State legislature goes ‘Hollywood’

Everybody loves Hollywood and nobody as much as the star struck Mississippi House of Representatives which recently voted 116 to 3 to subsidize movies made in Mississippi.

Film subsidies have been around for years. It is so easy to spend other people’s money. But House Bill 733 takes corporate welfare to a whole new level.

The taxpayers of Mississippi will be covering 75 percent of the losses if the movie fails. If it succeeds, Mississippi taxpayers will get 10 percent of the profits. A subsidy is one thing. This is outright nationalization of the Mississippi movie industry.

For starters, no private investor would ever put up 75 percent of the money and only ask for 10 percent of the profits. Apparently, our state representatives don’t know much about finance. Secondly, this is not an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

If our state representatives want to invest in the movie business on these laughable terms, we suggest they write a check on their own personal accounts. The movie makers are perfectly free to raise money directly from Mississippians through a private investment offering. Good luck with that. Most Mississippians have bills to pay. Investing in the movie business would not be a high priority item for the average Mississippi taxpayer.

Which begs the question: Why? Why should elected representatives invest money on foolish terms that neither they nor their constituents would invest on their own? This is nothing less than state socialism, a strange thing to exist in the second most conservative state in the country.

The free market is where willing buyers and willing sellers make free decisions about how to invest and spend their money. People are free to buy or not buy movie tickets. Move producers are free to invest their money on a movie that may or may not succeed. Instead, we have money taken from taxpayers under the threat of incarceration and given by politicians with no skin in the game to movie producers who get 90 percent of the upside and 25 percent of the downside. Perhaps the legislators believe they’ll use their influence to get cameo roles and make it big on the silver screen.

Movies are risky. Very risky. For every movie that succeeds, many more flop. That’s why the business of making movies should be left up to the professionals, of which our state legislators are not. As Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”

Editor’s note: Wyatt Emmerich is President of Emmerich Newspapers community newspapers which are primarily in Mississippi including The Winston County Journal.