In his books, Stephen King is famous for his portrayal of axemen. In real life, King is fonder of taxmen. In an article for the Daily Beast website entitled "Tax Me, for F@%&'s Sake!", the American horror writer argued that the super-rich (a grouping within which, with a fortune of more than $US400 million ($386 million), he includes himself) should be forced to pay more cheddar to the state.
Way more, in fact.
King currently pays 28 per cent of his earnings in tax. He thinks that figure should almost double – a view that is not universally shared by his fellow high-rollers.
"The majority," he notes, "would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing Disco Inferno than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar."
Many dick-dousers are philanthropists, admits King, but their philanthropy can only go so far.
"What charitable 1 percenters can't do is assume responsibility – America's national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts."
Thankfully, King is not quite as lonely as he thinks he is. Other commendably self-flagellating fat-cats include investor Warren Buffett, who famously criticised the US's tax system for allowing him to pay less than his secretary. Then there are billionaire financiers Michael Steinhardt and Morris Pearl, who were among the hundreds of "Patriotic Millionaires" to sign a recent letter calling for higher taxes "for the good of the country".
A similar thing has happened in France: 16 of the country's richest citizens (including L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt) offered to pay more to the French treasury. And while Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer fought against it, his boss Bill Gates once supported a call for a higher top-rate of income tax in Washington state.
Even Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is, in his words, "cool with" higher taxes.
But for their stingier friends, King has a chilling message. "Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him," he says. "Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head." Axes and taxes - a recurrent theme.
In the article, King writes: "My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organisations that underwrite the arts."
Guardian News & Media