Film Industry Touts Windfall: But is it Real?

Regular readers of this know that while economists support business and economic growth, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. The right way is low, equitable taxes for all while the wrong way is largesse for a few which often results in higher taxes for others. Over the weekend, the New Mexico Film Office released figures stating that the industry generated $1.5 billion for the state. I’m not going to question that number. It would be impossible to state definitively that it is wrong.
On the other hand, I can also state unequivocally that bribing the film industry to come to the state was not the most efficient use of our tax dollars. That point was proven more than 150 years ago (by a Frenchman no less) Frederic Basiat. Speaking to the primary difference between a good economist and a bad one, Bastiat said, “The bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, – at the risk of a small present evil.”
I’m not calling the film industry “evil,” but I do think it is both immoral and bad policy to take money from low and middle income (not to mention wealthy) taxpayers in order to give it to wealthy filmmakers on the possibility that bringing them to the state will generate a few jobs and tax revenue. Across the board cuts in the gross receipts or income tax would have been far more economically efficient (no waste, no special office to distribute the money), not to mention being more just.
I don’t wish the New Mexico film industry any ill will, just that they’d stop taking my money.

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