The West Virginia senator is ready to kill Build Back Better, and it’s clear why: It’s good for you, but bad for him.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a coal baron who seems determined to deliver coal to the stockings of every American this Christmas, appears to have put the Build Back Better Act on life support. On Sunday, Manchin went on Fox News (off to a bad start) and, without warning (see where this is going?), said he couldn’t vote for President Biden’s major social spending and climate change bill. “I’ve tried everything humanly possible,” Manchin said, but he announced that he’s concluded he just can’t bring himself to vote for a bill that would significantly reduce the country’s greenhouse emissions, lower the cost of insulin, and reduce childhood poverty.
What are Manchin’s hang ups? It depends when you ask him and who’s around to hear the answer.
Sometimes he says that he can’t vote for BBB because it would add to the deficit. That would be a principled stance — if Manchin was consistent about it, but of course, he isn’t. He voted for the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act despite it adding more than $250 billion to the deficit in the next 10 years. So it can’t really be deficit spending that has Mr. Manchin in a tizzy.
Lately, Manchin has been hammering at inflation as being the real issue. “Where I’m at right now, the inflation that I was concerned about, it’s not transitory. It’s real, it’s harming every West Virginian. It’s making it almost difficult for them to continue, to go to their jobs. The cost of gasoline, the cost of groceries, the cost of utility bills — all of these things are hitting in every aspect of their life,” he told Fox News’s Brett Baier. Most experts believe that passing the Build Back Better Act would have minimal impact on inflation, potentially producing a short-term bump and little else. A group of economists, including a former board member of the Federal Reserve, has pushed for the bill to be passed because the amount of financial support it extends to the American people would reduce the impact of inflation, if not inflation itself. So, if Manchin is really all that concerned about inflation, he’s making a mountain out of a molehill.
He thinks that you are irresponsible, that you don’t deserve the help, and that he knows better than you.
Sometimes, if he’s feeling vulnerable, Manchin will come closer to telling the truth and saying that’s it’s all just politics. After getting eviscerated by the White House for tanking the spending bill without any heads up, Manchin got all in his feelings and blamed Biden staffers for being mean to him. “It is not the president. This is staff,” he said on West Virginia radio Monday morning, claiming Biden’s office and Democratic activists have driven him “to wit’s end.” It must be hard, being asked to do the right thing and being expected to follow through on your word. Poor Joe.
If you happen to catch Manchin in the bowels of the Senate, away from the cameras and microphones, then concern for his constituents reportedly disappears entirely. In its place: utter contempt. According to HuffPost, Manchin has reportedly told fellow Democrats during negotiations that he believes that the child tax credit in the Build Back Better Act would be wasted on poor families because they would use that money on drugs instead of their kids. This is asinine, cruel, and gross, not to mention just completely not true. The expanded child tax credit, which is already in place but set to expire, has reduced childhood poverty by as much as 30% and prevented an additional 2 million children from experiencing hunger. An estimated 91% of families have used the tax credit on essentials and education, so Manchin’s concerns are some fear-mongering, poor-phobic bullshit.
That brings us to the unspoken reason for Manchin’s resistance to the Build Back Better Act: He just doesn’t trust you. He thinks that you are irresponsible, that you don’t deserve the help, and that he knows better than you. After all, by not passing the bill, he’s keeping cash in his own pockets. He made his fortune from coal and continues to financially benefit from it. Passing the Build Back Better Act would kill his own personal handout: propping up a dying industry that continues to line his pockets so he can spend weekends on his yacht. It’s incredibly relatable hobby, surely, seeing as Manchin represents one of the poorest states in the country.
West Virginia ranks 50th in public health, 44th in child wellbeing, and 47th in employment. The Build Back Better Act would significantly address those failings, improve the quality of life and opportunities for those West Virginians and for people across the country. But it’d hurt the quality of life of Joe Manchin. And he clearly thinks that matters a lot more than you do.