Unions Angry at Capitalist Hollywood Hypocrites


afm_picket_at_marvel_imag_2012The American Federation of Musicians is fighting mad at their Hollywood paymasters. What could separate these two institutions of liberalism? Cash, of course. AFM is upset that Marvel’s Iron Man 3 decided to go abroad to use foreign musicians for cheap. John Acosta, vice president of AFM Local 47, summed up the case against Marvel: “Marvel is unfair to musicians because they take tax breaks from states but when it comes to doing a score for their movies, they outsource the work overseas. We’ve been protesting and raising the alarm about this over two years since Iron Man 1 and we feel those jobs belong in the US.”

For years, individual states have been reaching out to the film industry in an attempt to woo Hollywood dollars. Recognizing the business-hating climate of Los Angeles, even liberal governors are trying to outcompete the Hollywood locals by handing out tax breaks and incentives. While Gov. Jerry Brown has handed hundreds of millions in tax breaks to film and TV producers to keep them from fleeing to venues such as Vancouver, other states are chipping in to pitch woo. Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley has tripled Maryland’s film tax credit program to $25 million from $75 million. Massachusetts handed over $4 million in tax credits in 2011. Currently, 28 states give film tax credits, and a full 44 states have incentives for Hollywood. New York State recently passed a bill specifically designed to bring The Tonight Show back to the state – the bill actually had a provision that called for special incentives to seduce “a talk or variety program that filmed at least five seasons outside the state prior to its first relocated season in New York.” That show had to have a yearly budget over $30 million and a studio audience of 200 people to receive a tax credit worth about $10 million annually.

Do these tax credits help states? Of course not. According to Eileen Norcross of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “From Massachusetts to North Carolina, Michigan and Iowa, a similar picture is emerging: Film tax credits don’t deliver to state economies what they cost to treasuries and taxpayers.” Massachusetts lost cash on their deal – two-thirds of the spending generated by the film credits went out of state, and a whopping 47% of the wages generated went to those evil one-percenters earning over $1 million.

Nonetheless, overall, Hollywood receives $1.5 billion in tax handouts every year. Glenn Reynolds wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Of the nine ‘Best Picture’ nominees in 2012, for example, five were filmed on location in states where the production company received financial incentives, including ‘The Help’ [in Mississippi] and ‘Moneyball’ [in California].”

Now, however, the states can’t pull out. If they do, there are foreign governments willing to step in. China has enormous incentives for filmmakers, especially given access to China’s 1 billion citizens. Of course Hollywood may have to snip some outwardly pro-America material and trim around Chinese villains, but that’s a small price to pay when moolah is on the table.

Meanwhile, Hollywood’s unions stew.

Unable to adjust to the new reality of free-flowing commerce, still enjoying the fruits of rich union contracts that end of disenfranchising thousands of would-be workers in Hollywood, members of the unions are the last of a dying breed. It’s still great to be a member of SAG-AFTRA. But it’s tough to use your card when jobs are rushing off to Europe and Asia.

Sooner or later, the union members themselves will get tired of holding a union card that actually means unemployment. All the liberals who run Hollywood are liberals up until the point when they have to sign a check. Then they take their checkbooks and run to the nearest bidder, leaving their friends in the unions crying on their doorstep.

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  • Jeff Maher

    Awesome article. I never get tired of hearing of the myriad ways these hypocrites operate. Comedy at it's best.

  • Toryu88

    Its about time the Unions got it in the ass where they deserve it. Today's unions use nothing more than mob tactics fo squeeze money from employers. If it were the companies using these tactics, they would be up on Rico racketeering charges.

  • Omar

    Goo article, but there is one mistake. They are not liberals. they are leftists. There is nothing liberal about them. Those leftists have nothing to do with John Locke or Adam Smith, the true classical liberals.

    • Omar

      I meant to say Good article. Sorry for the typo

      • semus

        This is nothing compared to all the goof's I made on my blogs. Anyway you're exactly correct, I might also say the left is very good at using well meaning but sometimes gullible people.

    • Softly Bob

      Omar: It's an another example of where the word 'liberal' has been hijacked. As you point out yourself, there is a difference between the 'classical liberal' and the modern liberal. The modern liberal is a leftist. It's a shame that we too are forced to play word gymnastics because the leftists started messing about with words, but until we reach a consensus, I guess that it's all that we can do.

  • ltcdmward

    To self: "Let's see, I've got to disconnect and move this cord out of the way, so I can roll this cart and set it by the wall. Huh? What? I've got to get an "electrician" and another guy just to manhandle the cart? Union rules don't ya know."

  • Larry

    A lot of movies are being made in Australia these days.

    That's despite Australian have much higher wages than the USA, and for the last few years a higher dollar as well? Why is that? Because it is still cheaper to have an Australian crew work a movie, and work to a higher standard, than an American crew, because you don't need things like different electricians to plug in power cords and unplug them, the sound guys help the lighting guys help the cameramen help the grips etc, etc, etc.

    It takes 5 or 6 times more bodies to make a film in the USA than it does in Australia or New Zealand.

    No wonder Hollyweird comes across the Pacific to make the films. Hypocrites they may be, dumb they are not when it comes to money.

  • http://shugartpoliticalaction.shugartmedia.com/uncommonsense/ Chris_Shugart

    The AFM has been slowly destroying the music industry for decades. Many composers and producers opt for digital instruments because union regulations make orchestra performances too expensive and ridiculously bureaucratic. The AFM are unionizing themselves right out of the market the same way the film industry has done.

  • Parenthetical Phrase

    Obama says we're not going to subsidize oil companies anymore. By subsidizing the oil companies, he means letting them deduct the cost of doing business from their gross profits, which is something EVERYONE does. However, the entertainment industry will be subsidized either by the feds or the states 'cause the entertainment industry "subsidizes" government officials.

  • salamitin

    vfx artists now trying to unionize. Are they jumping on to a sinking ship? https://vimeo.com/64871477#

  • cxt

    And yet these same groups will line up and vote lock-step with the Dems regardless of their personal treatment.

    They have only themselves to blame.