The Bathroom Bigots might be actually be the worst spin doctors ever to try their hand at the media game. Today, they’re insisting that an Associated Press analysis finding that North Carolina’s bathroom bill will cost the state over $3.76 billion over the next twelve years is no big deal. And pretty much no one is buying it.
It’s just about impossible to rationally argue with the AP’s numbers. The analysis included only data from businesses and state or local officials regarding projects that actually canceled or relocated specifically because of HB2. To be included in the count, there needed to be clear evidence, either by way of interviews or public records, that HB2 was the reason the business pulled out. As it happens, that’s quite a few businesses and projects. There’s the PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state’s economy, the NCAA decision to remove North Carolina from a list of possible championship sites, the Lionsgate television project that relocated, the Ringo Starr concert that would have meant $33,000 in revenue, and numerous conventions, conferences, games, and performances that have relocated to states filled with less hate. And we’re not talking amorphous boycotts or erosion of good will here. We’re talking actual projects that were actually relocated. If we added in the softer numbers – the families who might have considered a vacation in the Outer Banks, but opted to head to the Jersey Shore, or the businesses who opted out of sponsoring UNC or Duke events – we’d likely leave the AP’s estimate in the dust.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, the Democrat who inherited the mess of HB2 from his ousted predecessor, Pat McCrory, knows it. “We have to get it off our books,” Cooper told The Charlotte Observer.
Republican efforts to make light of the economic impact HB2 will continue to have are especially ridiculous in light of the victory they’d proclaimed last summer. First, Target announced plans to remove gender-based signs in some of its departments. In response, those outraged by Target’s inclusiveness called for a boycott. When Target announced it would spend $20 million to install single-occupancy bathrooms in the stores that didn’t already have them, Bathroom Bigots declared the decision a major victory. Target, which hadn’t changed its gender-inclusive policy even a little, explained that while it suffered no real consequences from the boycott, the move was a response to complainers. In other words, if you’re shopping at Target and you’re uncomfortable at the thought of sharing a bathroom with a transgender person, then go ahead and isolate yourself in your own little bathroom and leave the rest of us alone. Let’s recap: Target’s spending $20 million to update the facilities in its stores is a major triumph, but North Carolina’s losing $3.76 billion is “minimal.” I’m no economist, but that sure sounds like the opposite of “minimal.” And while the GOP likes to applaud itself for being the party of “fiscal conservatism,” urging the citizens of North Carolina to ignore billions in financial impact is anything but “conservative.”
You can bet we haven’t heard the last of the HB2 saga down in the North Carolina. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has already announced his plans to run for governor in 2020, and his advocacy for HB2 will likely be a spotlight issue. Forest has already called Governor Cooper’s proposed bill for repealing HB2 becomes law, “a state-sanctioned ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ policy.” According to Forest, under the new bill:
“Heterosexual men will be able to access women’s showers and bathrooms by simply posing as a transgender individual. They will be able to watch women and children shower, or shower next to them. As long as the man doesn’t touch them, assault them or film them, no legal protection would be afforded the offended woman or child. Nothing.”
I suppose when Forest said “no legal protection,” he meant “except for the Trespassing, stalking, breaking and entering, indecent exposure, secret peeping and sex offender restrictions,” which already exist. But hey, this is a politician for whom hundreds of jobs and billions of dollars amount to a “minimal impact,” so I guess he’s more of a big-picture guy.