The West Virginia Hypocrite Robert A. Levine
Americans have always known not to trust politicians because they often go back on the words and most of them can be bought. But Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is in a different class. With the Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, every Democrat vote is needed to pass legislation. When the infrastructure bill was passed by the Democrats with both moderate and progressive support, a bill that Manchin favored, he promised that he would support President Biden’s Build Back Better Bill. There were hours and hours of negotiations, phone calls and meetings between Biden and Manchin and their staffs and with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and his staff to shape the Build Back Better bill in a form agreeable to Manchin. He was literally treated like royalty by the Democrats because his vote to pass the bill was essential and he had promised that he would vote for it. This was a bill that would provide great benefits to his constituents in West Virginia and that should have influenced him to pass it without question.
However, Sunday morning on Fox News, he suddenly told America that he would not vote for the bill. He claimed that he didn’t want to increase the national debt and was afraid it would increase inflation. That is all B.S. To appease him, tax increases on the wealthy, which would have made the bill debt neutral, were dropped from the bill. And since the bill covers ten years, it should have no effect on inflation according to economists. The price of the BBB had also been pared down significantly to $2.2 trillion at Manchin’s insistence.
So why did he withdraw his vote in favor of the bill? Probably the biggest reason was the effect that the BBB would have on reducing coal as a fuel because of climate change. The bill cuts down the use of coal, oil and gas with incentives in favor of renewable energy like solar, wind, and perhaps hydropower. It also penalizes power plants that do not switch. In a major conflict of interest, Manchin and his family benefit significantly from a coal brokerage firm that he founded, making hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars annually by selling coal. Now West Virginia has a substantial coal industry, but it has been losing thousands of miners annually with coal mines shutting down because utilities are already starting to switch to clean energy without Biden’s bill. The BBB would have allotted billions of dollars to train laid off miners and the unemployed in clean energy technology, making homes energy efficient and so forth. Without BBB, they lose this benefit. There is an excise tax on coal that pays for miners who develop black lung disease that is coming to an end and would have been renewed in BBB.
A healthy child tax credit in BBB which would have lifted many children in West Virginia and the nation out of poverty was also lost because of Manchin’s refusal to vote for BBB. Coverage for hearing aids would have been covered by Medicare. Does Manchin care about any of these benefits for his constituents? The money he makes from coal is more important. And after signaling his lack of support for BBB, Manchin had the nerve to say that he was against giving poor people money because they would not know how to spend it. Of course, his wealthy friends know how to spend money much better than those impoverished because they have more of it.
Global warming is an existential threat to mankind and carbon dioxide from burning coal and other hydrocarbons are the major cause and Manchin is a major supplier, like a dope dealer. Another important factor in climate change is methane gas which leaks from oil and gas wells. The BBB would have imposed a fee on methane emissions which Manchin also didn’t like.
There is still time for Manchin to change his mind and negotiate some form of BBB. But if he were a decent human being, he would have rid himself and his family of the investments in coal companies and coal brokering which are a blatant conflict of interest. Global warming and climate change is the most vital issue of our time and Manchin just doesn’t give a damn.
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