“Fire From Heaven To Destroy The Despicable Act”

January 7, 2014 13:12 pm

by Buzz Brockway · 23 comments

On this date in 1795 the Yazoo Act was signed into law by Governor George Matthews. However, the new law set off a political firestorm known as the “Yazoo Land Fraud.” The act sold land in the western portion of the territory in parts of what is now Alabama and Mississippi. The only problem is that four of the people purchasing the land bribed Legislators to sell the land for $.02 per acre.

Once the people of Georgia learned what had been done, there was immediate reaction, resulting in election of a new legislature which not only repealed the Yazoo Act but demanded that every copy of the legislation be destroyed. Members of the legislature met on the statehouse grounds to publicly burn the act. Rather than use ordinary fire, legislators used a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays to start the fire, thus symbolizing calling on “fire from heaven” to destroy the despicable act.

However, attempts to reclaim lands sold by the companies by refunding the purchase price were less successful, with some purchasers refusing to sell the land back. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court would rule against Georgia’s attempts to reclaim land sold as a result of the Yazoo Act.

Burning Yazoo Papers

I think we should use more “fire from heaven” to destroy despicable acts. How about you? Discuss.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

peachpundit (@peachpundit) January 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

New post: “Fire From Heaven To Destroy The Despicable Act” http://t.co/tfDgCXxR1N #gapol

Patrick T. Malone January 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

“fire from heaven” is nice symbolism but the most effective action was when the people of Georgia “elected a new legislature”.

saltycracker January 7, 2014 at 1:37 pm

We are a lot smarter today with obfuscation, volumes of strangely named bills in long complex legalize and get ‘re done before the “we won’t do that anymore”.

How’s that ethics committee going?
Elect vigilant folks like you, hopefully, and impose term limits as the offices are intoxicating.

We have more sober drivers when our peers frown on irresponsibility toward ALL and the penalties are harsh. The idea of equality requires a cultural change in the legislature by politicians of vision.

@chemklean January 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm

“Fire From Heaven To Destroy The Despicable Act” — Peach Pundit http://t.co/qgXTUEWumh

saltycracker January 7, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Buzz
An article I just read brought home a point. I served on a county committee and listened to a lot of needs from local to state. What was notable was that none had a bona fide financial feasibility check independently run by either a county dept or other. The organizer of the idea either justified it with their own glowing forecasts or presented it with no idea of the cost/benefit ratio. Admittedly when assigned by the sponsor, the county workers were not going to present numbers making an elected official look stupid. Somehow you need to figure out how to be presented cold hard feasibility numbers to choose from, best you can.

We all have examples of handouts to the non-productive citizens but lobbyists drive big ones for select businesses or the influential, regularly. Example: Forbes 1/27/14 The Big Easy’ s Movie Money Pit. The article questioned the large tax incentives given by states to the movie industry that create no long term jobs as the industry follows the incentives. Louisiana was the primary subject where the costs to jump start the industry appeared to fatten filmmakers pockets far more than benefit the state.

Not to mention the local entrepreneurs making a bundle re-selling
the tax benefits to the wealthy (Atlanta has one of the biggest players).

Georgia was among a short list of states that offered large incentives for 22,800 entertainment jobs.
Lobbyists, bragging rights and photo ops might be very costly for the taxpayer when the incentives go large (California and virginia as small, Florida and Texas sermed medium),

Who is running those numbers for you ?

saltycracker January 7, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Oh, some of us are ok with the Lousiana millions flowing for Duck Dynasty. We have our pets.

Charlie January 7, 2014 at 6:06 pm

You say the movie industry “create(s) no long term jobs”, and yet we have Riverwood Studios in Senoia, Tyler Perry studios in Atlanta (and rumored to soon be in West GA), Pinewood Studios coming up out of the Rivers’ farm a few miles down from where I grew up, and many others.

Perhaps you need to redefine what you mean by a “long term job”. Because while each individual project may be temporary, the industry is building to stay awhile.

saltycracker January 7, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Add Turner Studios, a bigge and I have no idea how much they or the ones you listed avail themselves of the tax incentives for Georgia productions. What the article said was the program for GA was large by comparison and listed how many folks were involved. No individual data. No data to conclude we had a bad program, just inferred we should sort it out.

