Netflix mistakes “House of Cards” for football team, threatens to move out of Maryland without tax breaks

Sometimes I get complaints that I focus too much on sports subsidies without acknowledging that other industries extort tax money for their own private profits as well — which, you know, there are only so many hours in the day, people. But just to prove that I do pay attention to non-sports subsidy shenanigans, here’s U.S. News’ Pat Garofalo reporting on how Netflix’s “House of Cards” is threatening to move out of Maryland if it doesn’t get bigger tax breaks:

In a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., the studio said it would “break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state” if it receives insufficient taxpayer largesse to film the show’s third season. “I wanted you to be aware that we are required to look at other states in which to film on the off chance that the [subsidy] legislation does not pass, or does not cover the amount of tax credits for which we would qualify,” the letter said. “I am sure you can understand that we would not be responsible financiers and a successful production company if we did not have viable options available.”

Film production tax subsidies are, in fact, possibly even more widespread and egregious than sports subsidies, if that’s possible, which shouldn’t be surprising given that production companies can and do shoot just about anywhere, and film shoots are very public examples of economic activity (even if they almost never actually spend as much locally as states are shelling out in subsidies).

So anyway: Yes, lots of other industries do this, too. And they cover their butts as well by saying they’re just being “responsible financiers” by demanding that the public help subsidize their profits. It’s why plenty of economists have been calling for federal legislation to stop the “economic war among the states” — I’m sure Congress will get on that any day now, really.

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4 comments on “Netflix mistakes “House of Cards” for football team, threatens to move out of Maryland without tax breaks

  1. I doubt you’d be so skeptical if you saw what runaway production has done for NOLA. It’s become a full-fledged industry down there and really helped the area recover after Katrina.

  2. Re: Louisiana: “The report, citing statistics from 2010, notes that the 118 productions that received the credit in 2010 cost the state about $7.30 for every $1 of new tax revenue it brought in.”

  3. At least in the case of Louisiana there’s some “hey, New Orleans looks like a fun place, we should visit there” benefit. Though probably still not enough to justify the level of subsidization. “House of Cards” and Maryland, none of that at all.

  4. And if anyone is wondering who else is raking in these kinds of subsidies, here’s a handy list just out from Good Jobs First:

    Top five: Boeing ($13 billion), Alcoa ($5.6 billion), Intel ($3.9 billion), General Motors ($3.5 billion), Ford ($2.5 billion).

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