AND THE AWARD GOES TO…
Man, I thought all that whining would never end. The constant sniping, arguing and blaming went on for months, but now, finally, it’s at an end, leaving us regular-type people to get back to the business of actually running this country.
I’m speaking, of course, about the Academy Awards. Of course, I didn’t watch the actual ceremony Sunday night. I mean, why bother, when Twitter allows us to follow all the bitchy gossip and updates on who’s suddenly sprouting a beard in real time?
Seriously though, the thought of subjecting myself to watching some rich and famous people alternately praise and tease other rich and famous people makes me ill. Besides, they haven’t gotten that whole “Best Picture” thing right since 1942, when the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences saw fit to ignore obvious, timeless classics like Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon in favor of the long forgotten How Green Is My Valley.
And what was up with First Lady Michelle Obama handing out the Best Picture award to Ben Affleck’s Argo?
“[These films] taught us that love can beat all odds,” Obama said, according to today’s Huffington Post. “They reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage within ourselves.”
Seriously? Well, she was right about the need to “dig deep”–a couple days ago Forbes dared to criticize the big movie studios’ biggest dirty little secret: that it sucks huge amounts of corporate welfare tax breaks.
“Even as the Hollywood glitterati ruminate about social responsibility and the need for the wealthy ‘one percent’ to pay their ‘fair share,’ Hollywood millionaires and moguls are bagging an estimated $1.51 billion in tax revenues annually through something called ‘film tax credits,’” Peter Schweizer of the Government Accountability Institute wrote in Forbes on Feb. 22. “Indeed, 40 states now have some form of subsidy or incentive that allow filmmakers to defray income and/or sales taxes incurred during filming. Thirteen states even offer so-called ‘transferrable film tax credits’ that allow filmmakers to convert unused credits into cash—at taxpayer expense, of course.”
We in Hawaii know all about these credits: the Hawaii Film Office handed them out like leis to the creative geniuses who brought us Hawaii Five-O and Battleship. Specifically, our state offers a very generous “15-20 percent” credit.
“This is a refundable tax credit based on a production company’s Hawaii expenditures while producing a qualified film, television, commercial, or digital media project,” states the Hawaii Film Office website. “The credit equals 15% of qualified production costs incurred on Oahu, and 20% on the neighbor islands (Big Island, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai).”
Such credits are often justified for the jobs they apparently support. “The motion picture and television industry is responsible for 3,848 direct jobs and $151.5 million in wages in Hawaii, including both production and distribution-related jobs,” states the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) website. “Nearly 2,200 of the jobs are production-related.”
Schweizer disputed such job creation numbers in his Forbes essay. What’s more, he quotes from a September 2012 LA Times story saying that the credits rob from other, more progressive ways of providing income and assistance to those in need.
“The state is using money it then can’t use for other things, like education, transportation and healthcare, which also create jobs and economic growth,” Schweizer quote the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities vice president Nicholas Johnson as saying. “There is no accounting for what else the state could be doing with those dollars to provide economic growth.”
I didn’t think it possible, but that’s even more depressing than the Academy Awards.
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DON’T WORRY: LIFE WILL STILL SUCK AFTER SEQUESTRATION
So this is the week that the massive, draconian, horrible so-called “sequestration” federal spending cuts are supposed to kick in because our esteemed, honorable lawmakers in Washington couldn’t get together and agree on a budget, which will apparently lead to the end of life as we know it.
There’ve been lots of stories about these cuts (totaling $85 billion) over the past few months (actually, years) and on Feb. 25, the Associated Press itemized the cuts for Hawaii: $110,000 in unemployment funds, $130,000 in public health, $4.7 million for schools, $1.3 million in clean air/water, etc. But to be honest, and the doomsday theme throughout them makes me chuckle.
Don’t get me wrong: the cuts will hammer the poor, because budget cuts of any kind typically do that. But for most of the middle class, the cuts won’t be all that horrific, or even visible.
No, for the middle class in the U.S., even after the dreaded sequestration takes place, life will continue to be just as painfully mediocre as it was last year. National Public Radio (NPR) hammered that point home (though they probably didn’t mean to) during a long Feb. 25 segment on the difficulty many families in this country are facing trying to feed themselves in a way that’s emotionally and nutritionally healthy.
“It’s hard enough to get dinner on the table while trying to help them with homework,” said Paige Pavlik of Raleigh, N.C. in the report. “Once we do everything, there is absolutely no time to go outside and take a walk or get any exercise. It’s simply come in, eat, sit down, do homework, go to bed.”
And then there’s Lori Bishop, a lab manager in Lexington, Kentucky. “Both she and her husband have stressful jobs, she says, and often feel exhausted at the end of the workday,” NPR reported. “‘But you gotta go right to work in the kitchen,’ Bishop says. ‘And while I would love to prepare a well-balanced meal each evening… it doesn’t happen.’”
These weren’t poor people being quoted in the NPR story. They’re professionals, the middle class, who on paper shouldn’t have to worry about things like making sure they and their kids all get to eat healthy, fresh foods at the end of the day. They’re also Mainland families–given the fact that the wages of professionals in Hawaii trail far behind those of Mainland areas (the state was ranked in the bottom third of 115 major U.S. markets, according to an April 2012 Pacific Business News report)–things are going to be worse out here.