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Did Congress give us Honey Boo Boo?

The coarsening of America will be the subject of many an archaeologist's doctoral thesis 2,000 years from now when they try to figure out what caused the collapse of this civilization.

Like so many of society's ills, our cultural degradation is sponsored in part by the government.

An act of Congress may have helped birth Honey Boo Boo as the symbol of early 21st century America.

She is the elementary school beauty queen who stars in a show that revels in every white trash stereotype.

Congress set this up a year before she was born.

In 2004, a Republican Congress and a Republican president tried to curry favor in Hollywood by offering a tax break to makers of independent films.

Just why independent films are better than Hollywood productions is a mystery to me.

No independent film ever came close to the quality of "Casablanca" or dozens of other great Hollywood productions.

But Michael Moore and other producers were eligible for this tax break, which a Democratic Congress subsequently extended to all TV and movie productions in 2008 temporarily.

The fiscal cliff bill made it permanent.

ABC News estimates the tax break is worth $430 million a year to Hollywood.

The break does not cover all of a TV or film production's cost but rather the first $15 million.

That is a small amount of money for a high-quality movie such as "The Hobbit," which cost more than $200 million to produce.

But $15 million would easily cover the cost of producing "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

As they say on TV, but wait, there's more.

The limit rises to $20 million for productions filmed in "highly depressed areas."

This tax incentive helps explain why cable TV networks have taken their reality shows out of the boudoirs of Beverly Hills to pawn shops in Louisiana.

Move over Ozzy Osbourne, here comes Alana Thompson, a.k.a Honey Boo Boo - and  "Buckwild," a show that Sen. Joe Manchin asked MTV not to air.

Much of it was filmed in Sissonville, which likely qualified it for the $20 million break.

If Manchin really wanted to stop this stuff, he would have put a hold on the fiscal cliff bill and demanded Congress end the Honey Boo Boo tax break.

He didn't.

Even though Hollywood lobbied for the tax break, it is an incentive to outsource even more entertainment production.

CBS reported 65 percent of Hollywood production is now on location. While most of that is due to state incentives and lower labor costs, the federal tax credit has its influence.

Not only are production crews losing jobs to crews that film shows and movies in depressed areas, but actors and actresses are losing airtime to the Honey Boo Boos of the world.

Let us review.

A Republican Congress and a Republican president tried to please Hollywood by making it easier to make artsy movies that are not worth watching.

Hollywood responded by leaning even further left politically.

The tax break helped spawn on-location reality shows.

As I am not their tax accountant, I cannot say for sure that the producers of "Buckwild" or "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" took this tax break that Hollywood lobbied for.

Producers of other shows have admitted to it, including "Sacred Spaces" on HGTV.

The net result of all these on-location reality shows is fewer jobs in Hollywood and worse TV fare.

"Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," said President Reagan, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Leaders in Washington should bear that in mind.

So should Ken Howard, today's president of the SAG.

Surber may be reached at don



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