4 - Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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the University of Michigan since 1890.
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Michigan's big break
Tax incentives bring filmmakers, economic boost to state
This is a huge cow patty with a piece of
marshmallow stuck in the middle of it
and I am not going to eat that cow patty."
-Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), expressing his reluctance to support the $700 billion bailout package
before the U.S. House of Representatives, as reported yesterday by The New York Times.
ELAINE MORTON NARRE E-MAIL ELAINE AT EMORT@UMICH.EDU
-toP y (
ollywood, Hollywood - and Michigan? Through the new
Michigan Motion Picture Incentive program, our state is
becoming the new, hip destination in filmmaking. This year,
an influx of filmmakers has gradually streamed into Michigan, tak-
ing advantage of its tax breaks and offering a sorely needed econom-
ic boost. With this tide has come the conviction that the future of
our state's economy lies with its ability to attract new industries and
a new workforce. And this film incentive program has been a great
success story, one from which Michigan can learn.
In what Gov. Jennifer Granholm has
called "the most aggressive film incentive
program in the nation," this initiative offers
studios a 40 percent tax break on movies
shot in Michigan with budgets exceeding
$50,000. Through this bipartisan effort,
which passed unanimously, the state leg-
islature seeks to attract big-budget films.
And just as similar measures did in other
states like Connecticut and New Mexico, it's
working. In 2007, the Michigan Film Office
screened just three scripts; this year, it has
already seen 80.
As such, plans are in place to build a last-
ing foundation in the state. For instance,
v-One Entertainment Group, a Los Angeles-
based group that facilitates film production,
has plans to build sound stages and produc-
tion infrastructure in three Michigan cit-
ies. Because building a studio involves such
intensive construction, capital and technol-
ogy, it demonstrates a long-term commit-
ment from the industry.
Even a commitment like that does not
allay concerns about the state's priorities,
though. Small business owners are upset
that the Michigan Business Tax is rising,
while lawmakers give special privileges to
Hollywood. Some are skeptical that the tax
revenue Michigan would lose is too risky for
its tight budget.
In fact, Michigan stands to gain: Without
these incentives, producers would not be so
attracted to the state. While it would seem
that only the film industry stands to gain
from this incentive, it has the potential to
spur the Michigan economy. The prospect
of massive crews eating, shopping and sleep-
ing in our towns is a boon to local business.
Granholm has said that every dollar spent in
film production here will generate up to $3
in economic activity.
On campus, the effects are tangible. Film-
makers save an extra 2 percent in taxes if
they shoot their movies in one of 103 "core
communities," like Ann Arbor. So, unsur-
prisingly, Ann Arbor witnessed a bit of the
action this summer in the form of Drew
Barrymore's "Whip It" and Michael Cera's
"Youth in Revolt."Film crews in townsought
talent and found it in University students
studying film, technology or the perform-
ing arts. Hence, University students stand
to directly benefit from this plan, earning a
level of attention that is harder to get in Los
Angeles and the resulting experience.
The Michigan Motion Picture Incentive
sets the pace for the change Michigan needs.
Putting Michigan in the spotlight will diver-
sify our economy and provide a much-need-
ed flow of capital into our small businesses.
With this plan, the state has the capacity to
give its college graduates access to the kind
of career experience worth sticking around
for. This should only set the precedent for
more programs like it.
uch like telling people I'm
a Screen Arts and Cultures
major with a minor in Chi-
nese, saying I'm
is initially met with
a blank stare. Then, n ,.
the person usu-
ally says something
along the lines of
"Oh, that's inter-
esting. But ... what
good will it do?" BRANDON
that's a diffi-
cult question to
answer - though
it shouldn't be. You would think in
a democratic country you wouldn't
need to apologize because you vote
for someone other than the two most
prominent candidates, just as you
wouldn't have to justify pursuing a
degree in a field that actually inter-
ests you, whether it guarantees work
or not. But a simple "Because I want
to" isn't always a satisfying response.
People expect substantial reasons.
More than that, this is a particu-
larly frustrating time not to adhere
to the two-party equation. Whether
the Democrats or Republicans win in
November, a defining moment in his-
tory will be made, and students are
already gearing for the occasion. I,
meanwhile, have hung up my gloves,
retreated into a corner and taken on
the role of a complacent observer.
Like any independent voter today, I've
fully accepted the fact that my candi-
date has no chance.
So what's the point?
Well, before I get into that, let me
This coming election, I'm votingfor
Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate.
When I told my dad this, he sounded
confused and vaguely disgusted, as if I
had told him Iwas becoming avegetar-
ian. My friends responded similarly.
It's not hard to understand why
they reacted like this. Most of my
friends didn't even know who Bob
Barr is. A couple of them didn't know
what a Libertarian is.
My dad, meanwhile, lives in Mary-
land,where most primaries are closed,
meaning you can't vote in them if
you're a registered independent.
That's a wonderful way to strength-
en the two-party system, as well as
emphasize the supposed meaning-
lessness of being an independent
voter. When I told him my decision,
he probably envisioned me throwing
my ballot into a fiery furnace.
