Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mike's got it right:

Film tax credit helps middle class
December 29, 2011

With Plymouth Rock Studios disappearing like the Pilgrims from Provincetown and now Cape filmmaker Daniel Adams indicted on fraud and making a sham of the Massachusetts film tax credit, it would seem that filmmaking in Massachusetts just isn't meant to be.

Whatever the outcome will be for Adams, he has already done serious damage to the image of not just the tax credit, but the entire industry of state film tax credits. In the next few years, we may discover there were other Adams' and production companies who broke similar laws.

But the Adams case is a small unsavory footnote in a story that begins about six years ago when the credit was signed into law.

Our protagonist in the story of the Massachusetts film tax credit is the middle class. The tax credit is one of the great accomplishments of the state in recent memory and has boosted the number of middle-class jobs in the state, attracted many productions to film in Massachusetts and poured money into many communities.

Most people in the film industry don't fly back and forth between their Cape Cod compound and Los Angeles home in The Hills. The film business is comprised of some of the hardest working Americans who come from every walk of life. Have you ever seen the credits at the end of a movie? Mostly everyone listed has a decently paid job. They are also a part of some of the greatest American unions.

Usually, production crews work over 16 hours a day and sometimes hit 90-plus hours a week. Many live in the Los Angeles and New York City metro areas, but some are fortunate enough to make a living in major markets like Boston.

Between 2006 (the year the incentive began) to 2009, Massachusetts realized over $267 million in annual benefits to the economy. Since then we have seen even more productions come to Massachusetts and the benefits continue to rise.

There's also an immeasurable effect on the human psyche that a film's location can have. Who knows how many saw Good Will Hunting, The Perfect Storm, Mystic River, Glory, The Departed, The Social Network, The Fighter and so many other films; who were inspired to come to the state and spend their money while walking the same streets so they can see what their favorite protagonist saw on the cinematic journey.

Lastly, I'd like to tell a quick story. There's a boy from a modest home whose family moved to Cape Cod in search of a better community to raise their children. They found a community of artists and educated citizens that would embrace that boy who would help him follow his dreams and spend a career doing what he loved to do.

I am that boy. One day I hope to work full time making major motion pictures in Massachusetts. There are many with similar aspirations and need the work and there are many more opportunities to be made in this state.

Please continue to stay educated on the matter and not to be persuaded by one man's alleged actions. We can't afford to be easily discouraged in times like this.

Mike McGuirk of New York City, an apprentice at the Directors Guild of America Trainee Program, is a native of Cotuit and a 2005 graduate of Barnstable High School.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pants on fire.

The Post-Truth Campaign
December 22, 2011

Suppose that President Obama were to say the following: “Mitt Romney believes that corporations are people, and he believes that only corporations and the wealthy should have any rights. He wants to reduce middle-class Americans to serfs, forced to accept whatever wages corporations choose to pay, no matter how low.”

How would this statement be received? I hope that it would be almost universally condemned, by liberals as well as conservatives. Mr. Romney did once say that corporations are people, but he didn’t mean it literally; he supports policies that would be good for corporations and the wealthy and bad for the middle class, but that’s a long way from saying that he wants to introduce feudalism.
But now consider what Mr. Romney actually said on Tuesday: “President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others.”
And in an interview the same day, Mr. Romney declared that the president “is going to put free enterprise on trial.”
This is every bit as bad as my imaginary Obama statement. Mr. Obama has never said anything suggesting that he holds such views, and, in fact, he goes out of his way to praise free enterprise and say that there’s nothing wrong with getting rich. His actual policy proposals do involve a rise in taxes on high-income Americans, but only back to their levels of the 1990s. And no matter how much the former Massachusetts governor may deny it, the Affordable Care Act established a national health system essentially identical to the one he himself established at a state level in 2006.
Over all, Mr. Obama’s positions on economic policy resemble those that moderate Republicans used to espouse. Yet Mr. Romney portrays the president as the second coming of Fidel Castro and seems confident that he will pay no price for making stuff up.
Why does Mr. Romney think he can get away with this kind of thing? Well, he has already gotten away with a series of equally fraudulent attacks. In fact, he has based pretty much his whole campaign around a strategy of attacking Mr. Obama for doing things that the president hasn’t done and believing things he doesn’t believe.
For example, in October Mr. Romney pledged that as president, “I will reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts.” That line presumably plays well with Republican audiences, but what is he talking about? The defense budget has continued to grow steadily since Mr. Obama took office.
Then there’s Mr. Romney’s frequent suggestion that the president has gone around the world “apologizing for America.” This is a popular theme on the right — but the so-called Obama apology tour is a complete fabrication, assembled by taking quotes out of context.
As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post has pointed out, there’s a common theme to these whoppers and a number of other things Mr. Romney has said: the strategy is clearly to portray the president as a suspect character, someone who doesn’t share American values. And since Mr. Obama has done and said nothing to justify this portrait, Mr. Romney just invents stuff to make his case.
Won’t Mr. Romney pay a price for running a campaign based entirely on falsehoods? He obviously thinks not.
The end result will be no real penalty for running an utterly fraudulent campaign.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Democracy, US Senate style: 53 yays, 45 nays...the nays have it!

