Crony capitalism and knitting sweaters

Recently a Wilmington StarNews report, about the controversial future of State government payoffs—euphemistically called “incentives”—to the film industry operating in North Carolina, quoted the executive of a government-sponsored enterprise who “believes in the film industry.” Richard Lindenmuth, with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Inc.—a new connivance—“still getting a grasp on the subject,” supports keeping Hollyweird here by “looking at alternatives.” (link)

Mr. Lindenmuth said, when “you’re knitting a sweater you don’t just design one that fits everyone.” Lindenmuth went on with his analogy: “(W)hy shouldn’t anything being done be tailored to the needs, requirements and interests for the people you’re doing them for?”

Spoken like a political operative—no mention of the people being done to. What about the needs and requirements of the taxpaying public? Masters of illusion, film people form a natural alliance with politicians.

According to the StarNews news story the N.C. Department of Commerce and the Wilmington Regional Film Commission have possibly dueling reports. Unsurprisingly the WRFC finds that Wilmington and surroundings got a $10 million boost from the State tax program propping up Big Film. But some inconvenient facts may fog the scene.

It’s all about jobs, we’re told. But State taxpayers “give back” by giving up nearly $18,500 each to all those camera guys, special-effects people and stuntmen. And speaking of stunts: the Commerce study revealed that the State “general fund lost a net $62 million on the credit” in 2012. Further, any economic benefit from filming is fleeting.

Take “The Hunger Games”—please. Tourists spent “moderately” in a few counties during the excitement of filming this starved-for-talent production, but spending dropped back to normal following the temporary film flam. Still, our political heroes continue to stick up for the unfair and incestuous affair between government and Big Film—and stick it to taxpayers and other businesses.

Predictably, New Hanover County Democrat State Rep. Susi Hamilton thinks the Commerce study is “outdated” and inappropriate. And supporters of this selective misuse of the tax credit scheme continue to speculatively threaten that without it “large-scale studio films and television series will almost certainly leave,” as stated in the Commerce report.

Of course, as with Mr. Lindenmuth who “believes” in Big Film, many people are believers. Its violence, vulgarity and ugliness are virtually impossible to ignore; and it captivates young people.

But it’s immoral for our political class to force us all to participate involuntarily. If they persist in knitting this tax credit sweater, however, they should knit one for every business in this State.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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