Greed vs Incentives – Liberals Take a 2nd Look

Fans of Alec Baldwin would not recognize him–even skinny non-elder ladies who strive mightily, but without success, to retell his 30 Rock jokes–in his latest role, supply-side economist. That’s right one of Hollywood’s most vocal liberals has seen the low-tax incentives light–from a WSJ Editorial:

The actor recently rebuked New York Governor David Paterson for threatening to try to help close the state’s $7 billion budget deficit by canceling a 35% tax credit for films shot in the Big Apple.

“I’m telling you right now,” Mr. Baldwin declared, “if these tax breaks are not reinstated into the budget, film production in this town is going to collapse, and television is going to collapse and it’s all going to go to California.”

This is a great example of the need to recognize the importance of incentives, instead of moralistic judgments [i.e. greed], when it comes to setting public policy, especially taxation. From a conservative point of view, by acknowledging that people’s actions are largely driven by responding rationally to incentives, we avoid being exposed as frauds when the issue hits closer to home. So while we agree with Mr. Baldwin’s current economic analysis, it reinforces the perception that liberals like him who advocate a greater role in for government in public life, do so never expecting to be affected themselves. He is not alone in his hypocrisy.

Liberal nonprofit organizations are now also invoking the I-word. Again from an earlier WSJ Editorial:

… one of Obama’s ideas for funding public welfare is to reduce the tax benefit for private charity. His budget proposes to raise the top personal income tax rate to 39.6% in 2011 from 35%, and the 33% rate to 36% while reducing the tax benefit from itemized deductions for the top two brackets to 28% from 35% and 33%, respectively. The White House estimates the deduction reduction will yield $318 billion in revenue over 10 years.

From the Ivy League to the United Jewish Appeal, petitions and manifestos are in the works. The Independent Sector, otherwise eager to praise the Obama budget, worries the tax change “could be a disincentive to some donors.” According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, total itemized contributions from the highest income households would have dropped 4.8% — or $3.87 billion — in 2006 if the Obama policy had been in place. That year, Americans gave $186.6 billion to charity, more than 40% from those in the highest tax bracket. A back of the envelope calculation by the Tax Policy Center, a left-of-center think tank, estimates the Obama plan will reduce annual giving by 2%, or some $9 billion.

If the groups protesting are in favor of expanding the role of the Federal Government, did they think about how it would happen? My guess is no, they hoped or assumed there were enough greedy corporations, not in their communities of course, who would be the ones affected.

All articles referenced are copied in full at end of post.

—————————————————————————-
Tax Me If You Can

WSJ Editorial – MARCH 14, 2009

We’re constantly told that taxes don’t matter to business and investors, but listen to that noted supply-side economist, Alec Baldwin. The actor recently rebuked New York Governor David Paterson for threatening to try to help close the state’s $7 billion budget deficit by canceling a 35% tax credit for films shot in the Big Apple.

“I’m telling you right now,” Mr. Baldwin declared, “if these tax breaks are not reinstated into the budget, film production in this town is going to collapse, and television is going to collapse and it’s all going to go to California.” Well, well. Apparently taxes do matter, at least when it comes to filming “30 Rock” in Manhattan.

Believe it or not, Mr. Baldwin’s views are shared across the movie industry, which is pleading in state capitals across the country for most-favored-tax status. Hollywood productions are highly mobile and can film just about anywhere. So they have taken to shopping around the country — and the world — for the most lucrative tax avoidance deal.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America, nearly 40 states have corporate tax carve outs or generous cash rebates to lure movie studios to their states. In Michigan, producers negotiated a 40% tax credit on their production costs. A bipartisan bill introduced in the Texas legislature last week and supported by Governor Rick Perry would allocate $60 million into the Texas Film Incentive Program. Members of the Screen Actors Guild held a rally last week in front of the state capitol urging the tax breaks.

In some cases these state tax credits exceed a company’s tax liabilities, which means that Disney, Dreamworks and others can get a net cash subsidy from state taxpayers. “In many states, today, movie producers actually pay a negative tax,” says a Tax Foundation report on the subject.

The Hollywood studios are ruthless profit maximizers and are expert at playing state suitors against one another. In the midst of California’s recent $42 billion budget showdown, producers threatened to leave the state if the legislature didn’t offer more inducements. So lawmakers in Sacramento gave the industry a new $250 million deal to stay put.

The film “Annapolis,” about the Naval Academy, was supposed to be shot in Maryland, but producers negotiated a better offer in Pennsylvania shortly before filming was set to begin. So they packed the trucks and drove up the interstate to save $10 million on their taxes. A film based on the John Grisham novel, “The Runaway Jury,” is set in Mississippi but filmed in Louisiana thanks to tax incentives.

