A Big Week for the Stupid and the Ugly

There’s an old saying that Hollywood is Washington, D.C., for stupid people and Washington, D.C.,  is Hollywood for ugly people. The truth of that adage was on full display last week, first with the Academy Awards and then with the Democrat reaction to President Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress.

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First up were the stupid, with Hollywood’s annual orgy of self-love and awards for movies nobody wants to see. Best picture winner “Moonlight” earned a place on the Oscar honor roll, but like so much of modern Hollywood is there because of its political message not its quality. “La La Land” was favored to win as it is the stereotype of films Hollywood likes – those that glorify Hollywood and make it look noble.

Sadly for “La La” boosters it was in competition with the one genre that trumps (pun intended) Hollywood egomania – political correctness – in a movie about a young black homosexual. Had the producers of “Moonlight” added being a one legged, illegal immigrant hunchback to the character the movie might have been a unanimous choice for best picture.

As it is, “Moonlight” will get a brief box-office bump and then disappear like so many of its predecessors. Doubt me?  Quick – what is the name of last year’s best picture winner? No fair Googling. It was “Spotlight.” How bout 2014’s winner? It was “Birdman,” which at least had the virtue of a subtitle exquisitely appropriate for the Hollywood glitterati, “The unexpected virtue of ignorance.”

All this folds in nicely with Hollywood’s contempt for average Americans as evidenced by their deranged hatred of President Trump. While there were no Meryl Streep-ish long-winded “Trump is either Hitler’s grandson or Satan’s spawn” diatribes, you weren’t really an A-lister if you didn’t include some anti-Trump snark in your remarks. The basket of deplorables has taken notice however, and it is extracting its revenge where it will hurt most, at the box office. Ticket sales slumped last year for the third year in a row and the seventh out of the last 10. This year’s Oscar ceremony was the third least-watched in the last 20 years.

Anyone familiar with Ronald Reagan’s movie career knows that the anti-American left has deep roots in the entertainment industry. Reagan himself credited his strong anti-Communism with his experience of watching the Reds operate in Hollywood. A vignette on this even closer to home involves my father, who in the mid-1930s was endeavoring to become a music editor at MGM. A prerequisite for that position was membership in the craft union, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. He was told by his immediate superior that he would have his IATSE card the day after he showed his membership card in the Communist Part USA. My father went around his boss, who soon after found himself exiled from the MGM lot, very likely thanks to the personal intervention of L.B. Mayer or Irving Thalberg, both strong conservatives. My father became a successful music editor and for 15 years or so an Academy member. He had no interest in attending the actual ceremony, commenting that “the only thing emptier than the words on the stage are the heads in the audience.” True that. Hollywood the stupid has hated America for a long time.

Two days after the stupid had their moment in the sun, the ugly took center stage for President Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress. In what must fairly be ranked as one of the 10 best speeches ever given from that podium, President Trump hit a grand slam home run. Every network’s polling after the speech showed majorities between 65 percent and 75 percent approving of the speech.

What equally large majorities most definitely did not approve of was the open disrespect shown Carryn Owens, the widow of Navy Seal Ryan Owens or the white-out stunt of female Democrats. It was ugly. Prominent Democrats including Elizabeth Warren, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Keith Ellison apparently think that refusing to stand and applaud the recently widowed wife of a Navy Seal is the path back to relevance for Middle America. If ignorance is bliss these folks must be ecstatic.

Providing unintended humor was the all-white attire of several dozen women Democrats. When I first noticed the bloc on television I assumed a convention of ice cream salespeople had been let into the House Chamber. After a close-up of Nancy Pelosi it became clear that it was the winners division of the Nurse Ratched look-a-like contest.

Disrespecting the widow of a military hero, having the girls play “dress-up,” refusing the shake the president’s hand, etc. showed the Democrats in D.C. can one-up their soulmates in Hollywood. They can be both ugly and stupid.

These antics can be infuriating but should not be discouraging or frustrating. Every day the ugly and stupid don’t wise up is another day of alienating average Americans and another day toward success for President Trump and the Republicans. So keep this under your hats.

Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of CA Political Review.

What would California be like as an independent nation?

calexitCalifornia breaking off into the ocean as a result of the “Big One” is science fiction fantasy to Hollywood, credible urban legend to citizens of Los Angeles and San Francisco and, perhaps, the secret hope of many Americans residing on the other side of the Sierras. However, backers of a just filed initiative, “Calexit: The California Independence Plebiscite of 2019,” want a different sort of California breakaway. They envision the state as a “free, sovereign and independent country.” Although the effort began several years ago, secessionists have been bolstered by those suffering Trump Derangement Syndrome – a condition where “alt-left” adherents lose their minds over the thought of a Trump presidency.

A spokesman for the movement cites California’s different culture, different set of priorities and different plans for the future as a justification for breaking away from the rest of the country.

While efforts to establish California as a separate country may be a farfetched idea – the issue of state secession was settled in the small town of Appomattox, Virginia when General Lee surrendered to General Grant, 1865 – it is an interesting mental exercise. What would California be like as an independent nation? Who would govern and what would be the impact on taxpayers? And if California could establish independence, would the break-up end there? Drive anywhere in the Sierra foothills or north of Sacramento and “State of Jefferson” signs are ubiquitous.

If California were an independent country, the precedent would be set for further fracturing, with other regions, where dissatisfaction with the established order is intense, seeking to break away.

Today, California’s political direction is dictated by the upper income elites living in coastal enclaves and Hollywood. Here, the Starbucks generation is consumed with issues like climate change and bathroom access and they are not shy about telling others how to live. This explains why Sacramento seems to be constantly making war on those not part of the coastal, protected class. But travel just 25 miles from the coast and you’ll find a different world. Here, people are concerned about finding a job or keeping the job they have.

After speaking to a group of politically active Californians a few years ago, pollster Scott Rasmussen responded to a question about the size of government saying, the average person does not walk down the street thinking about limited government, they are thinking about how they are going to support their families.

Outside of Malibu, Santa Barbara and the Bay Area, most people are still searching for the answer to the question of how to feed, shelter and clothe their families. If given the option of breaking away from the Prius driving, chardonnay sipping, kale chip nibbling elite, they would likely vote yes.

California will not become an independent nation, but the divide between the coastal and inland areas is real and we are about to experience another clash of these cultures played out on the Sacramento stage.

A special session on transportation, called by Gov. Brown last year, has just concluded without lawmakers imposing new taxes. But when the new Legislature convenes, one with even more pro-tax members elected in November, the top priority will be a significant increase in the gas tax and other auto-related charges. Once again, inland residents who need their cars for work will find themselves pitted against the “Let them drive Teslas” coastal elite.

If the price of fuel heads even higher than it is now, we are bound to see a multitude of working class Californians filling their tanks one last time as they leave the state for a foreign land called America.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piece was originally published by HJTA.org

Why #CalExit Will Never Happen

calexitCalifornia will never leave the United States.

Neither will most of these Hollywood actors who swore to flee America if Trump became the president.

They don’t need to. They’ve created their own country already, which is heavily dependent on foreign aid (i.e. your tax dollars) from Washington, D.C.

But that didn’t stop California leftist elites from expressing how horrified they are at the election of Donald J. Trump as America’s 45th President.

So much so that the Marxist Progressives who control California’s Legislature issued a joint statement on how much they fear our newly-elected president, Donald J. Trump (emphasis added):

California will defend its people and our progressWe are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.

We will be reaching out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how a Trump Presidency will potentially impact federal funding of ongoing state programs, job-creating investments reliant on foreign trade, and federal enforcement of laws affecting the rights of people living in our state. We will maximize the time during the presidential transition to defend our accomplishments using every tool at our disposal.

While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values. America is greater than any one man or party. We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.

California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.

They might do well to heed a warning from FDR: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Or, more accurately — when you read the implied threats — they have become the very thing they claim to fear.

It’s not Trump supporters that are issuing death threats via Twitter. (Last time I checked, that was illegal, but don’t expect Obama’s Secret Service or FBI to do anything about it.)

