DeSantis Escalates His Wacky War On Disney -- And The Mouse Claps Back

Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis

On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis fired the latest shot in his war against central Florida’s largest employer. As CNN reports, that idea involved taking some state-controlled land next to Disney World and putting it to a use designed to scare parents away from bringing their children to the “happiest place on Earth.”

“Someone even said, maybe you need another state prison,” said DeSantis. “I mean, who knows? I mean, I just think that the possibilities are endless.”

As Laura Clawson explained in March, the reason that Disney is making DeSantis so angry is that they dared to stand up to the bigotry expressed in the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law, which DeSantis championed and signed with great ceremony. The threat to build a prison next door in order to sour Disney’s multibillion-dollar investment in central Florida is just the latest in a series of actions that Florida’s second-most notorious authoritarian has taken to show his displeasure. And Disney provided its own response a few hours later.

So far, every attempt to bring down Disney has backfired on DeSantis. Frustrated by his inability to silence Disney, DeSantis fumed that he would “not allow a woke corporation” to run Florida. The governor set out to end the special tax district through which Disney handles infrastructure in the area it controls. Only this move would have left local taxpayers responsible for bonds that run to $1,000 per person. The Florida legislature—which usually serves as his reliable lap dog—stepped in to stop DeSantis. Instead DeSantis got five new members on the tax district board so he could use them to punish Disney … only to discover that the old board had carefully erected protections that gave all the power to Disney, leaving the board in the role of a toothless appendage.

To this point, DeSantis has been left spitting his anger into the wind … and everyone in Florida should be grateful for that, because as a new story from the Tallahassee Democrat shows, the importance of Disney to the state’s economy is hard to overestimate. Each year, the presence of Disney theme parks in Florida generates:

  • $75.2 billion annual economic impact for Central Florida
  • 463,000 additional jobs
  • $5.8 billion in additional state tax revenue

Should DeSantis ultimately have his way, either significantly reducing Disney’s revenue or convincing the studio’s corporate leadership that maybe the leader of some other humidity-choked swampland would be more reasonable, the cost to Florida would be enormous. This isn’t just a war that DeSantis doesn’t seem to be winning, it’s a war where everyone in the state should be pulling against him.

His war on the mouse is certainly not the only time DeSantis has tried to show that his idea of “business-friendly” is really “do what I say, or else.” Some of his targets have been relatively small, such as when he jerked the liquor license of the Orlando Philharmonic for promoting a show featuring performers in drag. Others have been enormous, such as when he went after Florida’s cruise ship industryfor requiring that passengers be vaccinated.

If DeSantis’ had some magic formula for creating a record economy, it might be reasonable, on sheer monetary basis, for businesses to at least consider toeing the line. However, that’s not the case. As the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research detailed, under DeSantis’ response to the pandemic, Florida’s economic growth was actually slower than in either California or New York. That report also clearly shows that what drives Florida’s economy isn’t anything DeSantis has done.

Population growth is the state’s primary engine of economic growth, fueling both employment and income growth.

Florida’s economy depends on one thing: Immigration. The biggest factor in the state’s GDP growth comes from the increase in people who move there from other states and from outside the U.S.

Florida is utterly dependent on its appeal to non-Floridians.

DeSantis’ rants aren’t likely to make the state more attractive to the average American. His signature legislation wasn’t even favored by a majority in Florida. Having just signed a newer, stricter ban on abortion that even he doesn’t want to talk about might make some prospective snowbirds decide to look elsewhere. So might news that Florida has taken the top spot as the least affordable state.

What may be most amazing isn’t that DeSantis wants everything his way, even if it costs his state everything. It’s how many Republicans seem to think that’s a good idea.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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