Mayors of some of California's largest cities this week got behind an effort to give your tax dollars to the billionaire-controlled media industry known as Hollywood.
The leaders believe in the theory that more money in the pockets of film and TV producers – who appear to be playing all sides of this racket with little allegiance to California – will keep jobs in Hollywood.
As a recent report by the state Legislative Analyst's Office concludes that this theory has holes:
The office said that, contrary to what politicians are saying, “The film tax credit does not 'pay for itself.'”
The report expressed serious doubt about a “race to the bottom” to match the tax credits of other states that are stealing productions away from California: We give away more money to Hollywood, then they do, then we do again, but the balance doesn't seem to change.
A proposal in the California legislature seeks to give more cash to producers, expanding the handouts from $100 million a year currently to something more akin to what New York is giving away – $420 million a year.
Only a handful huge media corporations ultimately control the top-level output of Hollywood. And while Los Angeles' population so-called majority minority, with half of us being Latino, key Hollywood jobs – writers, directors, big-league agents – are occupied by white males in 9 out of 10 cases.
Hollywood provides good jobs, but even a cursory look at the industry would show you that many of the people who get these gigs are from out of town. And because they're paid so well they drive up the costs of living in one of the least-affordable housing markets in America.
The taxpayer money is serious cash that could go to our ailing schools and roads, the latter of which have been named the worst in the nation.
The mayors, including those of Los Angeles, Sacramento, Long Beach, San Francisco, Fresno, San Diego, Bakersfield, Santa Ana, Oakland and San Jose, see it differently.
They endorsed a letter that backs AB 1839 by state assemblymen Mike Gatto and Raul Bocanegra, both of the L.A. area. The letter says, in part:
Extending California's film and television production tax credit program is a smart, prudent investment in California's future and economic competitiveness. The program is one of California's most efficient and proven economic development tools, generating 51,000 jobs and providing $4.5 billion in direct spending since its inception in 2009.
Of course, this seems contrary to what the Legislative Analyst's Office found:
* Film and television production in California could decline anyway.
* Responding to other jurisdictions' subsidies could be very expensive.
* Interstate and international competition could stoke a “race to the bottom.”
* For state government, the film tax credit does not “pay for itself.”
* Subsidizing one industry sets an awkward precedent.
* It will be difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the film tax credit.
Of course, if you're a politician, it's easy to give away cash that's not your own.