Hollywood Loves Its Government Handouts (In Between Weeping For The Fate Of The Poor)
Glenn Reynolds writes in the WSJ of Hollywood's sweetheart deal from government:
At the Democratic National Convention last year, actress Eva Longoria called for higher taxes on America's rich. Her take: "The Eva Longoria who worked at Wendy's flipping burgers--she needed a tax break. But the Eva Longoria who works on movie sets does not."
Actually, nowadays an Eva Longoria who flipped burgers would probably qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and get a check from the government rather than pay taxes. It's the movie set where she works these days that may well be getting the tax break.
With campaign season over, you're not likely to hear stars bringing up taxes at this weekend's Academy Awards show. But the tax man ought to come out and take a bow anyway. Of the nine "Best Picture" nominees in 2012, for example, five were filmed on location in states where the production company received financial incentives, including "The Help" (in Mississippi) and "Moneyball" (in California). Virginia gave $3.5 million to this year's Oscar-nominated "Lincoln."
Such state incentives are widespread, and often substantial, but they don't do much to attract jobs. About $1.5 billion in tax credits and exemptions, grants, waived fees and other financial inducements went to the film industry in 2010, according to data analyzed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Politicians like to offer this largess because they get photo-ops with celebrities, but the economic payoff is minuscule. George Mason University's Adam Thierer has called this "a growing cronyism fiasco" and noted that the number of states involved skyrocketed to 45 in 2009 from five in 2002.
...The $1.5 billion in subsidies that states provide, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "would have paid for the salaries of 23,500 middle school teachers, 26,600 firefighters, and 22,800 police patrol officers." Or it could have gone to cut taxes on small businesses, which, as Ms. Longoria noted in her DNC speech, produce two out of three jobs in the economy.
In her words: "It's the suburban dad who realizes his neighborhood needs a dry cleaner. It's the Latina nurse whose block needs a health clinic--and she knows she's the one to open it! It's the high school sophomore who is building Facebook's FB -0.56% competitor. They are the entrepreneurs driving the American economy."
And they are the people who aren't receiving the kind of special tax treatment that states dole out to Hollywood.