DeSantis is right on Disney

There are many pixels being spent to make it appear that Florida and Governor DeSantis are being unfair to Disney and, as a result, have lost an investment opportunity.  Neither assertion is true.  None of the claims by politicians will make them true.  It's understandable that Democrats make these claims.  It's neither understandable nor forgivable that Republicans like Pence, Haley, and Trump join in.

To understand the situation, it's best to start at the beginning.  In the 1960s Florida granted Disney local government control over 27,000 acres of land that straddles Orange and Osceola counties.  The area was called the Reedy Creek Development District.

Nobody paid much attention to this sweetheart deal until 2022.  The Legislature passed a law prohibiting schools from teaching sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.  The prohibition has been upgraded to include all grade levels.  Disney aggressively opposed the law and was prominent in slurring it as the "Don't Say Gay law."

Governor DeSantis made two observations: 1. Disney has the right to free speech, but Florida shouldn't subsidize that speech.  2. It is not anti-business to treat Disney as other companies are treated.

DeSantis then took legal steps to put Disney's special fiefdom under state control.  Disney keeps trying to frustrate this move.  None of Disney's legal maneuvers will defeat the State of Florida.  If you doubt this claim, spend five minutes listening to Jonathan Turley destroy Disney's Hail Mickey lawsuit.  Those of us who grow up watching Disney's nature programs recognize the behavior.  It is prey helplessly failing to avoid the inevitable.  The inevitable is that Disney's competitors — more accurately described as friends in the same business — will not be disadvantaged compared to Disney.  Disney will retain the right to free speech, but that speech will not be subsidized.

Here is information on the unsubsidized theme park, Universal theme parks.  Their Florida parks have a greater combined attendance than the combined attendance of Disney's Florida parks.  Disney is important, but it's not unique, and it's no longer top dog.

There are parks that are second-tier in attendance but not in any way second in quality.  They include Sea World; Legoland; and, by far my favorite, Busch Gardens in Tampa, which is no longer affiliated with that inept beer company.  Combined, these three have an annual attendance equal to any single Disney Florida park.

Critics of Florida and specifically Governor DeSantis seize on Disney's decision to cancel a long delayed Florida investment of $1 billion that would have moved 2,000 jobs to Orlando.  Previously, Disney management had planned to move a division that "imagineered" movies into theme park rides.  The investment would have been 20 miles outside the special Disney district.  To be clear, any changes in the special district would have zero effect on this investment — no effect in any way.

The decision that Bob Iger, the reinstalled CEO, made was to keep the two halves of the ride creation division, the movie-makers and the ride-creators, in one location.  It also defers spending $1 billion.  Given the financial setbacks facing Disney, it's difficult to argue with his decision.  The loss of this project is overwhelmingly mitigated by Iger's commitment to invest $17 billion over the next decade within the special district.  We can all hope that Disney has the funds to keep that commitment.  We can see that the wraggle over his personal fiefdom isn't affecting Iger's investments within the district, even with the loss of its preferred status.  Incidentally, Iger needs to invest that money just to compete with Universal.

Democrat politicians like Governor Newsom crow about a rare win for California.  It happens so seldom these days that we shouldn't rain on his parade.

The Republican critics — Pence, Haley, and Trump — are a different matter.  By focusing on what they claim is DeSantis's failure to secure 2,000 jobs and $1 billion, they shine a spotlight on DeSantis's triumphs.  Florida is gaining over 1,000 new residents per day.  Our new Florida neighbors make it clear that they are here precisely because of the policies of our governor.  Over the course of a single year, the jobs Disney would have added are the first of two rounding errors.

The second rounding error is the supposed lost investment.  Sure, $1 billion is a lot of wealth.  On the other hand, our new residents keep bringing more wealth.  In 2020, the most recent statistical year available, the income added to Florida was $23.5 billion.  Texas was second with about $6 billion.  The trend continues year over year so that yes, a one-time investment of $1 billion is a rounding error.  Here is one of hundreds of more current examples: Ken Griffin, Chicago's richest man (worth over $28 billion), is moving to Miami.  He brings along his company, Citadel Securities, with about 1,000 employees.  He is making the move in spite of the fact that he sides with Disney about "don't say gay."  His decision is based on the economic opportunities and the low crime rate that DeSantis has instilled in Florida.

DeSantis can be proud that Florida has the lowest unemployment rate of any major state and also the highest growth rate.

With these numbers in mind, it's difficult to understand Pence, Haley, and Trump.  Do they think it was wrong to remove what is basically grooming from Florida schools?  Do they think it is wrong to finally treat Disney like any other company?  Another way to look at that is, do they think a private concern should live by its own laws rather than the laws of the state?

In the spirit of asking questions, here are two for them.  Why would you falsely disparage the economic record of the governor of the best-performing state in the country?  To be blunt about it, what in the world were you thinking?

Image via Pxhere.

If you experience technical problems, please write to