Richard Cordray Nomination Blocked By Senate Republicans

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked an effort to put someone in charge at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a move that prevents the newly formed agency from supervising some of the same nonbank entities that triggered the financial crisis.
The Senate voted 53 to 45 to to begin debate on confirming Richard Cordray as the CFPB director. The motion required 60 votes to pass. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Laying down the gauntlet--at last:

Obama in Osawatomie

December 6, 2011

After months of Republican candidates offering a cascade of bad ideas about the economy, President Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kan., Tuesday came as a relief. He made it clear that he was finally prepared to contest the election on the issues of income inequality and the obligation of both government and the private sector to enlarge the nation’s shrinking middle class.

The economic downturn, combined with ideological gridlock, has created a “make-or-break moment” for the middle class and for those trying to enter it, he said. Mr. Obama correctly framed the choice for voters: The country can return to policies that stacked the deck for the wealthy and left everyone else to fend for themselves, creating what he called “you’re on your own economics.” Or elected officials can step in to keep competition fair and ensure the government has enough money to protect the vulnerable and invest in education and research.

The speech felt an awfully long time in coming, but it was the most potent blow the president has struck against the economic theory at the core of every Republican presidential candidacy and dear to the party’s leaders in Congress. The notion that the market will take care of all problems if taxes are kept low and regulations are minimized may look great on a bumper sticker, but, he said: “It doesn’t work. It has never worked.” Not before the Great Depression, not in the ’80s, and not in the last decade.

The president repeated his calls for the rich to pay higher taxes, for financial institutions to be more closely regulated and for education to become a national mission. What set this speech apart was the newly forceful explanation of why those policies are necessary. Incomes of the top 1 percent, he noted, have more than doubled in the last decade while the average income has fallen by 6 percent.

The chances of a poor child making it into the middle class have severely diminished since World War II, he said. That, he said, “flies in the face of everything that we stand for.”

It is rare for a president to be so explicit about a national income gap, but it is hardly “un-American” to think about it, as Newt Gingrich said recently. In fact, it is a pressing issue that goes back more than a century. Mr. Obama spoke in the same town where Theodore Roosevelt issued his call for a square deal in 1910. In demanding “a new nationalism,” Roosevelt supported strong government oversight of business, a “graduated income tax on big fortunes,” an inheritance tax and the primacy of labor over capital. For that, he was called a socialist and worse, as Mr. Obama observed, having endured the same.

Mr. Obama was late to Roosevelt’s level of passion and action on behalf of the middle class and the poor, having missed several opportunities to make the tax burden more fair and demand real action on the housing crisis from the big banks that he excoriated so effectively in his speech.

But he has fought energetically for a realistic plan to put Americans back to work and has been stymied at every step by Republicans. That seems to have burned away his old urge to conciliate and compromise, and he is now fully engaged against the philosophy of his opponents.

Tuesday’s speech, in fact, seemed expressly designed to counter Mitt Romney’s argument that business, unfettered, will easily restore American jobs and prosperity. Teddy Roosevelt knew better 101 years ago, and it was gratifying to hear his fire reflected by President Obama.