They quoted a producer “movie people are nomads, we go where the best deal is”. Some of our base companies might produce and utilize incentives in other states. As long as we outbid other states for specific approved productions we have “permanent” employees. The ability to transfer and sell the tax incentives to the wealthy is important.

I also read an article where a Florida legislator via a lobbyist Written attachment to a bill a $14m tax break to keep a dept of a game production company (Calif. HQ) for 2013 as they threatened to move to Texas. No idea if the tax break was good for Fl. H got $11m for the company the year before. I oppose one off deals but have no problem with industry wide incentives if it makes good business, but then how is that determined ?

Beach got GM $3m@yr for an economic opp zone (high unemployment area) in Roswell for high tech support. Really ? Very cozy.

The devil is in the details. Hope the below explains it better than I did.

The article I referred to was in Forbes 1/20/14.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorothypomerantz/2014/01/06/the-big-easys-movie-money-pit/

Below is a web site summarizing our program:
http://www.georgia.org/industries/entertainment/production-incentives/

Charlie January 7, 2014 at 7:52 pm

The tax break has it’s detractors. They usually quote the same local economist that doesn’t understand agglomeration economies among other things.

There are two ways you can approach tax incentives and expect a positive ROI.

1) You give the higher credits to the most transient of businesses (like above). Because the businesses can move easily, they’re going to quickly move to where the best deal is. Because GA has committed to this as a long term incentive, you get the benefit of the things that can’t move easily. (large studio infrastructure, post production, and a large talent pool of people that understand they’re going to work project to project, but know that there will be a steady stream that base themselves here)

2) You give higher credits to those that aren’t able to move easily – like Kia – to get them here. The lions share of Kia’s incentive package was waiver of property taxes on a plant that wouldn’t be taxable if it wasn’t there. Most of them are amortized over 10 years. Car companies tend to keep these kinds of factories open 50 years or longer, so you give up 10 years, you get jobs for 50 years, and taxes for 4o.

Can the system be abused, sure. But are some tax credits/breaks/incentives better than others? Absolutely. I’m actually a big fan of the movie tax credit. The results are showing it’s working, and the money hits all over the state, not just where the studios are building.

Charlie January 7, 2014 at 7:55 pm

As for the deal with GM in Alpharetta, the arrangement in the following article discusses what GM is doing, with Atlanta’s new R&D facility specifically given a shout out this morning on air:

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/523261/ces-2014-gm-and-att-blur-line-between-car-and-smartphone/

Why Atlanta? We’ve long been a leader in the telecommunications tech arena. (Again, and agglomeration economy). GM located an R&D center where there’s a tech knowledge base, and the incentive helped close the deal. I’m not going to complain if it doesn’t look like the spirit of the law wasn’t met as long as the letter was, and in the process, a lot of folks with telecom experience that have seen their skills consolidate elsewhere get the chance to break into a new industry with their old skill set.

saltycracker January 8, 2014 at 11:15 am

Charlie,

I believe we should utilize taxation to encourage or discourage activities while growing the state in the direction we want to go and benefiting its citizens. I read your points above as in that camp while I’m concerned the process is flawed or misused to advantage specific persons or entities outside the mission and maybe not public revenue friendly.

My premise is that, in general, our elected represent the people to facilitate capitalistic and charitable endeavors in the direction best for all the people. It is not our design that they are the best and brightest in those areas or that they can administer virtually unlimited nuances.

I’m saying we do not turn our people out to negotiate unique tax structures. They are are sand lot amateurs with restrictions against well equipped professionals with their own rules.

We can approach income, property, bonding and impact fee revenue from various levels to accommodate our goals. I like basic impact fees as we can’t anticipate full capital needs for public infrastructure and it is a method to get growth to fund some of itself. It is another area we can choose to adjust for the development we want.

Genius is in simplicity and is a lot easier to understand, administer and keep clean. I think our mission gets into an unmanageable quagmire fiscally or beneficially when we have all these specific deals and offers being cut at the table with an exec, his lobbyist, his attorney and his CPA.

We should avoid giving a select business/individual a competitive advantage within a defined group and paying a bunch to do it.

