An Update from the Ministry of Entertainment

The Texas Film Commission (TFC) officially rejected incentive funds for making the movie “Machete” in Texas because it did not portray Texas in a positive enough light. As previously noted here, there might be problems with having tax dollars used to support the production of entertainment. Intertwining entertainment and government doesn’t do much for either and the TFC’s decision not to fund the “Machete” illustrates why our government should not be our movie producer. We have freedom of expression in Texas, but free expression that expresses proper support of the government can expect financial subsidy (an estimated $1.75 million for making “Machete” in Texas).

If the studio wanted to please the TFC  they could add a scene at the end of Machete in which the cast of the movie would dance around large pictures of the governor and sing his praises. It would be like a combination of the end of “Slum Dog Millionaire” and a North Korean political rally.

In “Two thumbs down on Texas Film Commission,” humorist John Kelso suggested an entire movie designed to please the Texas Film Commission:

Our suggested movie, “Secure Our Borders Man,” opens with Norris, who plays Secure Our Borders Man, wearing a red cape. Norris roams across the state of Texas from voting place to voting place asking suspicious-looking voters for their driver’s licenses. Then he busts up a few roofing jobs.

It seems strange to me that some of the same Texas politicians who see communism in every action of the federal government have so enthusiastically embraced funding of state-sponsored entertainment. Making the funding of movies based on the Governor’s office opinion on the degree to which they offer a favorable image of the state puts Texas on a dangerous trajectory. If the intention of the funds were to create Texas jobs, why impose standards on content? Texans are said to be a hardy breed, but some Texans are pretty easy to offend.

There are many movies I would prefer wan not funded with my tax dollars. Machete is probably one of them. However, I would prefer the non-state approved version to whatever politically correct version might have survived the clearance process. There is something thing worse than seeing your tax dollars go to something that makes your government unhappy–it’s seeing your tax dollars go to only the movies, television shows, and video games that make the government happy.

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2010 Census Results

The results of the 2010 Census were released today. The population of Texas grew 20.6% since 2010 and there are just over 25 million Texans. Texas’ growth was the largest of the large states, but we look positively sluggish next to Nevada’s 35.1% growth.

2010 Census Information

Texas will pick up four seats in the US House–increasing the state’s representation to 36 members (Florida finishes second, picking up two seats). Some people think that adding four seats will make the congressional redistricting battle in Texas more bitter. However, redistricting is always better and it will be more painful in states that are losing seats. Roll Call is reporting that (“Iowa’s 2012 Shuffle: Five Members, Four Seats“) all five of Iowa’s current members of the House plan on running–even though there will only be four seats two years from now.

The states’ financial problems makes 60 Minutes

It is significant that the “boring” topic of state finances now merits coverage on national news magazines like 60 Minutes. Here’s a story (about 14 minutes) about states’ financial problems that would be a good way to introduce the issue in class. The story doesn’t mention Texas, but it will not be hard to find stories about Texas’ budget shortfall and the problems with the Employee Retirement System.

Prize-Linked Savings and the No Lose Lottery

The guys from Freakonomics are suggesting something called “Prize-Linked Savings” (PLS).  With a PLS, Americans could put money into special savings accounts that would accumulate interest for the individual account holder like traditional saving accounts. Some of the interest from all the PLS accounts would be pooled into a big cash prized that would occasionally be awarded to one of the account holders. So, depositing money in your account would be a combination of saving money and buying a lottery ticket. Your deposit would always be there and have the savings of a traditional savings account (“no lose”) plus the chance of a big payoffs (“lottery”).

Why it works:

Americans love lotteries. Last year the average American spent $200 on lotteries. That would total about $58 billion.

Americans don’t love saving. America has had one of the lowest rates of savings of advanced industrial nations. We like to spend. We don’t like to save.

Why it will not happen

What’s the barrier to this? State lotteries. The states likely would fight this vigorously since they make so much money off what we might call “almost always lose lotteries.” States keep about 40% of what they take in on lotteries. That’s like a tax that hardly anyone notices. Unfortunately, states have become addicted to lotteries.

The case for why it will would work is spelled out in one story (“Could a Lottery Be the Answer to America’s Poor Savings Rate?“) and why it will not happen is spelled out in another story (“Who Could Say No to a ‘No-Lose Lottery’?“).

It may not be the best solution for America’s savings problem. It may be the most interesting.

The hits just keep on coming

The attempts to remove Joe Straus as Speaker of the Texas House keeps on bringing out the worst of Texas politics.

Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report has criticized a handful of conservative groups for “a fairly deceitful but noisy campaign trying to pressure lawmakers who actually like the speaker’s management style to vote against him.” Kronberg is especially troubled by attacks that call for election of a “true Christian speaker” because Straus is Jewish.

One of my favorite items is a postcard mailed out by Peter Morrison asking: “In the event _____ decides to side with Joe Straus and the Democrats, would you or someone you know consider running against ____ in the 2012 primary.” Here’s a little advice: If the invitation to run for office comes from a post card…. there may not be that much credibility behind it. It reminds me of those emails I get from alleged Nigerian widows who are looking for someone to trust with millions of dollars.

The battle has now taken a multimedia turn with videos now in the arsenal leveled at the Speaker and his allies.

Harvey Kronberg, whose reporting in this video is attacked, does point out: “While honored to be included in the Barton video, I would like to point out the photograph he uses is not me.”

Someone defending Straus has weighed in with their own video.

A lot has been said in this debate. Some of the Speaker’s opponents have done damage to their cause by playing to anti-Semitism. While this doesn’t reflect the attitudes of most of Straus’ opponents, the appeals for a “real Christian” in the Speaker’s chair is proving an embarrassment to many real Christians who don’t like the angry, divisive rhetoric being tossed around under the guise of Christian causes.

The behavior of the far right in Texas is especially interesting because they consistently attack others as “RINO politicians” (Republican In Name Only”). They see themselves at the only true Republicans and mainstream Republicans as interlopers. People new to a party are usually more hesitant to tell people who were there before that they’re not welcome.  The behavior of some of these Republicans reminds me of the anti-war Democrats who stormed the party during Vietnam. Neither had much understanding of anyone who did not agree with them completely. Both were willing to tear down or toss out anyone willing to accept anyone who shares less than total agreement. We’ll see how far the similarities go.