Perhaps the single most impressive thing about Donald Trump's rise to political prominence is that he convinced tens of millions of voters that he was a class warrior fighting for the little guy against the big, bad corporations. After all, he's a multi-millionaire (and alleged billionaire) and one who has aggressively exploited the tax and other loopholes that benefit rich people at the expense of everyone else. And once he became president, Trump continued to exploit loopholes in order to monetize his high office six ways to Sunday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is supposedly very smart—much smarter than Trump (not that that's a high bar to clear). However, the Governor does not seem to have a single idea about political branding that he did not steal from Trump lock, stock, and barrel. And so, his plan is to cast himself as (another) class warrior fighting for the little guy against the big, bad corporations. As we noted in our item last week about DeSantis' new book (which is his de facto platform):
DeSantis' spat with the Walt Disney Corporation will be a major part of DeSantis platform. The whole story shows how the governor stood up to a woke corporation and vanquished it (although the part about the Reedy Creek Improvement District being reinstated this year didn't quite make it into the book). This chapter demonstrates: (1) how tough DeSantis is and (2) how much he opposes all this "LGBTQ+ sh*t" floating around. More generally, there is a lot of popular opposition to big corporations and this incident suggests DeSantis is the guy to take them on. We'll believe that when he goes after big corporations known for their right-wing views, such as Koch Industries, R.J. Reynolds, Hobby Lobby, Papa John's, Chevron, Dillard's, or Chick-fil-A.
In short, it really doesn't pass the smell test that DeSantis is willing to go mano-a-mano with corporate America.
And indeed, just a couple of days after we wrote that, there was news that makes clear where DeSantis really stands when it comes to corporate interests. To start, understand that there are few corners of the business world where unfettered greed is on display more often than it is in the world of sports ownership. Certainly, elite pro athletes are very well paid. But team owners are constantly scheming to limit exactly how well paid they are, while also doing whatever they can to screw over the non-elite athletes. The owners are also pleased to shake communities down for massive subsidies while taking advantage of every tax dodge in the book. Oh, and when the owners sell their teams, often because they've been caught in the middle of some sort of scandal rooted in racism or sexual misconduct, it's invariably at a huge profit. For example, the Phoenix Suns were purchased in 2004 for $400 million (technically, $200 million in payment and $200 million in assumed debts), and they just sold for more than $4 billion.
Anyhow, minor league baseball players have been criminally underpaid for... well, forever. At most levels of the minors, the athletes are expected to put in massive amounts of time practicing, staying in shape, playing games and traveling. And their wages for this are generally in the very low five figures. Sometimes it's even the high four figures. On average, outside the very top level of the minor leagues (AAA), players earn less than $2/hour.
That, of course, is far below minimum wage, and so a consortium of minor league players filed suit a couple of years ago, claiming they are entitled to, at very least, the federal minimum wage. Thanks to some lobbying ($4 million worth), the owners got Congress to adopt a rule exempting ballplayers from the federal minimum wage. But Judge Joseph Spero of the Northern District of California ruled that players are still covered by state-level minimum wage laws.
This is where Florida comes in. The minimum wage there is $11/hour, and will soon go up to $12/hour, which is considerably more than the $7.75/hour federal minimum wage. There are quite a few minor league teams in Florida and, in addition, about half the teams in baseball conduct spring training in the state. If team owners have to pay minimum wage to minor leaguers, this could cost them several million dollars a year. That does not seem much for people whose teams are worth several billion, but it apparently it is. We really aren't good at understanding the seemingly pathological need that so many ultra-rich people have when it comes to holding on to more money than they can ever possibly spend.
Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago, the Florida legislature began consideration of a law that would exclude baseball players from the state's minimum wage law. If the new legislation passes and is signed into law by DeSantis, then the minor leaguers would be out of luck. And Cubs owner Dan Ricketts (who is notoriously sleazy), to help improve his side's "luck," made a $1 million contribution to DeSantis' PAC the day after the legislation was introduced. Oh, and incidentally, the fellow leading the lobbying effort? DeSantis' former chief of staff.
This is hardly the first time that the Governor has made clear that when money speaks, he listens. To take another example, the stunt in which immigrants were relocated from Texas to Martha's Vineyard was executed by an airline owned by a friend and supporter of DeSantis. The no-bid contract for that "service" awarded an amount of money vastly larger than makes any sense; enough to have flown every one of those migrants first class on any airline with hundreds of thousands of dollars left over. Or DeSantis could have opened the contract for competitive bidding by charter airlines and most bids would have come in at about 10% of what DeSantis got for his friend.
The bottom line is that DeSantis is no more an anti-corporate crusader than Trump is. You could have guessed that, but now you have hard evidence, too. (Z)