After clearing the battlefield on a variety of other issues, Gov. Ron DeSantis has opened up a new front in the war on the left. This time, the Florida legislature, via a special session DeSantis called, is working to remove a 50-year-old special exemption from The Walt Disney Company.
That comes amid a cultural battle in which Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, which bars the teaching of sexuality and gender “theory” to K-3rd graders, has been maligned as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. After immense pressure from mostly out-of-state forces, Disney bent the knee and has now gone fully woke in regards to harmful ideological grooming of children.
As RedState reported previously, a leaked Zoom meeting showed Disney executives and producers bragging about their “not so secret gay agenda” and their plan to force-feed “LGBTQIA” ideology to children. Their public statements haven’t been much better, repeatedly lying about what the Florida parental rights law does while pledging to overturn it.
Naturally, that has led to pushback from those who see Disney as leeching off taxpayers via exemptions and subsidies while directly working against the rights of parents.
So what are these exemptions? The primary one is called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and it exists as a carveout that essentially allows Disney to operate as its own little country inside Florida. They get to abscond from certain taxes, ignore building codes and zoning laws, and generally do whatever they want. It’s a deal that perhaps made sense half a century ago when Florida was trying to allow Disney to get off the ground in the state. Today, it’s representative of the worst of crony capitalism, where a multi-national, multi-billion dollar company gets to ignore laws that other businesses have to deal with.
In that vein, it’s a no-brainer to get rid of it. Where the tension is coming in on the right is the timing.
On one side, more populist conservatives do not believe that a company has a right to indefinite subsidization when that company begins to work directly against the will of the taxpayers. No one is shutting down Disney, nor would this move stop Disney from continuing to express whatever viewpoints it wants. Thus, they are not concerned with the idea that this is “punishing” Disney for speech. Rather, they prioritize the fight over parental rights and the fight against crony capitalism over those concerns.
On the other side, you have more libertarian-leaning conservatives who are genuinely concerned that Disney is being punished for its viewpoints and that it should not have its special exemptions taken away in the current environment.
Open civil war has now broken out along those lines (I’m not going to call people out, just go to social media and see), though I suspect the latter group is a good bit smaller than the former. Regardless, I understand both sides, and I think everyone is operating within what they truly believe.
As for me, you can put me in the first group. I have always been an opponent of crony capitalism, and nothing has screwed our society up more than the unholy alliance between multi-billion dollar companies and state and federal governments. It was bad enough before, but with these companies now becoming incredibly far-left and woke, overtly political, and directly working against things as fundamental as parental rights, it’s time to take the gloves off.
The more libertarian-leaning wing is correct to say that Disney’s exemptions should have been taken away long before this and that to do so now is in response to the company’s politicization. Frankly, and with all respect to those who disagree, I just don’t care.
It’s not the Bush-era anymore, and the stakes are too high to keep playing defense. Corporations have become the massive power centers in the country in conjunction with the government. Everything from free speech to economic policy now runs through boards of directors of companies with outsized influence. I believe most on the right have no desire to unilaterally surrender in that battle.
Further, I’m not at all convinced that it is a “principle” that a state government, elected by the people, can’t decide that a company has gone too far and should not have its actions subsidized by the taxpayers anymore. By that logic, any company can simply become overtly political and protect its government handouts. That would just be an extension of the crony capitalism we already have.
It does not bother me that it took Disney’s politicization to open the eyes of many on the right about how multi-national corporations abuse the system. As long as everything remains within the bounds of the law, pull the band-aid off.
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