There's no getting around the need for New Mexico's film incentive program to have better accounting. As SFR has pointed out, the program's frequently touted profits are not always all they're cracked up to be. But that doesn't mean the program isn't profitable and good for New Mexicans. And our new Republican governor's dislike of the program isn't really based on balancing the budget, but on politicking and the old game of pigeonholing liberals as cultural elitists.
Republicans have renewed this game all around the country by decrying progressives as morally corrupt gluttons who can't be trusted to govern. In fact, Gov. Susana Martinez' slash-and-burn agenda is startlingly similar to those of other newly elected Republican governors around the nation. It's not leadership for New Mexico, it's a one-size-fits-all playbook.
Martinez has reportedly characterized film incentives as "subsidizing Hollywood on the backs of our children." Her implication is that schools and education would receive more money if we weren't so busy blowing our wad on incentivizing film and television production. But media literacy 101 tells us that, in this case, "Hollywood" is synonymous with flighty, faggy, irresponsible liberalism—it's a one-word symbol of social entitlement, gay rights, Communist sympathizing and looking pretty for a living. In other words, it's the opposite of hardworking, honest Americans with a healthy respect for the one, true, Christian God, ie, the Republican base.
But that's a pseudo-base. Martinez and her ilk don't give a damn about hardworking, honest Americans or small businesses or public education. Their agenda is big business, where the top of the food chain makes huge profits on, yes, the backs of the workers. And one of those big businesses ought to be privatized schools—and, while they're at it, privatized police and fire services. After all, unions are so tiresome and, once all this nasty business is settled in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need somewhere to place our highly profitable store of private military contractors.
But pesky liberals, who believe government should serve and protect all of its citizens and ensure fair access to silly luxuries such as shelter and democracy in the workplace, are standing in the way. In New Mexico, the easiest way to vilify the liberals through that old rubric of "elitism" is to portray them as being all gaga over rubbing up with rich and famous "Hollywood"—at the expense of "the children."
Of course, if Martinez cared about the children—all the children, as opposed to the children of the wealthy—she'd be in favor of upping the tax on the currently booming oil and gas business, largely paid by out-of-state residents and companies who might be characterized as genuinely elite. It's the fastest, most direct way to channel funds into our ailing education system. But Martinez would prefer to lower costs for oil and gas companies, even if it's on the backs of the children.
If Martinez cared about children, she'd be in favor of closing the corporate tax loophole that allows truly elite corporations based in other states to pretend they're not making any profit in New Mexico and therefore pay no taxes.
Martinez claims that closing this loophole would impose a new tax on business. But it wouldn't be new; it would simply be making very wealthy corporations such as Walmart and Starbucks pay the same taxes that New Mexico's small businesses already have to pay. Some legislators who support the governor's view are afraid that making big business play fair will make the state less attractive to such businesses, but there's no evidence this would happen.
There is, however, evidence that businesses opt out of locating here because our tax code is such a mess. Most businesses would rather pay to board a tight, seaworthy ship than ride for free on a leaky vessel.
Few New Mexico industries are as engaged with education as the film industry is. And at a time when the incentives package is finally paying off with a boom in small business dedicated to providing services for films, the permanent location of post-production facilities and an uptick of spin-off start-ups, Martinez wants to gut it.
A lot of numbers are flying around about how much money is taken in and how much money is lost to incentivizing but, in this case, there are visible businesses and benefits on the ground. If this administration is allowed to attack the liberal establishment in New Mexico by disparaging its members as Hollywood elitists, we stand the risk of losing an industry of real value.
And that would be a hard whipping to take, on the backs of all New Mexicans.
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