With November's midterm election approaching, conservative officials at both the state and national level are engaging in a variety of political stunts.
Taken together, the stunts show Republicans’ desperation in pitching Americans an image of political disarray and pinning it to the Biden administration, even if it leaves taxpayers footing the bill to the tune of millions — even billions — of dollars.
We’re seeing this in Florida, where right-wing Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican state lawmakers are trying to punish Disney for opposing their anti-LGBTQ education bill, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. DeSantis and the sycophantic legislators who backed his attempt at retribution seemed to think rescinding Disney’s special district status in Florida — which essentially gives Disney World the ability to operate its own mini-government — will force the company to come to heel.
But financial experts have said the counties that would absorb Disney World will likely assume the tax burden Disney previously managed as a special district. Oops!
In a frantic response to the backlash, DeSantis vowed Disney will ultimately pay, although he’s publicly offered literally no details on how that would happen.
In Texas, the verdict on Gov. Greg Abbott’s political stunts isn't any better. Surely, you remember Abbott’s deliberate delay of commercial trucks entering the U.S. from Mexico last month, no? It was one of his attempts at fearmongering about alleged threats coming through the U.S.-Mexico border. Abbott announced an additional-yet-unnecessary layer of inspection for each truck — on top of the usual inspections conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And as my colleague Steve Benen wrote for the MaddowBlog, the policy resulted in Texas losing $477 million per day, and the U.S. losing nearly $9 billion total due to the delays.
Abbott has also used taxpayer funds to bus migrants from the border to Washington, D.C. — a cruel publicity stunt. At least one bus reportedly dropped off its passengers in front of the building that houses officers for Fox News, NBC News and C-SPAN.
These nonsensical acts clearly aren't solving any border issues. And it can be argued they aren’t helpful to Abbott personally either. Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized Abbott’s truck delays. And Republicans aren’t completely sold on his migrant busing stunt either (which probably explains why he’s begging private donors to fund it now).
At the national level, Republicans are goading Democrats into a game of chicken over Covid funding, claiming they’ll block passage of any bill funding the pandemic response unless Democrats move to reinstate Title 42, the immigration policy that lets the U.S. turn migrants away on public health grounds.
As I wrote last month, Republicans and some conservative Democrats want the policy upheld strictly to scapegoat migrants for political points. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the policy is no longer necessary. But in the name of xenophobia, the conservative movement figures are willing to hold $10 billion of The People’s money hostage rather than release it to help us avoid the pandemic’s worst effects.
These kinds of taxpayer-subsidized stunts have become routine among Republicans. Ironic, isn't it? The self-proclaimed pro-business, pro-capitalist party sure is finding a lot of ways to harm individuals and industries with its policies.