Gavin Newsom and Disney have been getting a lot of press lately, with some people praising the new leadership while others are concerned they’re somehow playing down their values.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California
Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli illustration
Last summer, Walt Disney Co. announced that it would relocate 2,000 California jobs to Florida, citing the Sunshine State’s “business-friendly climate.” Gov. Gavin Newsom must still be reeling from the news. See his latest tweets, in which he revels in Florida’s political dispute with Disney.
After Florida Republicans revoked a special-tax district that essentially let Disney World run its own private government, Mr. Newsom sniped: “THIS is what ‘business friendly’ means? We protect free speech in California. We help our businesses grow, thrive, and invent the future.” He later added: “But go ahead and keep telling us about ‘fiscal responsibility’ & your ‘business-friendly climate.’”
So why are so many firms, like HPE, Oracle, Palantir, Charles Schwab, and Toyota, relocating their headquarters and employees out of California? And why are there still 296,000 employment openings in California compared to pre-pandemic levels, but Florida has gained 156,000? Why did California lose 261,902 people from 2020 to 2021, but Florida gained 211,196?
When Disney announced the employment migration last year, it cited a few factors, including Florida’s absence of a state income tax and a far cheaper cost of living due to less intrusive government. Take, for example, Mr. Newsom’s arbitrary, long-term Covid-19 lockdowns. Disney World will return in July 2020 in Florida. Mr. Newsom set a deadline of late April 2021 for Disneyland to do so.
In the midst of tensions between the state and the corporation over the closure, former Disney CEO Robert Iger resigned from Mr. Newsom’s Potemkin Covid economic task team. California Democrats exclusively support companies that they support, such as renewable energy and plaintiff legal firms.
Mr. Newsom accused Florida Republicans of retaliating against Disney after CEO Bob Chapek attacked their law restricting age-appropriate gender identity and sexual orientation training in kindergarten through third grade. Republicans were undoubtedly irritated by Mr. Chapek’s public criticism of the law as a “threat to fundamental human rights.” However, as Gov. Ron DeSantis pointed out, it’s difficult to explain Florida’s regulatory partiality for Disney World in terms of free-market principles.
In terms of free speech, Florida isn’t saying Disney isn’t allowed to advocate as much as it wants. And Mr. Newsom is someone who knows what he’s talking about. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned a California law requiring private organizations fundraising in the state to reveal their donors, citing nonprofits’ worries that it may lead to political harassment and retaliation. Remember how progressives attacked same-sex marriage opponents in the state’s 2008 ballot measure?
Because they don’t want to become targets of the left, CEOs seldom oppose progressive government. Jennifer Sey claims she was pushed to leave as president of Levi Strauss after criticizing school cutbacks. The fact that CEOs feel more free to criticize Republicans than Democrats says a lot about who is more pro-business and pro-free speech.
The best and worst of the week from Kim Strassel, Jason Riley, and Dan Henninger in the Journal Editorial Report. AFP/Getty Images/ABC/MSNBC/Zuma Press/Shutterstock/AFP/Getty Images/ABC/MSNBC/Zuma Press/Shutterstock Mark Kelly’s composite
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