Joe Manchin Said Good Thing About Taxing Billionaires, So The New York Times Decided He Didn't

economics
Video screenshot, Center for Popular Democracy Action on Twitter

This headline from today's New York Times seems to have provided yet another reason to feel annoyed with Senator Joe Manchin.

NYT headline: Manchin denounces the Democrats' plan to tax billionaires as divisive. New York Times

Jesus Christ, Manchin thinks taxing literally 700 people is “divisive"? He apparently finds the very idea offensive like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez existing and speaking in public. Gee, why tax anyone at all. No one really enjoys it: Taxation continually ranks as the bottom of America's preferred kinks.

Fortunately, I read past the headline, which is misleading clickbait, like a common Wonkette Tabs hed, and then I read an entirely different account which had an actual transcript. Manchin's still an insufferable asshole whom history will record as helping enable democracy's demise. However, he's not entirely unreasonable on this particular point. Ready, New York Times? Go!


The billionaires tax, officially unveiled early Wednesday morning, may have died before the ink was dry on its 107-page text.

This sentence is terrible, but if we focus, we can make it through the whole paragraph.

Mr. Manchin, speaking with reporters, said, "I don't like the connotation that we're targeting different people." People, he added, that "contributed to society" and "create a lot of jobs and invest a lot of money and give a lot to philanthropic pursuits."

"It's time that we all pull together and row together," he said.

OK, this is all billionaire-humping bullshit. Billionaires might've profited during the pandemic, but they specifically aren't the reason you still had food and bathroom tissue while sheltering in place. Essential workers are the ones who contribute most to our society and they curiously have the least to show for it.

Non-billionaires also create jobs on account of how our consumer-driven economy works. It's why Republicans were so desperate to reopen the economy despite the risk to frontline workers. Manchin personally has no problem targeting them when he demands a $60,000 income cap for the child tax credit. He wants to see more of a contribution from Americans who lack the crushing burden of their own yachts.

My urge to kill is fading slightly, though, after reading Manchin's rah-rah gibberish about everyone pulling together and rowing toward the big win. Because that "rowing together"? That was taxes. Joe Manchin was saying wealthy people need to pay taxes. Benjy Sarlin, the policy editor at NBC News, provided the full context of Manchin's comments.

MANCHIN: On the taxes, people are talking about tax this and tax that, we'll change this, and then wealth tax. First of all, I said this: Everybody in this country that has been blessed and prospered should pay a "Patriotic Tax."

I'm hardly a religious person, but I wouldn't use the word “blessed" to describe the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. Those three men alone should've exposed the lie behind prosperity gospel. The epigraph to The Godfather novel states: “Behind every fortune, there's a crime," and The Godfather is about more reputable people than the founders of Facebook, Amazon, and Tesla.

MANCHIN: If you're to the point to where you're able to use all of the tax, tax forms if you can to your advantage and you end up with zero tax liability, but have had a very very good life and you've had a lot of opportunities, there should be a 15 percent patriotic tax.

I guess. It's not as if Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the modern tax code printed on stone tablets. Rich assholes have bought off cheap politicians for decades now and in return, the tax code is tilted in their favor. Elizabeth Warren specifically wants to change that, but she's not defying God in her mountain laboratory.

MANCHIN: People in the stratosphere rather than trying to penalize them, we oughta be pleased that this country's able to produce the wealth.

No, I'm not pleased that Jeff Bezos is taking trips to the moon while sister killed her baby families are living in their cars. That makes me sick to my stomach. We should judge a society by how many people needlessly live in poverty. We shouldn't celebrate the hoarded wealth of billionaires. Oh, but he continued? He continued!

MANCHIN: But with that, there's a patriotic duty that you should be paying something to this great country to give you the protection and the support and the opportunities. That's called a patriot. A patriotic tax would be nothing that we should be scorned about, it doesn't harm anybody.

So we're all clear: Liz Warren, Angus King, and Ron Wyden said "no raise in tax rates, HENGHH Kyrsten Sinema? How about this 15 percent minimum tax on corporations with more than a billion in annual profits instead, and also something about taxing unrealized capital gains," and when Joe Manchin was asked about it, he said patriots have to pay something, some minimum, even if they've managed to use the tax code to not pay anything. Look, even the Times gets it!

Billionaires have avoided taxation by paying themselves very low salaries while amassing fortunes in stocks and other assets. They then borrow off those assets to finance their lifestyles, rather than selling the assets and paying capital gains taxes.

And Manchin went on and on and on about "fair share." About patriotism means you pay some decent minimum. And at the end, asked if that he means he supports a billionaire tax, he said,

MANCHIN: I'm supporting, basically, that everyone should pay their fair share. And I've just tried to think of, I don't like the connotation that we're targeting different people. There's people that basically, they've contributed to society, they've created a lot of jobs and invested a lot of money and give a lot to philanthropic pursuits. But it's time that we all pull together and row together.

Would you sum all that up, in toto, as:

Senate Democrats' plan to extract hundreds of billions of dollars from the wealth of billionaires hit a major snag on Wednesday when Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, denounced it as divisive.

The billionaires tax, officially unveiled early Wednesday morning, may have died before the ink was dry on its 107-page text. Mr. Manchin, speaking with reporters, said, "I don't like the connotation that we're targeting different people." People, he added, that "contributed to society and create a lot of jobs and a lot of money and give a lot of philanthropic pursuits."

"It's time that we all pull together and grow together," he said.

Guess Joe Manchin shouldn't have tried to reframe the "billionaire tax" to get away from the "class war" cudgel constantly wielded by Fox News. Because the New York Times doesn't understand complex sentences.

Should have just stuck to "eat the rich."

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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