Disneyland Ticket Prices at an All-Time High: The Happiest Place the 1% Have Created

I remember a time when Disneyland was indeed the happiest place on Earth. Both for your soul and pocket books. When I first went in 2003, I paid $39 to go in. And I remember that because I still have the ticket that has the price printed on.

I was in college then and paying $39 to go to Disneyland didn’t seem like a hardship, even though it still seemed quite steep to pay nearly forty dollars to go to a theme park.

Alas in a world in which corporations run the show and are people, with all the privileges but most certainly not responsibilities thereof,  Disneyland is happy. And for a whopping $87 admissions price per person for one day ($81 for children) you can be happy too.

Whoever said you can’t put a hefty price tag on happiness.

Within less than a decade, admissions prices to Disneyland have more than doubled while, needless to say, peoples’ wages and with it incomes have not. Whereas in 2003, a family of four could have visited Disneyland for under $ 150 tops, today, the same family would have to spend nearly $350 for the same trip.

What middle class family can afford a theme park tab like that? Plus food, drink and snacks a trip to the happiest place on Earth will amount to nearly $400. Most families can’t afford that. Especially not in today’s economy. Disneyland was a place you could just go to on a whim. Now you have to save up and budget for it.

Even after adjusting for inflation, the 2012 price would have to be a mere $49 dollars, not $87. So where is that additional $40 coming from?

Disney Makes 8 billion, Pays Little in Taxes

It is called greed. Cold, hard greed. It certainly is not hardship, since Disney merchandise and motion pictures, including Pixar, gross millions of dollars. Disney has also paid a very small percentage of its $8 billion revenue in taxes.

In the most recent fiscal year, Disney had an income of over $8 billion, while actually paying only a mere 23% of it in taxes. Its CEO, Robert A. Iger pocketed $33,434,398 (!) alone as compensation.  The average employee at Disney makes around $51,000, paying 35% of that in taxes, with very few loopholes to reduce that tax liability since the loopholes for tax evasion start kicking in at high incomes, not middle class ones.
When Republicans and company CEOs whine about the corporate tax rate in the United States being higher than anywhere else in the world, they are right. According to the chart to the left, the United States does have the highest corporate tax among other countires in the developed world, including Japan, Germany, Canada and the UK.

However, the statutory tax rate is completely irrelevant when it comes to discussing corporate taxes in the US since the number on rhe book, the 35% everyone complains about, is not the actual percentage that companies pay taxes.  Therefore,  when discussing corporate tax rates in the United States, it is important to look at three things:

1. Statutory tax rate, which is the official, on the book, tax rate that you technically have to pay. And which is the only number Republicans refer to when discussing corporate taxes.

2. Reported tax rate, which is the rate owed by company calculations, after deduction and credits, curretly due or deferable.

3. The actual paid tax to the United States government, which is the amount actually paid to the US treasury by cutting up a check and sending it in.

The numbers within those three columns vary greatly, as can be seen in the following chart:

While the statutory rate is at 35%, the actual amount of taxes paid to the US government by corporations is a mere 13%. An mount substantially lower than what other countries pay in corporate taxes. Most get refunds or don’t pay a dime at all.  At the same time, corporations in Canada, Germany and Japan actually pay those statutory rates since very few tax loopholes exist in those countries, unlike the US.

That is why Disney, despite the official 35% rate that Iger is complaining about in this video, only actually paid 23%, in taxes.

How is that relevant to the question of Disneyland tickets? It is relevant because the obscene ticket hikes by Disneyland are a function of greed and the systematic, unhindered wealth transfer from the 99% to the 1%. Disney doesn’t need to charge people $87 dollars in order to post a profit. But it still asks for it because a) they can get away with it and because b) this is how Disney stays rich.

A hard working family of four would need to shell out nearly $400 to go to Disneyland for a few hours per day while Disney is sitting pretty on an $8 billion income with low taxes and top executive pay. That is extortion, that is not capitalism.

Disney’s official justification for the price hike is the usual “the economy is bad” line. And high taxes.

The reality doesn’t support such an assertion. The economy has not affected the 1%, which Disney is. It has affected the 99% – Disney’s customers. Therefore, hiking up the prices on them in times of a recession is sort of like taking money from the poor to help out the king during hard times in the land.

The Dwindling of the Middle Class

Disneyland is, of course, not something people need or a requirement to lead a good life. And people don’t have to go if they don’t want to. Yet, there is another trend to be found here, which is the trend toward accumulating more and more; a trend toward greed, at the expense of everyone else.

Disney posts record profits, pays little taxes (i.e less revenue for government) , keeps charging more, accumulates more wealth, keeps paying little taxes, all while the middle class is asked to carry the economic burden of society with high taxes.

If there continue to be less things middle class families can do, from buying  a house, to education, to eating well, vacationing in nice places or even going to Disneyland, then there will be no middle class. If we continue on this trend of going after the middle class, whose existence and well  being has historically always been the best indicator of a society’s overall health, then there won’t be one. People will be either poor or rich.

The non-existence of a middle class is a hallmark of developing countries and everytime a country manages to create a middle class, it is seen as developing per OECD standards. With the current trend and especially after the horrific things the Romney/Ryan ticket propose, all of which are policies targeting the middle class and middle class causes only, the US might very well be on its way there. A dystopian society, far removed from what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they founded this nation to escape the shackles of the mind, body and pocket.

Disneyland the happiest place on Earth? Sure, if you can pay for it.


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  1. #1 by Viva on March 21, 2013 - 3:45 PM

    Americans need to wake up and realize that everything we are told about working hard is just about making rich people richer, it has nothing to do with work ethic. Today, most people work too much for too little, because the greed at the top is promoting as much spending by the rest of us as possible. This keeps them rich, and the rest of us indentured servants to our debt and unsustainable lifestyles. It is an ugly state of affairs.

    • #2 by popreflection on March 21, 2013 - 4:15 PM

      Exactly. The American dream was the creation of the middle class and the possibility of upward mobility. The robber baron mentality and vulture capitalism are not the american dream, they are the american nightmare. Our entire nation runs on slave labor in China – where people are confined in barb-wired factories for 12 hour shifts and where 30 girls are kept in one room like cattle, and nets under their windows so they don’t commit suicide. You know you reached the pit of human misery when you aren’t even free to kill yourself.


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