By Doug Porter
Employees of the UT-San Diego are the latest casualties in the sordid saga of the right wing’s assault on the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
UT Publisher Doug Manchester has made opposition and denigration of the President’s health insurance reform agenda a top priority since the day he bought the paper. His editorial pages have been (figuratively) screaming about the impending end of Western Civilization for months on end. The ACA’s primary pillar—the individual mandate—was actually a conservative counter-proposal to President Clinton’s attempt to implement universal health care nearly two decades ago.
Now employees of UT-San Diego have been told the company can no longer afford to provide a 3% match for 401K contributions because of the onerous burdens imposed by Obamacare. Naturally, they’re unhappy about this latest slap in the face.
There are two ways to look at this move, neither of which amounts to a positive spin for the newspaper.
It could be that all the bravado about how “successful” the company has become is simply a smokescreen for an organization that’s bleeding cash at an unsustainable rate. The half million or so they spent unsuccessfully trying to buy the Boston Globe, the recent acquisitions of weekly papers combined with sagging circulation and an unsustainable advertising to pages ratio could be taking it’s toll. That might explain why long term subscribers recently got hit with substantial price increases.
But it’s much more likely these latest move is simply petty politics, a manifestation of ideological frustration and one man’s personal crusade against the tidal forces of history. That personal crusade is at the root of why Manchester made the move from land developer to wannabe media mogul.
So now UT-San Diego, as part of its role as an instrument of right wing destruction is using their employees as pawns in this effort. Local reactions to the move were strong.
As Richard Barrera, Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, put it:
Once again, Doug Manchester and the UT ownership are demonstrating a basic lack of respect and appreciation for the UT staff, readership, and the San Diego community. San Diegans read the UT in order to learn about what’s happening in our community, not to be force fed Manchester‘s ideology. And yet Manchester covers over the often fine work of his own staff with front page editorials that San Diegans rightfully discard to get to the real news.
Now, Manchester and his elitist ownership are discarding any type of retirement security for his hard working staff, in order to make a pointless political statement. There’s an old saying in the labor movement – the best organizer is a bad employer. We hope the workers at the UT stand up to mean-spirited ownership by organizing and fighting for basic retirement security. The San Diego community will stand with you if you do, just like we take the UT editorial page with us to the ballot box – to vote the opposite of whatever position Manchester takes.
Murtaza Baxamusa, an economist who serves as Director of Planning & Development for the San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corporation, put it this way:
The Affordable Care Act is a red herring, a convenient excuse by doomsayers to exert vengeful, ideologically-motivated cuts to employee benefits to camouflage poor management decisions. In fact, insuring the uninsured will lower healthcare costs for everyone, and create more jobs.
The National Strategy Against Obamacare
Manchester’s move certainly fits in with the desperation being manifested by Republicans nationally now (in fits and starts) that the law is rolling out. People are enrolling in the plans. Much of the doom and gloom promised simply hasn’t materialized or has been grossly overstated by its opponents. Many of the horror stories have been debunked.
Change of any kind is scary, especially when it comes to matters affecting ones health and family, and this fear is exactly what the Ayn Rand set is seeking to exploit.
My family is among the untold millions that received notifications from an insurance company saying our existing plan (through my wife’s employer) would no longer suffice because of the higher standards imposed by the Affordable Care Act.
They offered us another similar plan at a higher rate. In the good old days that Manchester and his ilk would like us to return to, we would have just been dropped, given that I’m a cancer survivor. We went shopping and found a plan with slightly lower premiums, along with significantly lower co-pays.
While I don’t think our experience is necessarily representative of the courses of action that many people will follow, it does illustrate the point that consumers, with a little effort, will find a way to deal with the changes mandated by Obamacare. And, for the majority of folks, those changes will be positive.
Republicans fear public acceptance of the redefined health care/ insurance landscape more than anything. They’re rapidly running out of options to stop the law.
Here’s one indication of just how desperate they are, via Talking Points Memo:
Heading into the 2014 legislative session, the American Legislative Exchange Council is pushing new model legislation that aims to undermine the federal health care reform law. The only problem is: It’s probably illegal.
Here’s what the bill says: If an insurance company accepts tax subsidies that trigger Obamacare’s employer mandate — in other words, if an employee at a company with more than 50 employees goes onto an Obamacare exchange to purchase insurance and gets financial help through the law — then that insurer would be prohibited from continuing to do business in that state.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine does a great job of describing right wing desperation on this issue:
Obamacare is a gaping wound in the Republican psyche, representing not only the rise of a majority moocher class but a potential symbol of a successful Obama presidency. Health-care reform, George F. Will has ludicrously if representatively declared, amounts to Obama’s “single” achievement. If it lives, it will vindicate his presidency as a liberal Reagan, rather than the reprise of Jimmy Carter (or George W. Bush) Republicans wish him to be.
If and when the law melds into the national fabric, the proximate Republican response will not be to adapt their policy ideas to it, but to denounce it as a kind of stolen law. You can see this spirit creeping out not only in Rubio’s proposal but elsewhere. Eleven Republican attorneys general havedenounced Obama’s various administrative maneuvers to make the law functional as illegal. “It was powerful corporate America, with its influential lobbyists, that got an additional year to meet the insurance mandate — when individuals did not,” complains The Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel, “It was the unions that got a reprieve from a health-insurance tax — when individuals and small businesses were left to pick up the tab.” The hapless Obamacare is slowly giving way to the devious Obamacare.