It’s not Trump supporters that have worked themselves up into a frenzy in the streets over the peaceful transition of power from one president to another.

It’s not Trump supporters advocating violence all over social media and in the streets.

We’re all at work — working to pay taxes so these loafers can spend the day advocating our murder.

Someone needs to tell them.

No one died.

No one was deported overnight.

No one lost the right to pay for their own birth control.

If  you read the fear-laden headlines about women stocking up on IUDs and you don’t read the entire article, you might think Trump was going to ban all birth control, and shut down all the Rite-Aids and Walgreens nationwide.

When the reality is that it’s not Trump’s election that upsets them.

It’s that the election was clearly a referendum on the socialist direction of the past eight years under Obama — and as the beneficiaries of all the “free stuff,” they’re just mad that the party is over.

So like spoiled children, they’re throwing a tantrum.

I guess it’s a good thing that all the angry protestors live in gun-free” blue sectors of the country, where they can’t easily get “access” to guns because they seem to lack any self-control.

Maybe that’s why they hate guns so much — because they don’t trust themselves.

Maybe it’s a good thing they’re terrified of guns.

Because when they compare those of us who believe a country should have borders to restrict access, and a Constitution to restrict government, to Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, calling us fascists and Nazis, what they’re really doing is dehumanizing their “enemy.”

It’s a classic Alinsky tactic. You don’t debate your “opponent”; you destroy your enemy.  The enemy isn’t wrong, they’re evil.

They’re so brainwashed, they don’t realize that they and their leftist idols are the incarnation of all the very things they claim to fear.

Why #CalExit will Never Happen?

The weather’s great, the water’s warm, and these protestors love their Marxist Progressive Utopia

With Donald J. Trump in the White House, maybe it’s possible to take back California for Americans.  Now, there’s something worth discussing.

Tim Donnelly a former California Assemblyman.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com

New Bill Takes Aim at Hollywood Ageism

Aerial_Hollywood_SignA bill approved by the California legislature this week would allow actors to request that their ages be scrubbed from casting websites, in what supporters hope will be an important step in combating ageism in Hollywood.

AB 1687, authored by Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Los Angeles), was approved earlier this week by the state Assembly.

The bill’s supporters — including SAG-AFTRA president and former Beverly Hills 90210 actress Gabrielle Carteris — argue that the law is necessary to keep Hollywood casting agents from discriminating based on age.

“My role on Beverly Hills, 90210 could not have happened for me today, plain and simple. I would never have been called to audition for the part of 16-year-old Andrea Zuckerman if they had known I was 29,” Carteris wrote in an essay for the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. “Electronic casting sites did not exist in 1990; today, they are prevalent and influential. And they affect casting decisions even when casting personnel don’t recognize their unconscious bias.

Carteris charged that Hollywood actors face “blatant age discrimination every day” as industry websites like the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and StudioSystem “force” casting agents to consider their ages when making decisions, whether they realize it or not.

The issue of ageism has long been a topic of discussion in Hollywood, with several big-name stars including Anne Hathaway, Rachel Weisz and Liv Tyler all speaking out on the issue in recent years.

Just this week, actress Renée Zellweger expressed disappointment about Hollywood’s attitudes toward older women in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.

I’ve never seen the maturation of a woman as a negative thing,” the Bridget Jones’s Babystar told the outlet. “I’ve never seen a woman stepping into her more powerful self as a negative.”

Despite the bill’s approval in the Legislature, some California Republicans say it will do little to curb actual age discrimination in the industry.

“I don’t know what’s so sacred about celebrity birth dates,” Republican state Senator Jim Nielsen told the Los Angeles Times. “[Lawmakers] birth dates are everywhere. These celebrities are public figures just like most of us.”

The bill next heads to the Office of Engrossing and Enrolling for proofreading and then to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart California

Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum

LA Renters: How Do They Do It?

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

A scroll through rental sites like Trulia or Apartments.com brings up a one-bedroom/one bath in Westwood at $3,100 per month and a studio in Miracle Mile at $2,295. Conventional financial advice is to spend no more than 30 percent of gross monthly income on rent, which translated into real terms, would mean an income of $97,160 to comfortably afford average rent in Los Angeles, according to a December 2014 analysis by Zillow.

