Wednesday, Florida’s senate voted to abolish “special districts” created by Florida in 1967. The immediate impact of the impending abolition will fall on Disney and its company town, the “Reedy Creed Improvement District.” Read DeSantis Announces Legislature Will Consider Ending Disney’s ‘Special Tax and Governing Jurisdiction’ Status and BREAKING. Ron DeSantis Scores Major Win Over the Disney Groomers as Florida’s Legislature Abolishes Disney’s Special Tax Avoidance Scam.
Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled chamber backed the measure in a 23-16 vote. It now requires a vote in the state House before it can go to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who called on the Legislature to support the bill during the special session this week.
The legislation would dismantle Disney’s special district on June 1, 2023. The special status, which was granted by a state law in 1967, allows Disney to self-govern by collecting taxes and providing emergency services. Disney controls about 25,000 acres in the Orlando area, and the district allows the company to build new structures and pay impact fees for such construction without the approval of a local planning commission.
The effort to eliminate Disney’s district, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, comes after DeSantis began targeting the corporation over its leaders’ criticism of legislation he recently signed that would prevent classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through the third grade.
In my view, there is no reason to permit this “improvement district” to exist. Subcontracting governance to private corporations was standard fare in the coal, timber, and agricultural industries in the first part of the previous century, and they disappeared for very good reasons. One of my grandfathers and one great-grandfather lived in company towns in the coalfields of southern West Virginia; it wasn’t a great existence. However, the reaction from RealConservatives™ reminded me of why I no longer describe myself as such.
“This escalation represents an ugly and ill-conceived mistake, a blemish on DeSantis’s otherwise mostly excellent gubernatorial record,” writes Charles C. W. Cooke at National Review.
Those who have defended the move argue that sticking it to Disney in this matter demonstrates that the Republican Party is willing to “fight” and will thus represent a victory for conservatism. But this is silly. Admirably, Governor DeSantis has already fought Disney, and he has already won. The policy about which Disney chose stupidly to complain is now Florida law. It passed both houses of the state legislature; it was signed by DeSantis, who had been correctly defiant in the face of Disney’s gripes; and it enjoys the support of broad majorities of Floridians. There is no need for the Republican Party of Florida to salt the earth here; it has prevailed in every particular.
A good question to ask in politics is, “And then what?” And so it is here. I have no doubt that, if they really want to, Governor DeSantis and the Republican majorities in the state legislature can revoke Walt Disney World’s special status, and I have no doubt that, in the short term, they might profit politically from doing so. But then what? Does the curriculum bill become even more the law? Of course not. In all likelihood, all that happens is Florida’s zoning policy gets a little worse, the legislature elects to tie itself up for years in extremely complex and costly litigation meant to untangle the state from Disney, and other large businesses note for the record that Florida’s heretofore-admirable commitment to solving big and complicated problems should henceforth be regarded with an asterisk.
That’s not “fighting.” It’s a tantrum.
Here is another sampling from National Review Brad Palumbo and Foundation for Economic Education (yeah, I know, wtf?) staffer Hannah Cox from their website “Based Politics.”
Disney has benefitted greatly off the backs of taxpayers. Not only has the company been given special governing powers as discussed above, but it receives an immense amount of corporate welfare as well.
There’s nothing free-market about the practice of corporate welfare. In fact, it is a direct attack on the values of capitalism—allowing the government to pick winners and losers in the market, shielding large corporations from competition, and creating a corporatist political dynamic that overrides the will of the people in a constitutional republic.
Ayn Rand once said, “The difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time.” While just one incident in themselves, the actions of Florida lawmakers are another small step along that trajectory. We see time and time again that once the government begins to give companies corporate welfare, it then believes it has the right to control them. (The same is true with individuals as well).
So, the retaliatory efforts of Ron DeSantis and other Florida lawmakers against Disney are almost certainly unconstitutional, and deeply concerning regardless. But the door was opened by the corrupt relationship Disney held with the state government for decades. Maybe next time, businesses should think twice before getting in bed with the government.
Follow the logic. Yes, the policy is terrible. Yes, it benefits a megacorporation to the detriment of the average Floridian. But because that corporation opposes the policies of Florida’s governor and legislature, they can’t revoke the law they passed because of the First Amendment. And for Heaven’s sake, can we not drag a horrible novelist and thinker like Ayn Rand into what are supposed to be rational conversations?
This is so tiring. Every time a Republican politician does things that are good policy (like eliminating a vast corporate welfare scam) or punishes corporations that actively interfere in the political process (like Disney), you can rely on dozens of members of Conservative Inc. to line up to attack the Republican and defend the corporation. Of course, you hear this over and over and over with the “muh private company” types who are completely happy allowing Google, Facebook, Twitter, and associated social media companies to prevent conservative politicians from communicating with the public. Yet, these same people lose their sh** if a Republican politician talks about breaking up or regulating corporations actively meddling in our political system in a way Vladimir Putin could only dream of doing.
It reminds me of the scene from Peyton Manning’s epic SNL skit called “Mentor.” (The video is cued to the punchline, but the whole thing is worth watching.)
“Okay, I’m sorry. Do you wanna lose?”
The left respects precisely one thing: power. It never fails to mistake kindness and politeness for weakness. Disney waded into a social policy controversy in Florida in an unconscionable and dishonest way. Its “First Amendment” rights were not impaired as it openly participated in maligning the sponsors of the anti-grooming bill and misrepresenting the contents of the bill. What do you think would happen if Governor DeSantis and the legislature had allowed this to pass unremarked? Would Disney just record the “L” and move on to their core business? No, they’d be back with a vengeance.
By slapping Disney down hard and where it hurts, that is, the pocketbook, DeSantis has prevented Florida from becoming a playground for meddling by the hyper-political LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA+ types who have congregated in that company (I’m sure the company’s primary audience being teens and younger has nothing at all to do with anything).
There is no difference in how DeSantis pantsed Disney and any other form of political retaliation. If your enemies don’t fear you, you lose the ability to impose an agenda on the legislature and state agencies. Why the Conservative, Inc. people can’t grasp that sometimes you do have to plow the earth with salt (metaphorically) and parade around (metaphorically) with heads on pikes to make a point is just beyond me, and I don’t care to follow any political leader who is afraid of retaliating against and breaking the Democrats and the corporations that employ them.
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