It should be no surprise. People who actually want to help others don’t put on tight leather pants and play guitars for screaming women. They usually go into quieter professions like medicine, social work, or ministry. So when a Rockstar actually claims that he wants to be an altruist, his motivations are usually as phoney as his hair plugs.
I understand where it comes from. Musicians usually become Rockstars by appealing to the common man. When they become rich and famous, they have to find ways to appeal to the demographic they abandoned. So they take up causes. Sheryl Crow feigns concern about the environment, for example, even though the energy required for just one tour could satisfy the energy needs of a small American city.
When Bruce Springsteen started singing about blue-collar teenage angst, he was an angry blue-collar guy, barely out of his teens. His jeans would fade from hauling amps, just like any other working stiff. A billion dollars later, he has to work hard to remember the old days; and like most Grammy winning musicians, has a Guatemalan sweatshop put holes in his jeans.
Unlike the other European Rockstars of the eighties (who are forgotten, but for their haircuts), U2 frontman Bono has been able to keep himself relevant for a generation with his Saint Bono routine. He is not just a champion of the working class, he is the superhero for the impoverished and oppressed peoples of the world. He has met with presidents and dictators, leaders of every political and religious stripe, and set up programs where you can still be a commercialist with a conscience by buying a Red™ iPod. He successfully petitioned 23 nations to forgive Third World debt; debt that will eventually have to be picked up by the taxpayers of those 23 nations.
But the truth is, he is, deep down still a Rockstar. Like any human, he wants to keep as much of what he earned to himself. So when we learn that Bono is moving his publishing facilities to a friendlier tax haven, the only question should be: why didn’t he leave years ago? (Actually that one is pretty easy to answer: Artists were granted full tax exemptions on royalties in Ireland; until the financial crisis made them reform their tax policies, and they capped the exemption at €250,000 in 2006.)
But for thousands of true believers, who think we can tax our way to social paradise, Saint Bono’s defection has been a rude awakening. Protesters plan to stage demonstrations during an upcoming U2 show Jun 24. Which shouldn’t be a surprise. The only question should be: why didn’t fans protest five years ago? This major Bono disappointment actually predates “Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark” by four years. (Actually that one is pretty easy to answer too: Pot.)
What these protestors do not understand is despite their ragged appearances, U2 is a billion dollar industry. He isn’t the first Rockstar to display such hypocrisy: John Lennon, who once asked the world to “Imagine no possessions,” moved to NYC in 1975 so he could keep a little more of his own; the nation of Lennon’s birth was more than happy to relieve him of excess possessions. Mick and the boys took Rolling Stones Inc. to France about the same time, to avoid England’s 83% marginal rate. The Rolling Stones now keep their songboooks in the Netherlands, where royalties compound virtually tax free, and will be handed down to their long impatient heirs without a death tax.
Which is where Bono went. I really don’t begrudge them that. The Netherlands favorable royalties tax has been attracting musicians for years. (Oh yeah, they also have legal pot.) Burdensome tax policy does more to hurt a nation than to help it. Divided equally among the citizenry, U2s entire net worth would only buy a couple dozen pints per Irishman. Certainly having U2 stay in Ireland is better for the economy. They invest capital into the nation which create jobs rather than welfare programs, refurbishing the rundown Clarence Hotel, among other things.
It is disappointing that Bono did not move his publishing empire to America. We are a nation founded on the rights of property, so it would be a natural fit. Something is drastically wrong that our nation no longer serves as a tax haven for wealthy artistic refugees from Europe and Canada. There is something unfavorable about America, and I really don’t think you can blame George Bush for that.