The rental situation results from a perfect storm of single-digit vacancies, median home prices at $554,100 per Zillow, and wages that have not caught up with the rental market. Rental pricing is a function of supply demand. If few units are available, rents will rise to what the market will bear, barring rent control or other regulations.

Just how significant is the problem? A nationwide study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University concluded that close to 60 percent of renters in the LA/OC metro area are “burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent, leaving less in the pot for other expenses like food and healthcare, not to mention savings and disposable income, hurting the economy and dashing hopes to eventually become a home owner.

About a third of renters (32.8 percent) are “severely burdened,” meaning they spend more than half of their income for rent and utilities, a percentage that has increased by less than half a percent this year but still reflects a growing problem.

Although rent in San Francisco/Silicon Valley and New York outpace Los Angeles, the wage gap in Los Angeles is what makes rent affordability a troubling issue in the City of Angels. Nearly 91 percent of those earning $15,000 to $30,000 need to pay 70 percent of their monthly paychecks towards housing. Among moderate earners ($30,000 to $45,000), 78 percent pay rents that exceed the 30 percent threshold. Slightly over one in four who earn over $45,000 are rent-burdened.

A study by the NYU Furman Center and Capital One concluded that L.A. has the biggest gap between rising rents and falling wages of any U.S. city. The average paycheck in the L.A. Metro area has decreased by 4 percent between 2006 and 2013, while rents increased by 11 percent.

As the price of single-family home ownership continues to increase, rising 5.2 percent during 2015, median incomes in L.A. increased by only 2.9 percent, just above the national average. Housing forecasts indicate that many Angelenos are destined to be lifelong renters, which, you’ve got it, increases demand and decreases supply. With a nod to your high school economics teachers, that means rent is bound to continue escalating.

The increasing rental market is bringing construction but vacancy rates have dropped to just 2.7 percent in hot neighborhoods like downtown. Over half of the new 5,200 rentals listed online are located downtown. Keeping in line with Mayor Garcetti’s ambitious proposal to increase units by 17,000 by 2017, more than 15,000 units are under construction all over LA.

Despite the increase in units, a third quarter rental market report by Marcus & Millichap concludes that rents are continuing to spiral upward. Rents throughout the city were up by 7.8 percent and are expected to continue the climb by more than double the rate of inflation.

Even in the (818), where renters traded in shorter commutes for affordable housing, rents are up by 7.4 percent, the highest rent increase in the Northeast Valley, where rents are up 15.1 percent. The increase in rents in the Valley may be in part due to the cooldown in construction, though 3,100 units are expected to be added to the market next year.

Central L.A. rents have outpaced the rest of the city in rents, increasing an average of 6.2 percent, with the biggest increases in Hollywood where average rents rose by 7.2 percent to $2,209 per month. Mid-Wilshire rents increased by 6.4 percent.

Downtown, rents increased by 5.3 percent, likely because of an upswing in development. Of the 2,800 units built in Central L.A., 1,900 were located downtown. The vacancy rate downtown hovers around 3.7 percent, lower than in other areas and about ten percent of apartment units offer concessions to attract renters to sign a lease.

Rents on the Westside are up 6.8 percent with Palms/Mar Vista seeing an upsurge of 10.5 percent. Average rents in Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey are now over $3,000 per month, higher than Brentwood/Westwood/Beverly Hills, where the average rent is now $2,891 per month, up by 9.3 percent since last year. About half of the new units built on the Westside are in and around Santa Monica. In 2016, over 1,000 new rental units are expected to be built, more than 700 in Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey.

Is Los Angeles destined to remain unaffordable to low- to moderate-income residents? The mayor’s ambitious proposal includes step increases of units to 150,000 units by 2025. He also hopes to increase affordable housing units close to mass transit.

Any solution to the affordable housing problem must address wages and enticements to developers and investors to develop units that are within the budget for more Angelenos, as well as zoning restrictions to curb the building of expensive housing.

