Guardian Parrots Propaganda in Endorsement Issue
We would have hoped, however, that the Guardian could have done a little better than to simply regurgitate the drive-by bumper sticker factoids already piling up on San Franciscans' door knobs, in our mailboxes, and blaring over the airwaves.
In its predictable "NO, NO, NO" command on Prop. B, the Jeff Adachi-penned measure to up workers' pension and health care contributions, the paper reiterates the extraordinarily truthy claim that "a single mother will be forced to pay up to $5,600 per year for her child's health care -- in addition to the $8,154 she already pays."
Yes, that's true. But it's an extraordinarily cherry-picked bit of data -- never mind the fact that, while the notion of single moms may pull on the heartstrings, single dads or workers covering their spouses pay the same price.
Interested voters can actually see what Prop. B would cost city workers by visiting the Health Service System's website right here. A quick perusal of the department's data reveals two pressing facts:
- The hypothetical single mom the Guardian has dredged up would actually pay less for insurance even after Prop. B's passage if she shifted from the exorbitantly expensive City Plan (UHC) to Kaiser or Blue Shield;
- The aforementioned hypothetical mom is a rare bird. Only 282 current city employees cover themselves plus a dependent on the City Plan -- out of 35,584 full- or part-time city workers covered.
So, "one of the most compelling arguments against Prop. B," as the Guardian puts it, is only applicable to 0.8 percent of current city workers -- that'd be eight out of every 1,000 -- and many of those people could subsequently switch health coverage and actually save money.
The Guardian is also factually inaccurate when it claims "the brunt" of skyrocketing health care costs would be shunted to public employees. The estimated $121 million in savings Prop. B would bring about in 2013 is composed of $83 million in reduced city health care payouts and $38 million less spent on the pension plan. But these totals represent just 25 percent of the city's projected health care costs and a mere 7 percent of obligatory pension payments.
All told, Prop. B would only shift 14 percent of the forthcoming massive burden to workers, leaving the city with 86 percent of the load. That's $744 million we're talking about here -- and that money will be funneled into the retirement system and health care costs no matter what. It won't go to hiring more unionized city workers, fixing streets or buses, or funding social services. The city is in for a massive and highly unpleasant alteration of the status quo, and Prop. B can't possibly begin to change that.
(It warrants mentioning, by the way, that The Guardian endorsed the in-retrospect dubious augmentation of police and fire pensions to 90 percent of final salary in 2002 -- based on the sound rationale that the cops' and firefighters' unions opted to take no position on yet another public power measure. The paper's Quixotic quest for public power resulted in yet another charge headlong into a political windmill. But those massive, voter-approved pensions will weigh down the city for decades to come).
We're not going to tell you how to think or how to vote. Taking up a position on a ballot measure based on the midset of "getting back" at unionized workers, however, would be counterproductive and immature. But, then, so is parroting misleading election propaganda and couching it as political analysis.
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