Calvin Freiburger

Who Asked You? “Inception” Cinematographer Decries “Madness” in Wisconsin

Posted on February 28 2011 4:23 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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Just because you did good work on a great movie does not mean your political opinions matter. Somebody should have told that to cinematographer Wally Pfister before he accepted Inception’s Academy Award for Best Cinematography; that way we might have been spared a lecture about Wisconsin’s horribly oppressed unions. Jim Hoft has the scoop on Pfister’s acceptance speech shout-out to his union crew, and his backstage elaboration:

“I think that what is going on in Wisconsin is kind of madness right now,” Pfister says. “I have been a union member for 30 years and what the union has given to me is security for my family. They have given me health care in a country that doesn’t provide health care and I think unions are a very important part of the middle class in America all we are trying to do is get a decent wage and have medical care.”

Actually, the country has given you health care, and a whole lot more. It’s given you a wage that’s much better than “decent” and the opportunity to work on movies and accept awards for them. What you really mean is that the government hasn’t provided healthcare (there’s a reason for that which has nothing to do with its heartlessness: widespread government healthcare doesn’t work).

And considering that only 6.9% of private-sector workers belong to a union, the average American isn’t getting that decent wage or medical care from one (dare I suggest they might be getting them from evil businessmen like the Koch brothers?). So much for being “a very important part of the middle class.”

In fact, Pfister’s workers are all private-sector, which means their kind of union wouldn’t even be affected by anything Scott Walker has proposed. Walker’s budget repair bill is strictly geared toward reining in the benefits of government employees…benefits that will still be better than many in the private sector.

Alexander Marlow tries to explain the difference to Pfister:

Hollywood unions bargain with corporations that have money they have earned by making movies like “Memento,” “Batman Begins,” “The Prestige,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Inception” (just to name a few Pfister has worked on personally), and unions collectively bargain to get a greater share of the revenue.  Governments, on the other hand, don’t earn anything; they extract taxes from citizens, many of whom have fallen on tough financial times.  Pfister’s union crew bargains with the capitalists that have a stake in the outcome of the negotiation, a vested interest in reaching a reasonable agreement with the unions – their bottom line depends on it.  Governments, on the other hand, have no such bottom line to worry about (see: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).  In Wisconsin, the unions are trying to strong-arm politicians (many of whom are bankrolled by the unions come campaign time) in order to pad their pension fund with tax dollars, all at the direct expense of the state’s fiscal health.

Hollywood unions bargain with corporations for the corporations’ money; in Wisconsin, they’re bargaining with union-backed politicians for the taxpayers’ money.  It’s one thing to add to the Warner Brothers’ tab; it’s quite another to add to the citizens’.

Typical of the leftist mind, Wally Pfister doesn’t speak from any discernible measure of economic knowledge or familiarity with Wisconsin’s fiscal issues, but purely from emotion. I like these guys, so I’m just gonna support whoever’s supposedly got their back and perceive anything to the contrary as a personal attack on them, regardless of whether or not they’re actually harmed. But who cares if you know what you’re talking about, right? It’s the thought that counts!

The only “madness” here is in thinking the uninformed critiques of filmmakers have any importance to public policy. Let’s make a deal: Scott Walker won’t tell Hollywood how to make movies, and moviemakers won’t tell governors how to run states.

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