This piece was originally published by CityWatchLA.com

Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles-based writer and CityWatch contributor. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Los Angeles NIMBYs Fight to Halt Development in City

Los Angeles developmentLos Angeles is in the midst of a housing crisis, plain and simple. The stock of available dwellings can’t sustain a growing population, people are paying a wildly disproportionate amount of their salaries on rent, and building new affordable housing is seen by some developers as a nuisance to be avoided at all costs.

The city’s approach to the problem has often been to give developers carte blanche, lifting restrictions and amending city codes to facilitate construction of LA’s new iconic structure: the mid-rise mixed-user.

Opposing this development bonanza are longtime residents, the NIMBYs, who decry the new focus on density as a shift in the fundamental values of a city seeking to find its identity and place in the Twenty-First Century.

The battle now looks to be headed to a showdown at the voter’s booth as one anti-development group has turned to a classic California method of change, the ballot measure.

According to the LA Times, the Coalition to Preserve LA has announced plans to push forward the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative ballot measure in an effort to thwart the spread of new developments in Los Angeles.

The CPLA cites Hollywood as a “microcosm” of unrestrained development in Los Angeles. They believe “unlawful favoritism” is being shown to many Hollywood developments seeking amendments to the city’s General Plan in order to skirt zoning restrictions on height, parking, and density.

The upcoming Palladium project in particular is called out as one of the 69 major projects brewing in the Hollywood area whose “piecemeal” amendments to the city code begin to add up and create the “Manhattanization of Hollywood.”

(One backer decries the loss of the parking lot where the project would rise: “Palladium developers are asking the City to amend the General Plan in order to rezone its back asphalt parking lot from industrial land use to commercial use. The City’s General Plan is supposed to preserve the distinct character of neighborhoods and to prevent infrastructure overload.”)

The CPLA wants Los Angeles to stick more strictly to the established city planning guidelines, which in many cases are decades out of date. When the city tried to pass new, more modern planning guidelines in Hollywood, anti-development groups successfully sued to stop the plan.

According to the CPLA press release, the ballot measure would change development rules in four key areas:

(1) Direct officials to halt amendment of the City’s General Plan in small bits and pieces for individual real estate developer projects, and

(2) Require the City Planning Commission to systematically review and update the City’s community plans and make all zoning code provisions and projects consistent with the City’s General Plan, and

(3) Place City employees directly in charge of preparation of environmental review of major development projects, and

(4) For a limited time, impose a construction moratorium for projects approved by the City that increased some types of density until officials can complete review and update of community plans or 24 months, whichever occurs first.

Los Angeles Times Architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne took to Twitter to eloquently contextualize this unique period of Los Angeles history and challenge both sides of the development argument to bring more to the table.

(Jeff Wattenhofer writes for Curbed LA … where this perspective was first posted.)

Few major films shot in California, study shows

As reported by the Associated Press:

A report shows that despite California acting as the backdrop for blockbusters this year, very few were filmed in the state.

Only 22 of 106 films released by the major studios in 2014 were actually filmed in California. The rest of the movies were shot in New York, Britain, Canada, Georgia, Louisiana, Australia and a dozen other states and countries, according to a feature film study by FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and county, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Only two films with budgets above $100 million were filmed primarily in California: Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and Paramount’s “Interstellar.”

In 1997 64 percent …

Click here to read the full story

New 2015 Laws: Hollywood Wins, In-Home Care Loses

New Year’s Day sure wasn’t a holiday from new regulations: 2015 brings 931 new laws Californians must obey. Some took effect on Jan. 1; others will later in the year.

State lawmakers — with the approval of Gov. Jerry Brown — have changed how consumers shop for groceries, how Hollywood blockbusters are funded and how much time you get off work when you’re sick.

Perhaps the most talked about new law, the country’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, also is the least likely to go into effect. Under Senate Bill 270, by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, grocery stores and markets would be banned from distributing plastic bags on July 1. Stores would also be forced to charge customers at least 10 cents for a recycled paper bag, the proceeds of which can go toward offsetting the cost of complying with the new regulation.

