COLORADO SPRINGS — My adopted hometown will soon be the base of operations for a new Netflix movie starring aging elitist hippies Robert Redford (estimated net worth: $170 million) and Jane Fonda (estimated net worth: $120 million).
A state economic development commission unanimously voted last week to fork over $1.5 million in taxpayer-funded “incentives” for the liberal duo’s romantic flick, arguing that it will generate “great publicity.”
But given the fierce opposition so many men and women in uniform in this proud military community have to Hanoi Jane Fonda, I’ll bet many of my friends and neighbors wish they could pay to keep the traitorous commie propagandist as far away from the Rockies as possible.
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The same goes for Redford, whose last big directing foray was the domestic terrorism-glamorizing hagiography of the Weather Underground movement, “The Company You Keep.” The Colorado panel’s got a lousy track record when it comes to picking winners. It last dumped $5 million into cop-bashing Quentin Tarantino’s box-office disappointment, “The Hateful Eight.” On a broader policy level, the entertainment corporate welfare racket should offend all taxpayers.
Government officials make phony-baloney claims that their public-private “investments” will pay for themselves. But study after study, on both the progressive left and the free-market right, shows that the economy-stimulating effect of public subsidies for private corporate preferences (movies, sports stadiums, malls, hotels, you name it) is negligible.
Loan guarantees. Refundable tax credits and rebates. Tax increment financing. Tax-exempt bonds. All of these enticements dangled by thirsty bureaucrats before wealthy developers, sports-team owners and Hollywood moguls who don’t need them amount to blatant redistributions of wealth.
The independent California Legislative Analyst’s Office found that for every dollar California spent on the $100 million annual film subsidy it created in 2009, the state treasury received 65 cents.
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In South Carolina, film incentives returned just 19 cents in taxes for each dollar paid out in rebates. That’s “a net loss in revenues equal to 81 percent of expenditures on rebates,” as the Tax Foundation pointed out. Maryland barely managed to recoup 6 cents on every spent on its film tax incentive program.
Perspective: The nearly $1.5 billion in direct Hollywood giveaways doled out every year since 2010 by state governments is equivalent to “the salaries of 23,500 middle school teachers, 26,600 firefighters, and 22,800 police patrol officers.”
It’s the same story north of the border. Canadian Taxpayers Federation analyst Jordan Bateman reported that British Columbia’s treasury “likely lost $220 million or more” in public film production funding “that should have gone to education, health care or tax cuts.”
This legalized bribery is a perfect recipe for pay-for-play and political corruption. Hacked Sony emails showed corporate executives embracing five-figure campaign donations to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo because he’s a “strong protector of the film incentive.” Cuomo massively expanded the program, which now doles out nearly an annual half-billion dollars in tax money to entertainment special interests.
In Iowa, six officials were fired or forced to resign over allegations they squandered film tax credit funding on personal luxury goods, including a Land Rover, and steered the subsidies to unqualified recipients.
Louisiana’s top film official went to prison for accepting bribes from a movie producer in exchange for state tax credits.
This whole stinking enterprise is a crime. When Big Hollywood and Big Government conspire to turn Jane Fonda and Robert Redford into welfare mooches at ordinary Americans’ expense, it’s time to yell “Cut!”— permanently.