DeMaio & Manchester: San Diego’s Tourist Plantation Lords?

As Doug Porter noted here last week, the Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI) released a new report on poverty, earnings, and income inSan DiegoCountythat revealed the sad fact that  “more than a third of San Diego County’s population” lives “in economic hardship.”  Nearly one out of five children in our city live in poverty with 16% of women, 21% of Latinos and 23% of African Americans joining them—and we are losing ground “as the quality of jobs created by major industries in the region failed to keep pace with the cost of living.”

Median income is falling and the household income for all races and ethnicities decreased here in San Diego.  About 17% of us don’t have health insurance, three out of five renters are paying more than they can afford, the middle class is getting leaner, and poverty and income inequality have been on the rise over the last five years.

And, importantly, despite our city’s relentless boosterism, “The tourism industry had the lowest median earnings in 2011, $24,422 for a year of full-time work.”   That’s just a bit above the poverty level for a family of four, hardly the stuff that dreams are made of in “the world’s greatest country and America’s finest city.”  Low wages like that sound a lot more like what keeps our local economy running for the benefit of the city’s elite while the rest of us struggle.

Put that on the next postcard Bob and Mabel from Iowa buy on their trip to Sea World and Legoland—but don’t expect much concern, no less outrage; indeed we can count on the contrary here in the city that Doug Manchester wants to buy.

Last week we heard a lot about Mitt Romney’s accidental fit of truth telling when he was caught on video explaining to a bunch of rich donors that he’d written off 47% of the country as helplessly dependent losers with a “victim mentality.”  If we were back in the colonial period, he would have simply called them “the inconsiderable people.”  It wasn’t shocking.

That’s just where we are now.  As Paul Krugman pointed out in his last column, the Romney gaffe wasn’t one: “It was a window into the true attitudes of what has become a party of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy, a party that considers the rest of us unworthy of even a pretense of respect.”

And here in San Diego, we have a city newspaper empire recently bought up by an opportunistic local robber baron and owner of multiple luxury resorts and hotels who has made electing Carl DeMaio his top priority. Why?  Because this is the same Carl DeMaio who, in the face the of socio-economic realties presented by CPI, has a long record of demonizing workers, trying to kill the living wage law, and siding with landlords over tenants and big money downtown interests over our city’s neighborhoods .  In sum, Carl DeMaio’s entire career has been a take-no-prisoners war on working people and the idea that government should not do anything to blunt the hard edges of the market.

DeMaio’s Performance Institute made him rich by mining public funds for his own private gain and his economic plan has its roots in Rick Perry’s “Texas miracle” which funneled hundreds of millions of tax dollars to private companies .  What the DeMaio/Manchester alliance is about is making sure that San Diego’s “shadow government” remains intact.  Like Mitt Romney, Doug Manchester and Carl DeMaio are advocates of John Jay’s tried and true maxim that, “Those who own the country ought to run it.”

As Norma Damashek has sharply noted, “The DeMaio/Manchester duo is a toxic partnership and inevitably harmful to the public health. Heed this warning: Carl DeMaio in office means Doug Manchester as mayor.  The only effective anti-venom lays in the hands of the voters.”

Folks like Doug Manchester stay rich and powerful by keeping San Diego’s low-wage service sector, dominated by the largely non-union tourist industry, just like it is.  Carl DeMaio, the man who made San Diego “the Wisconisin of the West” by gutting the city’s unions, is his perfect wingman.

And all those businessmen who were smitten with the Fletcher flim flam and its attendant hooey about moderation are running towards DeMaio’s rightwing extremism because they know where their bread is buttered.  The lesson?  While plutocrats don’t always like each other, they hate sharing power even more than they dislike their moneyed rivals. What this means for Manchester is that his aversion to gay people is trumped by his Romney-like disdain for workers.

So, if you like the grim picture presented in the CPI report, by all means vote for Carl DeMaio.  But if you think that economic depravity in the lap of luxury is the shame of San Diego, don’t just vote for Bob Filner, get out there and work to get him elected.  Otherwise, the glib dismissal of the average worker that Mitt Romney’s “secret video” exposed may as well become our city’s new motto:  “Welcome to America’s Finest Tourist Plantation.”


Jim Miller

Jim Miller, a professor at San Diego City College, is the co-author of Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See and Better to Reign in Hell, and author of the novel Drift. His most recent novel on the San Diego free speech fights and the IWW, Flash, is on AK Press.


  1. avatar says

    “What the DeMaio/Manchester alliance is about is making sure that San Diego’s ‘shadow government’ remains intact.”

    Correct, and then some. Were DeMaio elected mayor* he’d be a lot more (and a lot worse) than just Manchester’s sock puppet: Look for the city’s assets to be auctioned off, its services outsourced … in short , look for the city to be fed to a rapacious pack of small-h Halliburtons. The profits they’ll slice (rip, tear, hack) out for themselves will come from our collective hide. And those of us who’ll be hurt the worst will, of course, be the most vulnerable: the poor, the elderly, low-wage workers, kids.

    *But we’re not going to let that happen, right? Everyone can spare a few hours and/or a few bucks. Volunteer (it can be fun and it’s always gratifying) and/or pony up (okay, never fun — but gratifying anyway. Really).

  2. avatarNorma Damashek says

    I know for a fact that a few of San Diego’s wealthy business people have big hearts , compassionate souls, and a full complement of honest bones in their bodies. One way or another they’ve managed to get rich AND rise above excessive selfishness, greed, and ego.
    Then there are the rest of them, whose guiding principle is: I me mine (check it out on youtube).
    Along comes an unscrupulous politician like Carl DeMaio, dangling the juicy bait of unfettered, unregulated business opportunities. And POOF — an instant posse at his disposal, salivating profusely, eager to do his dirty business.
    It’s a creepy image. I hate to sound judgmental but these are creepy people.

  3. avatarGoatskull says

    To add insult to injury, if this economy ever turns around the cost of living here will only go up even more. At some point those who are falling behind will have no choice but to leave for greener pastures and if they’re unable to then they (we) are screwed and that’s pretty much the end of it. The best advice I can give to anyone if they’re not caught in the cycle is to lower their expectations if they want to continue living in SD.