That said, it doesn't matter what
they think. That probably sounds like
the idea ofvoting based onyour beliefs
- as opposed to votingto please those
around you - has apparently been lost
in our image-conscious culture, when
wearing Barack Obama or "Vote or
Die" T-shirts is more a fashion state-
ment than a political one.
Simply put, I'm voting Libertarian
because I'm voting for a movement I
believe in. That's all the justification
I need. Meanwhile, there are people
out there voting for Obama simply
because he sounds good speaking
from podiums, or for John McCain
because he was once a prisoner of
war. There are questionable voters
everywhere, and most of them aren't
The main reason for both the inde-
pendent candidates' lack of recogni-
tion and the sheer stupidity on the
part of certain voters is the news
media - specifically, TV news. There
is literally no coverage of the Liber-
tarian Party - or any other indepen-
dent party, for that matter - on the
important news stations. Why, then,
would anybody care about it?
Cable news stations like MSNBC
and CNN narrow down the election
to the point where the average viewer
would assume there are only two par-
ties. And, on top of that, the Repub-
lican and Democratic candidates are
presented in such a way that they're
little more than symbols. Yet, these
superficial presentations are just what
influence people to go to the polls.
Why a vote for Bob
Barr is a vote for
So what can we do? Simple: Read.
Educate ourselves. Gather as much
information as we can and form-our
own opinions, as opposed to simply
nodding blindly in accordance with
what Keith Olberman or Chris Mat-
thews say. There are more options out
there than Obama and a "hockey mom"
from Alaska. Think outside the box -
or more to the point, look away from it.
It can be hard going against the
grain. I don't like having to constantly
justify my reason for voting indepen-
dent, but then again, maybe it's good
that I have to. At the very least, I can
pride myself on the fact that my opin-
ion isn't shaped by what television,
or anyone else, tells me my opinion
should be. I'm voting for myself, and,
ultimately, that's all thatmatters.
Brandon Conradis can be
reached at email@example.com.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Harun Buljina, Emmarie Huetteman, Emily Michels, Kate Peabody, Robert Soave
FRANKLIN SHADDY VE' T
The energy paradox
er's cat paradox to illuminate the peculiarity
and utter bizarreness of our limited under-
standing of quantum mechanics. Devised by
Austrianphysicist Erwin Schrodinger in 1935,
this thought experiment offered an elegantly
simple explanation of the quirky nature of
quantum superpositions - the simultaneous
combination of all possible states in a system,
which exist until observation.
Schrodinger proposed a scenario in which
the life or death of a cat, sealed in a box,
depended upon the state of an unobservable
subatomic particle. Because the fate of the cat
is inextricably linked to the state of the parti-
cle, the paradox suggests the cat is simultane-
ously alive and dead until the box is opened,
just as the particle simultaneously assumes
every possible state until observation.
Enough physics. I'll get to the point: Energy
policy in the United States is that cat.
Unfortunately, the bloviation of TV pundits
and Washington politicians has painfully, and
even shamefully obscured, what seems to be a
fairly simply calculus: Are we serious about
combating global warming, and, if so, are we
willing to pay for it?
Here's the sober reality: We suckle on the
teat of foreign oil because it's cheap. And at the
end of the day, that's what the typical, budget-
conscious American family cares about.
But even if Congress decides that the nega-
tive externalities associated with our cheap-
est energy source are intolerably high, the
transparently futile, special interest-driven
quasi-solutions spewing from the volcani-
cally myopic Beltway are not the answer.
Congress doesn't need to pick ethanol, hydro-
gen or switchgrass as the panacea for our
energy problems. Nor does Congress need
to set unrealistic fuel efficiency standards to
encourage Detroit automakers to build more
fuel-efficient cars. What Congress needs to
do is make oil expensive.
Instead, what we've seen is the equivalent
of that quantum superposition - our nation's
leaders seem to think the future of oil is both
alive and dead.
Despite the increasingly widespread avail-
ability of alternative fuels, the majority of con-
sumers simplywon'tbite untilthey're cheaper
than gas. And it's clear Congress is not willing
to take that option off the table, though they
insist we need to wean ourselves off of our
oil addiction. Therein lies the fundamental
problem with the current state of environ-
mental politics: Congress listens to Al Gore
talk about "the most dangerous crisis we have
ever faced" and then lifts the ban on offshore,
drilling. Our presidential candidates offer to
make gas cheaper (Hillary Clinton and John
McCain, eat your hearts out), and our mem-
bers of Congress hold hearings to determine
"why today's gasoline and diesel prices are
so high ... and what can be done about it," as
one Senate Committee on Natural Resources
workshop in July described it.
Ethanol is perhaps the most salient exam-
ple of the problem with this superposition. As
Greg Mankiw, Harvard economist and maybe
the author of your introductory economics
textbook here, plainly explained in a piece
he wrote for The New York Times, "the price
mechanism is the most reliable way to reduce
energy consumption." Instead of simply tax-
ing oil, Congress offered us a Byzantine amal-
gam of new rules, regulations and wasteful
earmarks in the form of the Energy Inde-
pendence and Security Act of 2007, which,
among other brilliant ideas, mandated the
blending of ethanol with gasoline in increas-
ing proportions until 2022.
