Economist Paul Krugman: Ron DeSantis’ ‘insane’ battle with Disney underscores the GOP’s radicalization

Economist Paul Krugman: Ron DeSantis’ ‘insane’ battle with Disney underscores the GOP’s radicalization

The special tax/business arrangement that Disney had enjoyed in Florida for 55 years ended in April when far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis took that arrangement away — which was his way of getting back at Disney for speaking out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. DeSantis made it clear he values his relationship with Christian nationalists and evangelical fundamentalists much more than he values the business that Disney brings to Florida.

Liberal economist Paul Krugman, in a late April column for the New York Times, warns that DeSantis’ move is a prime example of the GOP’s radicalization.

“Until recently, the current confrontation between Disney and the State of Florida would have seemed inconceivable,” Krugman explains. “The attacks by Florida Republicans on the entertainment giant will hurt the state’s economy, possibly severely; they reflect a sudden lurch toward intolerance in a nation that seemed to be growing ever more tolerant. And the allegations against Disney are, in a word, insane.”

Krugman continues, “But what’s happening in Florida makes sense once you realize that what Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies are up to has nothing to do with policy or even politics in the conventional sense. What we’re seeing instead are symptoms of the transformation of the GOP from a normal political party into a radical movement built around conspiracy theories and intimidation.”

Krugman emphasizes that DeSantis isn’t shy about inflicting economic harm on his state.

“Disney World is in a 25,000-acre ‘special district’ within which the company provides basic public services even while paying local property taxes,” Krugman notes. “Last week, however, DeSantis signed legislation eliminating that district, which will leave local taxpayers on the hook — and also, reportedly, saddle them with more than $1 billion in debt.”

Krugman adds, “Beyond that, the resort, in addition to employing large numbers of people itself, draws millions of visitors each year — visitors who spend money that boosts the Florida economy in general. And less tangibly, Disney World has surely contributed to Florida’s image as a desirable place to visit and live. The state’s leisure and hospitality industry is huge, and Disney World is one important reason. All of this was, however, put in jeopardy when Florida passed its ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.”

DeSantis’ willingness to take revenge against Disney for opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” law, according to Krugman, underscores the QAnon conspiracy movement’s influence on the Republican Party.

“The attack on Disney has gone far beyond financial reprisal; suddenly, Mickey Mouse is part of a vast conspiracy,” Krugman writes. “Florida’s lieutenant governor, (Jeanette Núñez), went on Newsmax to accuse Disney of ‘indoctrinating’ and ‘sexualizing children’ with its ‘not secret agenda.’ If this seems crazy — which it is — it’s also increasingly the Republican norm. I don’t think political reporting has caught up with how thoroughly QAnonized the GOP has become.”

More than a few Never Trump conservatives have argued that thanks to former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement, the GOP now has more in common with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s extremist Fisesz Party than it does with traditional conservative parties. Krugman isn’t a conservative; he is very much a student of liberal New Deal economics. But Krugman wraps up his column with an Orbán/GOP comparison, noting the Hungarian prime minister’s willingness to retaliate against companies that challenge him politically.

Krugman writes, “The obvious role model here is Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, where the Conservative Political Action Conference will be held next month…. So, the fight over Disney is actually a symptom of a much broader and more troubling development: the QAnonization and Orbanization of one of America’s major political parties, which is putting our democracy at risk.”


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