U-T San Diego Shafts its Employees, Blames Obamacare

by on January 7, 2014 · 3 comments

in Civil Rights, Health, Labor, Media, San Diego

Doug Manchester U-TBy Doug Porter / San Diego Free Press

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.

Local Reaction

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

Creepy-Obamacare-Ad-LA-TimesManchester’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.

 The above is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s daily column.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Silence DoGood January 7, 2014 at 3:22 pm

A computational look at the cost structure of the ACA, for those who are interested. Any commentary would be much appreciated. Good luck.



john eisenhart January 7, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Not sure why the Free Press would support a mega corporate profit driven scheme as Obamacare. Health care should be half the cost it is. The President could have push for a single payer system but as with most all his policies he obeys Wall St.The fallacy of your view Doug is Obama has a good heart but is thwarted by the nasty conservative. Oh by the way, its Tuesday, Baracks day to go over his human kill list for the San Diego built drones.


Jeffeck January 8, 2014 at 7:48 am

Because Obama knows that the public wont stand for it.

If you want to guarantee your pet has better healthcare than you, just create single payer healthcare


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