In the very long run, Obamacare may become a thing, like Social Security and Medicare, that Republicans initially predict will destroy the fabric of capitalism but eventually accept and then finally swear up and down they will not harm. In the shorter term, it will remain a bloody shirt. Obamacare will be Benghazi or the IRS scandal writ large.
Issa Named Conservative of the Year
The right wing Human Events Group has awarded Congressman Issa the Conservative of the Year Award for 2013, an honor bestowed last year on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Here’s the money quote from their words of adoration:
For the past five years, no one has worked more diligently to hold this Administration accountable than Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who represents northern San Diego County, and chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Issa will no doubt this prize on his bookshelf next to his Climate Change Denier Award given last summer by environmentalists, including the national, state and San Diego League of Conservation Voters.
SeaWorld Learns from American Idol
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment got busted last week for trying to rig an online poll sponsored by The Orlando Business Journal about public perceptions of the company’s image.
The Business Journal discovered that an Internet Protocol Address belonging to SeaWorld.com and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment was the source for more than 50% of the early voting in the poll.
The company has received a lot of negative publicity in recent months following the release of Blackfish, a CNN documentary critical of SeaWorld’s treatment of Orcas. Eight of the ten musical acts scheduled for the Orlando location’s Bands, Brew & BBQ event for March 9th have cancelled.
Nineteen people, including a 12 year girl, were arrested last week in Pasadena in connection with a protest of the SeaWorld float during the 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade. Members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) ran in front of the float wearing teeshirts reading “SeaWorld Hurts Orcas” and waving signs urging the boycott of the amusement park.
Once word of the company’s IP address being the source for so many votes in the poll went viral on the internet, the numbers for people saying their opinion of the park has changed since watching Blackfish jumped from just 1 percent to more than 73 percent as of Friday afternoon.
North Park, City Heights Liquor Stores Scrutinized
A story in Friday’s UT-San Diego spotlighted the activities of a Latino Youth Council survey of 30 mid-city liquor stores seeking to check for compliance with California Alcoholic Beverage Control and City of San Diego standards.
Only one of the stores surveyed passed the assessment with 100% compliance: The Market Place at 35th Street and University. Nine standards were covered in the appraisal, done by a team of teenagers from the council visiting businesses between Park Boulevard and 54th Street.
From the UT-SD story:
In Mid-City, Latino Youth Council volunteer Gabriel Reyes said his group believes a correlation exists between the lack of compliance and the more than 1,400 crimes committed in that area between July 1 and Oct. 4 last year. “Crime thrives in neighborhoods where laws are not followed,” he said.
Mary Baum, who manages the alcohol, tobacco and drug-abuse prevention program for San Diego’s Social Advocates for Youth, said results of this latest study are consistent with those from previous years.
“These are the most basic, simple standards to comply with,” Baum said. “Even though they seem like small things, they’re important because we have learned that these code violations often invite crime and blight into our community.”
Corporate Extortion Does Not Equal Jobs
In the wake of the vote by Boeing unionists in Washington State to accept the unacceptable (in terms of contract provisions) when blackmailed over their future employment by the company, I offer this insight from LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik:
Here’s a business practice likely to keep booming in 2014: corporate extortion.
We don’t mean extortion of corporations, as is practiced by Somali pirates or entrepreneurial Russians. We mean extortion by corporations.
In this field the victims are taxpayers, and what makes it a beautiful business is that the taxpayers think they’re getting a great deal, even as they’re led to the shearing. And a lucrative shearing it is, for business: By the estimate of the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, state and local tax incentives funnel $50 billion in tax revenue into corporate coffers every year. On a national basis, ITEP says, this is worse than a zero-sum game: The incentives are “much more likely to reshuffle investment between geographic areas than … to spur genuinely new economic activity.”
The trendsetter for the coming year may turn out to be Boeing. The aerospace company has been dangling the prospect of a big airliner production facility in front of several states, including California, since mid-November. That’s when union machinists in Everett, Wash., rejected its demands for big concessions on pension and healthcare benefits. The process started only days after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the biggest state tax break in history into law — a package that will give Boeing up to $8.7 billion in benefits through 2040.
Boeing’s shopping the production program to other states goaded the International Assn. of Machinists to schedule a second vote Friday. As this column went to press the results were unavailable. The company said it would keep much of the production of its new 777X airliner in Everett if the contract passes, though some work may go to other locations anyway.
Ugh. The story goes on to quote a California Congressman saying Long Beach is still in the running for the deal, despite the union’s concessions.
Check Out the SDFree Press Calendar
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltran, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
On This Day: 1942 – The first commercial around-the-world airline flight took place. Pan American Airlines was the company that made history with the feat. 1958 – Gibson patented its Flying V electric guitar. 1994 – Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed on the right leg by an assailant at Cobo Arena in Detroit, MI. Four men were later sentenced to prison for the attack, including Tonya Harding’s ex-husband.
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