Of course, this is the same Hollywood film industry whose members fund causes and candidates that favor raising taxes on everyone else. The Motion Picture Production and Distribution industry last year gave $14 million in political contributions: 89% went to pro-tax Democrats. A few years ago, director Rob Reiner funded a successful California initiative to raise the state income tax rate to more than 10%. Unlike a film shoot, which can relocate on a moment’s notice, your average small businessman in Encino is stuck paying the highest tax rate in the country — at least until he gives up and moves to Reno.

We’ve got nothing against industries trying to reduce their tax liability. Shareholders expect nothing less. When we asked the Motion Picture Association to justify these tax breaks, a spokesman gladly pointed to studies showing that the industry is creating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of new investment in the likes of Michigan and New York. Fair enough. This is called “dynamic analysis.” The movie industry’s tax machinations are irrefutable evidence that low tax rates do affect business decisions.

As a general principle, however, states shouldn’t chase smoke stacks or film production crews with specific tax breaks. It makes much more sense for cities, states and the federal government to lower tax rates for everyone. New York City can survive without Alec Baldwin and “30 Rock,” but it can’t function without the thousands of small businesses that pay taxes without the benefit of lobbyists and loopholes.
————————————————————————————
The Charity Revolt – Liberals oppose a tax hike on rich donors

WSJ Editorial – MARCH 10, 2009

Among those shocked by President Obama’s 2010 budget, the most surprising are the true-blue liberals who run most of America’s nonprofits, universities and charities. How dare he limit tax deductions for charitable giving! They’re afraid they’ll get fewer donations, but they should be more concerned that Mr. Obama’s policies will shove them aside in favor of the New Charity State.

What did these nonprofit liberals expect, anyway? Mr. Obama is proposing a vast expansion of the entitlement state, and he has to find some way to pay for it. So logically enough, one of his ideas for funding public welfare is to reduce the tax benefit for private charity. His budget proposes to raise the top personal income tax rate to 39.6% in 2011 from 35%, and the 33% rate to 36% while reducing the tax benefit from itemized deductions for the top two brackets to 28% from 35% and 33%, respectively. The White House estimates the deduction reduction will yield $318 billion in revenue over 10 years.

From the Ivy League to the United Jewish Appeal, petitions and manifestos are in the works. The Independent Sector, otherwise eager to praise the Obama budget, worries the tax change “could be a disincentive to some donors.” According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, total itemized contributions from the highest income households would have dropped 4.8% — or $3.87 billion — in 2006 if the Obama policy had been in place. That year, Americans gave $186.6 billion to charity, more than 40% from those in the highest tax bracket. A back of the envelope calculation by the Tax Policy Center, a left-of-center think tank, estimates the Obama plan will reduce annual giving by 2%, or some $9 billion.

In defense, White House budget chief Peter Orszag wrote on his blog: “If you’re a teacher making $50,000 a year and decide to donate $1,000 to the Red Cross or United Way, you enjoy a tax break of $150. If you are Warren Buffet or Bill Gates and you make that same donation, you get a $350 deduction — more than twice the break as the teacher.” This Administration wants to turn even philanthropy into a class issue.

Mr. Orszag revealed the real agenda at work when he pointed out that the money taken from the “rich” would be used to fund such Obama state-run charities as universal health care. The argument is that any potential declines in private gifts, whether to universities or foundations, will be balanced by increases in government grants paid with higher taxes — redistribution by another means. This is how Europe’s welfare state works: Taxes are so high that private citizens have come to believe it is only the state’s duty to support cultural institutions and public welfare. The ambit for private giving shrinks.

America has always operated on a different philosophy, going back to Tocqueville’s discovery of thousands of private associations that sustained communities without a commanding state. We doubt that a tax benefit is what drives most giving even today. The exception may be the confiscatory death tax that drives many of the superrich to form foundations to avoid the tax. But we suspect that without the death tax the wealthy would give even more of their income away.

Americans of all income levels have long given generously, notably in the 1980s as income tax rates fell and the economy boomed. Over the last five decades, American giving overall has hardly deviated from 2% of personal income, according to the Tax Foundation. In an ideal world, the U.S. would eliminate most tax deductions, including the one for charity, in return for a simpler, flatter tax that would help create more wealth to give away. With his many new income-limited tax credits and deduction phase-outs, however, Mr. Obama is sprinting in the opposite direction.

Meanwhile, the White House may have underestimated the power of the liberal nonprofit lobby. The charity deduction cut is the only one of the President’s many tax increases that Democrats on Capitol Hill have publicly criticized. Politics hath no fury like a rich liberal scorned.
———————————————————————

Advertisements

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Greed vs Incentives – Liberals Take a 2nd Look

  1. Wichi says:

    Very apropos…..A great man( me)once said:” Everythings relative ’til it’s your relative.”Translation- the problem with a lot of liberal philosophy is the “limousine liberal” mindset, i.e., taking positions that impact others, only, but when that issue knocks on your door, things suddenly change.,….Dude’s a good actor, though…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s