there is no guarantee it will, but it gives us a nice picture of the thinking of people who are absolutely desperate to enact their police state fantasies and desire to stamp out the things that make them feel old, rather than deal with our actual problems. A law like this has one purpose and one purpose only, which is to deflect the issue of proliferation of guns, and the ease with which dangerous people can get access to guns, and to redirect the conversation to a scapegoat that reactionaries do not understand. We will of course be paying close attention to see if it passes. The bill has been posted online here.