I guess that this is a long form that, for example, the incentives set forth for the entertainment industry by the GA Economic Development may not be the best or may add to a bureaucratic setup but lets run with it or revise it. Not use it as a starting point to begin a back room deal/adjustments/rider for Cool Cracker Daddy.

Charlie January 8, 2014 at 11:24 am

I don’t believing in rewarding individuals (or individual companies), but we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think tax policies, however narrow or broad, always pick winners and losers.

There is nothing wrong with deciding on broad tax policies that pick the kind of industries that we want here. We’re generally going to want those that can employ our citizens while doing the least damage to the environment, the ones that have high wages, and/or the ones that fit to inherent advantages we already have (i.e., logistics). From there, we need to set our policies to make sure we play to our strengths and/or mitigate our weaknesses.

It’s also nice to pretend we’re in a utopian free market world, but we’re not. There is no such thing as perfect competition or a free market. Our neighboring states play the same game, as do other countries. To pretend that they’re not and setting up a system where we’re going to pretend that the markets are all free and unfettered only ensures we will lose.

saltycracker January 8, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Obviously I did a poor job of explaining my position.
“From there, we need to set our policies to make sure we play to our strengths and/or mitigate our weaknesses.”
Agree but we obviously differ on who/what is the “we”. Unique approaches by our representatives is too frequently for obfuscation, not to be mistaken for some latitude to do the deal in a fiscal or beneficial way for both the company and the citizens.

Charlie January 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm

I agree that the system is too often abused. The problem is that too many that see the abuse revert to “We shouldn’t pick winners and losers” and demand we do a full retreat from policy. That’s as equally irresponsible as giving away the store to the individuals who are well connected.

saltycracker January 8, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Agree. Taxes pick winners and losers in the broadest of interpretations. We might tax liquor but cut a break for distilleries. But it is a bad situation to cut a tax deal where Savannah Rum has a significant profit advantage over Darien Rum. reread edit – you covered that in the last sentence.

Ellynn January 8, 2014 at 2:44 pm

You’re overlooking the second line of jobs in your entertainment numbers. The jobs that are not held by Nomads of the Movie Gods. Let me use Savannah as an example. The area has local companies that repair and rent equipment that movie makers use or need in a hurry. There are small scale location companies, talent houses and editing companies. They have on hand production labor thanks to SCAD and some other local small scale studios. The last movie filmed here in the fall used locally owned catering and craft services, locally produced props and existing labor, like building painters, awning companies, copy houses ect… The hourly rentals on the local police force. They had hotels and rentals. Outside of what they used, there was the “tourist” effect. I know a group of fortysomethings who drove down here from Ridgland SC to spend an afternoon mooning over Antonio Banderas. They spent the night, ate, had a huge bar tab and spent hundres shopping the next day. This added to many local business end of year bottom lines, and I know for a fact it was what kept one local downtown business afloat until the holiday season.

Plus you have the very lucritive commerical and TV shots. Royal Pains was in Savannah for two weeks. Every in-state reality show visits the beach and the downtown. We have Belk, BDO, Harley, local companies Gulfstream, Great Dane, and others film comericals or industry videos. Photoshots for clothing companies, music videos, concerts and TV specials. ect… None of these involve mega studios. All have local impact on small business. (If they could just stop messing around with the traffic…)

Charlie January 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm

^agglomeration economies, explained.

saltycracker January 8, 2014 at 3:53 pm

The more the agglomeration the less the incentives are needed.

Ellynn January 8, 2014 at 5:32 pm

But to create the clustering that allows the the agglomeration, you need the object that allows them to cluster around.

The small firms and business are like the supersaturated sugarwater and the tax incentive is the stick it needs for nucleation. Let the incentive hang around for a while and you got the ecomomical rock candy of knowledge spillover.

drjay January 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm

and sometimes, just sometimes, a local dentist gets to be an extra as a baliff in the courtroom scene of a locally shot tv pilot that stars the lovely laura harris from “dead like me”

Ellynn January 8, 2014 at 5:33 pm

I’m more then just a pretty cheeshead… ;-)

saltycracker January 9, 2014 at 11:52 am

Guess you oppose cutting subsidies on cheese too. :)

Ellynn January 9, 2014 at 12:11 pm

I’m pro cow, and pro cheese. Every one should spend their summers on a working dairy farm and have family members who are master cheese makers.