So what have we learned since its passage?
Well, for one, nearly every economist and
their uncle has told us the total cost of blend-
ing ethanol is probably more expensive and
likely more damaging to the environment
than gasoline. Commodities prices have bal-
looned (this summer, the World Bank deter-.
mined that as much as 75 percent of the 140
percent increase in world food prices was the
product of increased biofuel use), which has
forced lower-and middle-class Americans to
stretch their budgets to feed their families.
And what, then, does the Western world say
to Africa? While many sub-Saharan nations
wallow in hunger, depravity and poverty,
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
is content to force you to burn what might
otherwise be food aid inyour car's engine.
Our politicians aren't smart enough to
determine what the next long-term energy
solution will be. Our politicians are equipped
with the tools to incentivize the discovery of
the next big energy idea. Increased tax reve-
nues from oil and gasoline can be redistribut-
ed to mitigate any regressive income effects;
funding for research can be maintained; the
construction of additional nuclear power
plants can be permitted (especially consider-
ing the French have already swallowed that
pill). The point is, agro-lobbyists don't have
My understanding of climatology is lim-
ited to the navigation of weather.com every
morning, so I'll default to the experts. But if
the sky really is falling and the energy crisis
really is as bad we're led to believe, immedi-
ately dethroning oil as our primary energy
source needs to be the priority. If not, let's
stop siphoning resources from the economy
and squeezing middle America.
We should be tired of straddlingthe line -
it's time to open the damn box.
Franklin Shaddy is a Business School senior.
Flawed policy, flawed care
In the fall of 2007, I enrolled
in Project Community, a service
learning course through the Uni-
versity's Ginsberg Center that
assigns students jointly to a volun-
teer position and a peer-facilitated
seminar to examine their experi-
ences through a sociological lens.
I was then placed in the public
advocacy department of Planned
Parenthood of Mid and South
Michigan. I was excited about the
experience and, in true University
of Michigan fashion, believed that
I was totally prepared. I quickly
learned that I was wrong,
Coming from a Catholic school,
I never had a proper sex education.
In ninth grade, my health teacher
held up a condom in front of the
class and said, "This is a condom,'
but don't try to steal it. You can't
use it. I poked a hole in it."
In 12th grade, my sex education
faced its first test when my doctor
recommended I begin taking the
birth control pill to ensure normal
reproductive health. Because'all I
could think about was how much
I want a family when I am older,
I resisted. I didn't want birth con-
trol to make me sterile, as my lim-
ited sex education had taught me.
Looking back, it amazes me that I
didn't question what I had learned
until my mother finally confronted
me about why I was resisting my
doctor's orders. Needless to say,
she corrected the misinformation,
and I finally chose what was best
for me medically: the pill.
In my first days at Planned Par-
enthood, I learned about many dif-
ferent forms of contraception, but
most importantly, I started to learn
the intricacies of public policy sur-
rounding issues of sex education,
contraception and abortion. I was
flabbergasted when I learned about
a recent change in federal law that
takes away subsidies to discourage'
pharmaceutical companies from
offering college and community
health clinics prescription drugs
at lower prices. I also discovered
that the University Health Service
had initially shielded University cost increase for affected women
students from the implications of since 2005. All of the legislators
this policy by stockpiling popu- with whom we met pledged their
lar brands of the birth control pill support in helping us change this
while it could still purchase them policy.
at discounted prices. I couldn't But September is almost over,
believe there wasn't more publicity and the fix has not been made. Uni-
surrounding the issue. versity students are now paying
For the next two semesters, my $50 to $60 each month for name-
classmates and I dedicated our brand birth control pills. A
seminar to taking action on this
issue. We tried to educate Universi-
ty students and call them to action
before it affected our campus. We
collected petitions, wrote to
the media and made in-dis-
trict visits to Democrat-
ic Rep. John Dingell's
In April, I was con-
tacted by the advocacy
director of Planned
Parenthood of Mid and
South Michigan and
asked to travel to Wash- 2
ington, D.C. to -
I was few weeks ago,
one of I traveled again
four college- to Washington to
aged women meet with Stabe-
representing now and Reid to
the more than 5 mil- impress upon them the
lion women negatively impacted extremely negative impact this is
by this policy change. We met having on college campuses across
with Dingell, Sen. Debbie Stabe- the country.
now (D-Mich.) and Senate Major- I have become an advocate for
ity Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to students on campus, but it is not an
give a face to the issue and show effort I can take on alone. Students
that birth control isn't just for need to advocate for themselves
horny college students. Birth con- and for each other. Write a let-
trol is a component of basic health ter to your senator and member of
care for women. Restoring afford- Congress. Consider this issue when
able birth control can be done with voting in November, and cast votes
one simple sentence at no cost to for those legislators who care about
the government. Yet, as Planned the health of women and will help
Parenthood reports, this combi- . us make a change.
nation of backtracking and inac-
tion has represented a 900 percent Allyson Hoerauf is an LSA senior.