Politicians often label misguided legislation with innocuous words intended to deceive the public about the real purpose of their schemes. For example, “The Affordable Care Act.” Far from affordable— and actually careless— this new federal legislation will have negative consequences for everyone in our American medical system from providers to patients.
Another example is the word “reform” used on some legislative titles to hide the intention to expand laws and regulations that will increase the power, influence and benefits of some people at the expense of others. Such is the case with the political use of the word “incentive.”
An incentive can be used to encourage good, virtuous deeds, or it can be an enticement to corruption. In the case of film “incentives” the harmless word refers to legislatively induced corruption, cronyism and “corporate welfare”—an immoral result of collusion between Big Government and Big Business.
Proponents usually benefit in some financial way. In a Wilmington StarNews article by Patrick Gannon, a N. C. Film Council member and film trade union agent expressed concern about “tax-reform” promised by Republicans in the next General Assembly session. Although we should be leery when politicians say they will reform anything—usually the opposite results—film operative Jason Rosin obviously worries that legislators might take away his helpings at the incentives table. (link)
Mr. Rosin uses some inoffensive language to divert attention from a potential threat to his interests by expressing concern about undoing previous legislators’ work of “sheparding industries” to accept financial incentives from government (bribes would be a more appropriate word). Rosin trots out the usual victims to justify unethical legislation; “…thousands of families that are counting on these jobs.” What about other “thousands of families” who now must pay more taxes so film makers can get a special break?
Rosin claims the moral high ground by praising previous practitioners as responsible, “measured and intelligent” people. In other words, the corrupt ones are presumed answerable for their decisions; they could have acted more immorally and their opponents are stupid. Talk about convoluted justifications for bad behavior.
Unfortunately, some legislators from whom we would expect more ethical behavior, waffle on this issue or unabashedly hop on the film industry favoritism wagon. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mechlenburg, and chairman of the state senate committee “spearheading the tax-modernization effort” won’t commit to end the film incentives. And local state Rep. Danny McComas is well known as a “longtime ally of the film industry” (with possible financial conflicts of interest related to it), noted in Gannon’s story
Beyond the immorality of crony capitalism, it’s not clear that this industry (or any other) needs tax incentives to want to operate in North Carolina. Even Aaron Syrett, director of the N. C. Film Office (why does state government operate a film office?), has said: “(Film) people want to be here. They know they can get talent here and the infrastructure, and they can make a good movie.”
If this is true, there is no need to bribe these people to come here with special benefits unavailable to other businesses—and immorally shift the burden of taxes to the others. Furthermore, if businesses need tax break to afford to operate, what does that say about the onerous tax burdens in this state?
Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation has written a report on this subject. Mr. Sanders (and others) suggests that the responsible legislative action appropriate to this issue is to create incentives available to all business people that want to operate in North Carolina: reduce the tax and regulatory burdens that now exist on all of them. (link)
That’s the simple, honest, fair and ethical thing to do. Sadly, these words apply to the legislative actions of too few of our representatives.Read full article » No Comments »