Tracing consequences both seen and unseen.
Christine HarbinThe Show-Me State Needs More Snooki*
Posted at 6:32 pm on November 9, 2010, by Christine Harbin

A Saint Louis production company is planning to focus on reality television series, and it is looking into tapping the Missouri film tax credit program to do it. According to an article in the St. Louis Business Journal:

Coolfire Media, the St. Louis production and design studio behind Budweiser, Maybelline and Verizon Wireless ads, has spun off a separate company to develop ideas for reality TV shows and scripted comedies.

The minds behind Coolfire Originals say they will specialize in offering Midwest storylines, characters and actors as a niche — and a cheaper alternative — in a world of coast-centric programs. […]

Coolfire Originals hopes to tap into some of the $3.5 million in Missouri tax credits still available this year for the TV and film industry and the $4.5 million in state tax credits available next year, Breitbach said.

First, there is a fiscal problem. The state government in Missouri is facing historically low revenues, and has to make cuts to services that are arguably more important than reality television — such as education and public safety.

Second, there is a fundamental problem: This program diffuses the cost of reality television production onto the taxpaying population, and concentrates the benefits on reality television producers. Missourians will pay a marginally higher amount of taxes as a direct consequence of this policy.

I have many questions. Will Brett Michaels ever find love, and will he find it in Missouri? How much money in state incentives will it take for the “Rock of Love” bus to park in the Central West End of Saint Louis?

Additionally, what is the economic multiplier on reality television production? I know that contestants on dating shows like “The Bachelor” and the “The Bachelorette” purchase a considerable number of restaurant meals, so I suspect that it may be high. Similarly, if Kate brought her gaggle of Gosselins to Missouri, she’d probably buy a lot of diapers and children’s clothes in state.

Coupled with a lower marginal tax rate on income relative to other states, will this policy incite reality television stars to move to Missouri? Perhaps Snooki would consider moving to Missouri because the top marginal state income tax rate in New Jersey is 8.97 percent, whereas it is only 6.0 percent in Missouri.

Could a producer receive tax credits for making a reality television show about an activity that is also financed by state tax credits? Perhaps “Extreme Home Makeover: NorthSide Saint Louis” could feature a large private development that uses tax credits for historic preservation, low-income housing development, and/or brownfield remediation.

For the purpose of this post, I tried to brainstorm a list of titles of Missouri-specific reality shows that the state could subsidize with its film tax credit program. I encourage our blog readers to leave additional ideas for titles the comments section of this post.

  • Who Wants to Marry a Missourian?
  • Mississippi Shore
  • The Hill**
  • Pimp My Tax-Exempt Yacht
  • The Real World: Chillicothe, Mo.
  • The Real Housewives of Osage County
  • Grundy County’s Got Talent
  • Top Chef: Kansas City Barbecue
  • Iron County Chef
  • Are You Smarter than a Saint Louis Public School Fifth Grader?
  • East Saint Louis High School Musical
  • I’m in the Missouri Bootheel, Get me Out of Here!
  • Poplar Bluff’s Next Top Model
  • Survivor: Lake of the Ozarks Party Cove***
  • Branson Idol

* Title reference here.

** A reality show that follows the personal lives of several Italian-American young adults living in the Hill neighborhood of Saint Louis.

*** David Stokes tells me that a reality show about the Lake of the Ozarks’ Party Cove would make the stars of Jersey Shore look like participants in the Algonquin Round Table, and I concur.

[Cross-posted at Amateur Philosophy.]


Filed under: Culture, Government Spending, Politics, Taxes
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Henry Hazlitt"[T]he whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."
Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson
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