Why Film Subsidies Must Go

Independent studies show Hollywood corporate welfare a bust

I admire Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor at the Detroit Free Press, because he is thoughtful in his commentary and has little patience for fiscal waste, but his recent column on Michigan's film incentive program should have applied this standard more strongly.

Doing so would yield a clear conclusion: Film subsidies have to go.

Researchers across the spectrum agree that film incentives don't create jobs. The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found the economic benefits to be "more fiction than fact," while the conservative Tax Foundation says the film incentives "are costly and fail to live up to their promises."

In Michigan, the state has approved approximately $400 million in incentives since 2008, but there are an equal number of film jobs now as then — about 6,000.

The program has led to disasters in our state, like the near-bankruptcy of the city of Allen Park and the raid of an already under-funded teacher retirement system to pay for a movie studio in Pontiac.

Michigan's film subsidy is the purest form of direct subsidies for the rich — literally a check from the treasury to production studios. Because of this, the program's elimination should unite small-government tea party types with good-government liberals in a fight against corporations teaming up with government to milk taxpayers.

Film subsidies were approved by a combined 145-1 vote in the Legislature, but the need for road funding could bring about their elimination. That would be a true Hollywood ending.