Why Florida’s attack on Disney is monstrous

Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida USA

Florida’s legislature, which is controlled by Republicans (specifics here), passed a bill requested by GOP Gov. DeSantis, which he signed, that repeals the special taxing district established in 1967 for Disney’s Florida theme parks (details here) to retaliate against Disney for criticizing DeSantis’ so-called “don’t say gay” law (read story here).

Let’s skip the legal pitfalls of this (Vox explores that subject here), tax and debt ramifications (this could dump a billion dollars of debt on local taxpayers, and raise their taxes), or speculation that Disney — Florida’s largest employer — might leave the state, and focus on the politics of this.

DeSantis has declared war on LGBQT people, and got the legislature to pass hate legislation. Needless to say, he’s drawing fire for this. Disney, which has LGBQT employees and customers, joined those criticizing the law. So DeSantis retaliated.

That’s right, retaliated against a company for criticizing a policy of his. Let me repeat: Gov. DeSantis brazenly misused the power of government to punish a corporation for exercising its free speech rights. (And what is the “don’t say gay” law if not an attack on free speech?)

Are private citizens next? This is the same governor who sent an armed police SWAT team to the home of a state employee who disclosed his administration was lying about the number of Covid-19 cases in Florida (details here).

That’s the stuff of banana republics and third world dictatorships. It’s what you expect from the rulers of Nicaragua and Venezuela. President Biden said, “What the hell is going on here?” and his press secretary called it “bullying” (read story here).

Let me repeat: A governor and legislature attacked the free speech rights of a corporate entity by punishing it for criticizing them.  

“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said. “The far right has taken over that party. It’s not even conservative …. It’s mean. It’s ugly.”

It’s worse. It’s tyranny.

Some liberals and progressives have begun using the word “fascist” to describe the Republican Party, a term I’ve avoided, but certainly the spectacle of despotic politicians driven by bigotry and hate exercising government authority to harass and punish critics is monstrous.

This isn’t a political party you can vote for, unless you want to live in a country like Russia. And if that’s what you want, why not move there, and let the rest of us live in freedom?

Update (4/26/22): A tax attorney says Florida can’t disestablish the special taxing district, because doing so would impair the district’s contractual obligations to bondholders (read story here).

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