However, a manufacturing trade group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, has channeled consumer anger over the new state regulation into a successful petition drive. Earlier this week, the group turned in more than 800,000 petition signatures to county registrars in an effort to qualify a referendum for the 2016 ballot. If the measure qualifies for the ballot, the law would be delayed until voters decided its fate in Nov. 2016.

Hooray for Hollywood handouts

While the outcome of the state’s plastic bag ban remains in doubt, there’s no doubt Hollywood will have its handout in the new year. Assembly Bill 1839, authored by Assemblymen Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, and Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, would more than triple California’s corporate welfare program for film and television programs.

Under the state’s current subsidy program, the California Film Commission gives away $100 million in tax credits to big studios that keep production in California. The new law will increase that corporate welfare fund to $330 million per year for the next five years. It also changes how the funds are distributed, linking the size of the welfare to the number of jobs created by the project.

“In the last 15 years, film production has dropped nearly 50 percent in California,” said Senate GOP leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, a co-author of the corporate welfare bill. “When that happens, it’s the ‘behind the scenes’ workers who take a hit, as well the ancillary businesses that serve the production sites and teams. If California is going to get these jobs back, we must compete with other states and nations who are clamoring for that big movie business.”

Yet taxpayers often fail to see an adequate return on their investment, as CalWatchdog.com reported earlier this year, “A recent Legislative Analyst’s Office report concluded that the Golden State is actually failing to recoup its supposed investment in keeping the entertainment industry local, losing some 35 cents on the dollar.”

In-home workers excluded from new paid sick leave

As the state gives away hundred of millions of dollars to Hollywood studios, it simultaneously claims it can’t afford to extend a new perk to in-home care workers. AB1522, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, requires all companies to provide their employees up to three paid sick days per year.

But the new law, which takes effect on July 1, excludes 365,000 in-home support service workers. The California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill and included it in its list of 2014 “job-killers.”

Why did the Democratic-controlled Legislature abandon the state’s low-paid workers and exclude government from the new regulation?

“At the end of the day,” Gonzalez told the union-backed Capitol & Main blog, “we were forced to take that specific group out.  It was a condition of having the bill signed by Gov. Brown.”

Brown objected to the $82 million annual price tag to hold the state to the same regulations as private businesses. The cost of providing sick days to in-home workers was less than the current Hollywood subsidy program.

Other new laws in California

Redevelopment Revival

AB229, by Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, allows local governments to create Infrastructure and Revitalization Financing Districts to revive old military bases. These districts could issue 30 years of debt with the approval of two-thirds of voters in the district.

SB628, by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-Campbell, revives redevelopment agencies under a new name, “Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts.” These districts would be allowed to “finance public capital facilities or other specified projects of community-wide significance” with the approval of 55 percent of voters in the district.

New Gun Laws: 

AB1964, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, bans gun shop owners from selling single-shot handguns that can be altered into semi-automatic weapons.

AB1014, by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland, creates a new restraining order that allows the confiscation of firearms when a person is determined to be “an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself, or another.”

New Laws in the Bedroom: 

SB1255, by state Sen. Anthony Cannella, D-Modesto, expands California’s “revenge porn” ban against posting intimate images of unwilling or unaware people on the Internet, including selfies.

SB967, by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, requires colleges to develop instruction manuals informing students that sexual activity requires affirmative consent.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Hollywood Unmasked

Hollywood Progressives

 

Eric Allie, Caglecartoons.com

Hurray for Hollywood Tax Credits?

Is California’s political establishment trying to crush the Golden State’s economy and punish Hollywood movie moguls? That’s one interpretation of Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to sign a $330 million movie tax credit into law, but only if you take seriously the argument that tax increases—as opposed to tax credits—have driven the so-called California Renaissance. Recall how Brown, legislative leaders, and prominent columnists lauded voters’ approval of Proposition 30, which significantly raised sales and income taxes two years ago. The best businesses, they said, don’t mind California’s high tax burden so long as the weather stays nice. But if that’s so, then why the giveaway to Tinsel Town?

The Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act more than triples the current $100 million-a-year movie tax credit for five years beginning in fiscal year 2015–16. The new law allows studios to use the credits for television pilots and eliminates a lottery system for selecting beneficiaries. It also removes the existing credit’s cap of $75 million on production budgets, according to a state senate analysis.

The California Teachers Association opposed the bill for self-interested reasons: the union doesn’t want any money potentially taken away from public schools, which currently eat up more than 40 percent of the state’s general fund. Despite the CTA’s opposition, the legislation enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Republicans usually argue that tax credits are much less important than a more favorable overall tax climate, but they agreed to these special credits, just as they supported tax credits for a proposed Tesla electric-car battery plant, which wound up going to Nevada. More unusual was the support from the otherwise tax-credit-averse Democrats. “This legislation will keep the cameras rolling in California and strengthen our position as the entertainment capital of the world,” claimed Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat and new leader of the state senate. Governor Brown, who had criticized the credit in the past, said at the bill signing that SB 1839 “helps thousands of Californians—from stage hands and set designers to electricians and delivery drivers.” At least Democrats are tacitly recognizing the value of lower taxes—even if only for a handpicked industry that happens to support them.

But politicians’ assertions notwithstanding, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office in April released a report questioning the effectiveness of the existing tax credit. The LAO argued that studies promoting the credit’s economic benefit “vastly overstate” its advantages: “A return of $0.65 in state tax (excluding unemployment insurance) revenue for each $1 in tax credits may or may not be a good return compared with other state programs. However, it is incomplete—and, arguably, not accurate—to claim that the tax credit program pays for itself.”

Tax-credit supporters point to the loss of 16,000 California film-industry jobs over an eight-year period and blame other states, such as New York, for offering large subsidies that are supposedly stealing away movie productions. Just because other states lavish subsidies on movie companies doesn’t make it a great economic idea. “The state government in New York has dished out well over $2.5 billion in film industry tax incentives since their program began in 2004,” noted Christopher Thornberg, founder of Beacon Economics in Los Angeles. “And for that payout, New York has ‘stolen’ a total of roughly 10,000 jobs from California . . . Do that math! New York has paid $250,000 for each new job.”

The LAO pointed out another flaw in the case for Hollywood giveaways: “Other industries—such as manufacturing or software development—also could become the target of aggressive state subsidies. If this were to occur, would California also provide subsidies to retain these businesses? Doing so could be prohibitively expensive. Instead of approaching economic policy on an industry-by-industry basis, the Legislature may take actions that encourage all businesses to stay or relocate to California, such as broad-based tax reductions or regulatory changes.”

Unfortunately, a political party addicted to taxing and regulating happens to control California’s legislature. It’s funny how Democrats can rationalize tax hikes on the one hand and tax credits on the other. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Cay Johnston mocked claims that higher taxes destroy jobs: “Some research into tax rates indicates that high tax rates have the opposite effect: People may work harder, trying to make more money to achieve a desired after-tax income and may slough off if tax rates are lowered.” In other words, high tax rates aren’t detrimental to the California economy—they may even be the cause of its recent growth.

Johnston’s pro-tax argument is popular in Sacramento. Recently, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat, argued in support of a bill that would base corporate tax rates on CEO compensation—with higher rates imposed on companies that pay executives more. Yet Jackson joined her colleagues (only two voted no in both houses) in supporting the Hollywood tax credits.

Tellingly, policymakers have been unwilling to consider less costly ways to encourage film production in the state. None of the discussions surrounding SB 1839, for instance, pointed to the pernicious effect of Hollywood’s union-dominated work rules. Think of the TMZ, or Thirty-Mile Zone, the radius the various movie and TV unions use to determine per diem rates and driving distances for crew members. Nor did any of the bill’s sponsors have a word to say about the creative accounting Hollywood studios employ to show profits and losses.

So even as they peddle the fiction that California is booming because of high tax rates, legislators feel compelled to subsidize one of the state’s signature industries. Maybe they should have raised taxes on Hollywood instead. After all, it would be good for the economy: the higher taxes would make the studios work harder.