Hollywood Strikers Should Blame Themselves for High Cost of California Living

By John Seiler
John Seiler
John Seiler
John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com
July 18, 2023Updated: July 19, 2023


Hollywood actors and screenwriters are striking because—they say—their pay is too low. But the flip side is it’s too expensive living in Southern California.

But whose fault is that? Who backs policies making California the most expensive state in the country? Who insists on high taxes on businesses and residents? And remember, the more you make, the higher your income tax bracket in the state’s highly progressive income tax schedule. It’s not just that the wealthy pay the top 13.3 percent income tax. But the middle class pays 9.3 percent.

Among those most favoring these policies, and the politicians who impose them, are Hollywood screenwriters and actors. With a few exceptions, such as Tom Selleck and Gary Sinise, most actors are far-left activists. The same with screenwriters.

This is obvious from the politically correct, “woke” product coming out of Hollywood lately. Some headlines from just this week:

  • The Daily Mail: “Disney mocked for ‘woke-a-thon’ $250M Little Mermaid live-action reboot …. Naysayers have focused on tweaks to the plot and lyrics that play around with sex, ethnicity and cultural values to make the 125-minute remake fit with Disney’s progressive politics.”
  • Express: “Disney’s ‘woke’ new Pixar movie [Elemental] suffers worst box office opening in studio’s 28 years.”
  • Disney Dining: “Fans Boycott New ‘Indiana Jones’ Movie, Claiming the Franchise Has ‘Gone Woke.’”

Sociology professor Neil Gross wrote in 2018 in the New York Times, “Polling data on actors’ political views are hard to come by. But there’s evidence beyond award-show behavior and Instagram feeds to suggest that the stereotype of the liberal actor squares with reality. For example, where Hillary Clinton received three votes for every one that went to Donald Trump in Los Angeles County as a whole, actor-heavy areas like the Hollywood Hills recorded even more-lopsided tallies. Likewise, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that individuals and firms in the television, movie and music industries gave $84 million in campaign contributions during the 2016 election cycle, with 80 percent going to Democrats.”

Here are some of the political donations in 2022 by powerful director and producer Steven Spielberg:

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom: $64,800
  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul: $47,100
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: $7,150
  • Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs: $5,300
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers: $20,000

In 2020:

  • President Joe Biden: $5,600
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff: $5,600
  • California Rep. Nancy Pelosi: $5,600
  • California Rep. Ted Lieu: $2,800
  • Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin: $2,800
  • Virginia Sen. Mark Warner: $2,800
  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker: $5,600

Schiff and Lieu represent the Hollywood area. Schiff now is running for the U.S. Senate.

Of course, most Hollywood people are not billionaires like Spielberg. They’re struggling like everybody else in this expensive state. But Spielberg’s contributions are one example of the left-leaning tendencies of most of Hollywood.

Hollywood’s California Legislature

Turning to the California Legislature, Hollywood sends to Sacramento some of the most high-tax, high-regulation members of the Assembly and Senate.

Sen. Ben Allen represents the 24th Senate District, covering the Westside, Hollywood, South Bay, and Santa Monica Mountain communities of Los Angeles County. He sponsored Senate Bill 1322, signed by Newsom last Sept. 16. It enacted the California Oil Refinery Cost Disclosure Act forcing oil companies to disclose pricing information. But the costs will be passed on to consumers.

Allen scored a 13 percent approval rating from the California Chamber of Commerce, but 93 percent from the California Teachers Association. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association gave him an “F” grade, for flunking on protecting taxpayers.

Assemblyperson Laura Friedman represents the 44th Assembly District, covering the cities of Burbank, Glendale, and Los Angeles, as well as the communities of La Crescenta, Lake View Terrace, Montrose, North Hollywood, Shadow Hills, Sherman Oaks, Sunland-Tujunga, Studio City, Toluca Lake, and Valley Village.

She sponsored Assembly Bill 3232, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 13, 2018.

In the Assembly analysis, it requires “the California Energy Commission to develop a plan to ensure that all new residential and nonresidential buildings be zero-emission buildings and a strategy to achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions generated by the state’s residential and nonresidential building stock by 2030.” That obviously increases costs to construct buildings, making them less affordable to actors, screenwriters, and everybody.

Friedman scored a 24 percent approval rating from the California Chamber of Commerce, but 100 percent from the California Teachers Association. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association gave her an “F” grade, for flunking on protecting taxpayers.

Conclusion: Why We Have Bad Movies

I don’t attend many movies anymore. But last year there were two I liked because they were made the old fashioned way: a good story, decent actors, and high production values. They were “Dune,” based on the classic science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, and “Top Gun: Maverick,” the Tom Cruise sequel to “Top Gun” from 1986.

Both were excellent, with no “woke” nonsense. The latter also featured 1980s-style patriotism. “Dune” was directed by a Frenchman, Denis Villeneuve, apparently immune to Hollywood nonsense. And “Maverick” was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who co-produced the original and knows how to tell a rousing story while keeping out the politics.

“Dune” made $402 million at the box office, with a sequel due this fall. “Maverick” made an incredible $1.5 billion. Two different movies, with different themes and styles. Yet both were well done. And they showed how Hollywood could come back by dumping the “woke” politics and returning to classic stories.

As the classic producer Samuel Goldwyn once said when a screenwriter tried to slip in political propaganda, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.”

(Note: For you youngsters, Western Union was the Twitter of its day, but is still around, mainly to transfer money.)

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.