Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Star Struck or Struck Dumb?

If there's anything worse than jumping on a bandwagon, it's jumping on a bandwagon after everyone else and their cousins are aboard and it's broken down in a ditch with two flat tires and a shattered axle.

Handing-out tax "incentives" (read bribes) to filmmakers was quite the fad a few years back. A bunch of states, all dreaming of becoming "another Hollywood," jumped aboard the bandwagon, each trying to outdo the other in throwing taxpayer money at television and movie producers. And this seemed to "work" well enough for some of the star-struck states, at least from the filmmaker's vantage point, since most people are more than happy to take money that's thrown their way.

But regular readers of this blog know that Hollywood handouts have been a losing long-term proposition for most states, generating little lasting return on investment and only a short-term economic bump, while lending themselves to abuse and fraud. Most "studies" commissioned by handout backers show benefits; but more objective research indicates that the primary beneficiaries are those getting the subsidies, not those giving them. Why Colorado would want to jump aboard this broken-down old bandwagon is a mystery, at a time when many states that pioneered this new kind of corporate welfare are having second thoughts and backing away. And why two Colorado Republicans would be pushing this is even more baffling, if they're hoping to rehabilitate the party's reputation for fiscal responsibility.

Proponents of the idea want to slap a tax on movie tickets to fund the subsidies, which seems self-defeating, given that higher ticket prices are likely to result in lower attendance and reduced profits for some of the same filmmakers these "incentives" are supposed to help. Filmmakers may shrewdly prefer to get some cash up-front, given the box-office bombs so many of them bring to the big screen, but forcing all movie fans to bankroll the select few production companies that would get the subsidies is unfair and counterproductive.

Even The Denver Post recognized this as a dumb idea. Let's hope a majority of legislators will too.

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