Joe Manchin Is A Starry-Eyed Idealist Who Does Not Understand The Real World
If I were Joe Manchin, I would currently be living in a cave in the middle of nowhere, probably hiding under a blanket. This is because I am a human being capable of shame. If he were a human being capable of empathy and shame, he would have done the same or at least apologized to America last month when it came out that his daughter, the woman he raised, former Merck Pharmaceuticals CEO Heather Bresch, was not only directly involved in raising the price of Epi-Pens from $100 to $650-$700, but in paying off other pharmaceutical companies not to make competitors so she could get away with charging that much.
He didn't. In fact, it seems like he hasn't even mentioned it. The last time the Epi-Pen scandal came up, Manchin responded to it by saying, "My daughter is my daughter with unconditional love, and she's the most amazing person that I know. She's so compassionate and generous in how she's always lived her life," so it's pretty clear he thinks there's nothing wrong with his daughter's behavior and her apparent desire to get obscenely wealthy by exploiting the desire of parents to not watch their children die from anaphylactic shock.
And yet, while knowing that his daughter took advantage of the people like that, Manchin has been out here every day arguing to keep Americans poor and miserable, arguing against the Democrats' reconciliation package that could lift millions of Americans out of poverty.
Once again, yesterday, Manchin issued a decree announcing that he would not be voting for the reconciliation package, attempting to cast himself as the one lone, rational, fiscally responsible voice in a chorus of kooky bleeding heart liberals who just want to toss all of the money into the air for no good reason whatsoever. (He has further demands as of this morning, which Dok will be examining in another post.)
Let's take a look, shall we?
Every Member of Congress has a solemn duty to vote for what they believe is best for the country and the American people, not their party. Respectfully, as I have said for months, I can't support $3.5 trillion more in spending when we have already spent $5.4 trillion since last March. At some point, all of us, regardless of party must ask the simple question – how much is enough?
Enough is enough to pay for necessities, which this bill has been trimmed down to meet. When you let a building go into disrepair, hanging a painting isn't going to fix it and make it livable. When you have a country that has gone into disrepair, it takes more than some roads and highways to fix it and make it livable.
What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can't even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity. Suggesting that spending trillions more will not have an impact on inflation ignores the everyday reality that America's families continue to pay an unavoidable inflation tax.
What about the "every day reality" that America's families can't afford to live? Forty-four percent of workers in the United States do not make a living wage, and that's because people like Joe Manchin don't think that companies should be required to pay them enough to live on. "Inflation" — if that's what you want to call it — has gone up astronomically over the last decade or so. Rent costs more, food costs more, and wages have remained stagnant. Essentially what Manchin is saying here is that if regular Americans can afford to live, prices of things will go up. But they are going up for those people anyway. Inflation has risen a lot faster for those at the bottom than for those at the top, and keeping people poor is clearly not helping with that.
Some have posited that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that is exactly what Manchin wants to do. He believes, clearly, that eventually all of this will blow over and people will just sort of settle in to how much life is going to suck for them. That seems highly unlikely.
Proposing a historic expansion of social programs while ignoring the fact we are not in a recession and that millions of jobs remain open will only feed a dysfunction that could weaken our economic recovery. This is the shared reality we all now face, and it is this reality that must shape the future decisions that we, as elected leaders, must make.
Yes. Jobs remain open. And the reason they remain open is because employers do not want to pay people enough to do them.
Since the beginning of this reconciliation debate, I have been consistent in my belief that any expansion of social programs must be targeted to those in need, not expanded beyond what is fiscally possible. Our tax code should be reformed to fix the flaws of the 2017 tax bill and ensure everyone pays their fair share but it should not weaken our global competitiveness or the ability of millions of small businesses to compete with the Amazons of the world. Overall, the amount we spend now must be balanced with what we need and can afford – not designed to reengineer the social and economic fabric of this nation or vengefully tax for the sake of wishful spending.
Except we actually do need to reengineer the social and economic fabric of this nation. The way things are engineered right now is not working for people, so either we're going to pay a little to change some things now or have to change everything and pay a lot later. If you have a leak in your roof, it's not actually "fiscally responsible" to put off repairing it until your ceiling comes crashing in. If you let things get bad, it will cost more money to repair it down the line. If you fix it right away and reinforce it to make it less likely to leak again, you save money.
As far as vengeful taxation goes? Asking rich people to pay their fair share is not "vengeful." Vengeful would be if we threw his daughter in prison and redistributed her golden parachute money among all of the families who had to pay $600 for a device it costs $4 to make. That's not happening and frankly he should be grateful.
In August, I recommended we take a strategic pause to provide time to develop the right policies and to continue to monitor how the pandemic and economic factors are affecting our nation's fiscal situation before we spend more. Throughout September, I have made it clear to all those who would listen the need to means test any new social programs so that we are helping those who need it the most, not spend for the sake of spending.
Hi! The administrative costs of means-testing many social programs are often sky-high and it also puts people in situations where taking a job that pays more could mean a reduction in benefits and therefore less money overall. It's not good. It makes people feel good because they don't feel like money is going to "undeserving" people and they can pretend they're saving money, but it's not actually good. The reconciliation package includes means-testing where it makes sense and doesn't include it where it doesn't.
While I am hopeful that common ground can be found that would result in another historic investment in our nation, I cannot – and will not - support trillions in spending or an all or nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces. There is a better way and I believe we can find it if we are willing to continue to negotiate in good faith.
If there is one final lesson that will continue to guide me in this difficult debate ahead it is this: America is a great nation but great nations throughout history have been weakened by careless spending and bad policies. Now, more than ever, we must work together to avoid these fatal mistakes so that we may fulfill our greatest responsibility as elected leaders and pass on a better America to the next generation."
Joe Manchin is very, very bad at history. Like, extraordinarily bad. To the point where if I did not know better, I would think he were an accelerationist Marxist who was purposely trying to make things so bad for people that they have no choice but a socialist revolution.
History doesn't tell us that nations that use their wealth to do right by their people become weakened. Far from it. Where we do see nations and leaders destroyed, however, is when they ignore populations that are crying for relief, thinking it will all blow over eventually. Tsar Nicholas of Russia really thought that the Russian peasants would calm down about the fact that they were miserable and starving to death, eventually, and that things would soon go back to normal for him. That did not end well for him. It ended with his whole family being murdered.
Prior to FDR enacting the New Deal, anarchism and socialism were becoming increasingly popular. Huey Long, with his Share Our Wealth societies, was becoming increasingly attractive to people. Why? Because they were fucking miserable and scared and when you are miserable and scared, when you've got nowhere to go but up, revolution starts looking pretty good.
If Joe Manchin thinks this can all be put off forever and that there will be no consequences, if he thinks we can keep going the way we are going, he is more of an idealist than I have ever been. It's been 10 years since Occupy Wall Street and the anger over wealth and income inequality has only grown stronger and more mainstream. It's not going away and it's not going to go away until things are reasonably okay for people. The longer he puts it off, the bigger the price tag is going to get and the more people are going to demand. His choice isn't to pay $3.5 trillion or nothing — which actually isn't even what's happening, since that's $3.5 trillion over 10 years and it is fully paid for — it's to make people's lives better now or pay a whole lot more later.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse