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December 2021

The West Virginia Hypocrite

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.

www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble


A Partisan SCOTUS- Is It Here To Stay?

A Partisan SCOTUS- Is It Here To Stay?                                                                                                            

Robert A. Levine      

McConnell and Trump got what they wanted. A partisan Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority. McConnell prevailed by using unethical tactics, but he did not care. Though Trump and McConnell did not and still don’t see eye to eye on many issues, they both agreed that a conservative Supreme Court was a vital matter and any means that were necessary to reach their objective was worth it: by hook or by crook and they used both. No moral or ethical compass for either.

The unethical procedures began in the last year of Obama’s presidency when a seat opened up on the Supreme Court and the president nominated Merrick Garland, a centrist candidate who was well thought of in legal circles for the position. Disregarding precedent, McConnell decided that a nominee for the highest court should not be confirmed in the last year of a president’s term. This had never happened before, but McConnell proclaimed a new rule. He was hoping that a conservative Republican would next win the presidency and nominate a conservative candidate for the Court. His wishes were granted and Trump was elected president because of the arcane and undemocratic mechanism of the Electoral College, even though Trump lost the popular vote.

Trump’s initial nominee to the Court was conservative Neil Gorsuch who took the seat that should have gone to Merrick Garland. His second nominee was conservative Brett Kavanaugh who was accused of attempted rape by Professor Christine Blasey Ford when he was a high school student, and of sexual assaults on other occasions. He was also known in high school and at Yale as a heavy drinker. The FBI was not given permission by Trump and the Justice Department to look into all the complaints of sexual assault before Kavanaugh was confirmed by a Republican majority Senate. It was believed that Kavanaugh had likely lied to the Senate when questioned about the assaults.

The most hypocritical confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee shepherded in by McConnell came at the end of October 2020 when President Trump only had two and a half months left on his term. Amy Coney Barrett, another conservative was confirmed by the Republican controlled Senate, 52-48. She rose from being a little known law professor at Notre Dame to the Supreme Court in three years. Mitch McConnell simply changed his mind about nominating a member of the Court in the last year of a presidential term when that person happened to be a staunch conservative. And it wasn’t in the last year but the last two and a half months. Barrett replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal justice who was held in very high regard in legal circles.

Prior to Trump’s presidency in 2013, the Supreme Court voted to overturn the main part of the 1965 voting rights act by a 5-4 vote, allowing nine states, mainly in the South, to alter their voting laws without obtaining federal approval in advance. The Court said that society had changed and federal supervision was no longer necessary. Since then, there have been major efforts to suppress minority voting in a number of states, by making registration and voting much more difficult. In fact, the Justice Department recently sued the state of Texas for their restrictive laws, a case that is certain to go before the Supreme Court. This term, the Court will also rule on a restrictive law regarding abortion passed by the state of Mississippi. Given the questioning by the Court of both sides, it is likely that Mississippi’s law will be upheld and Roe v Wade may even be overturned.

It is sad for our democracy that presidents who lost the popular vote have handed the Supreme Court over to conservatives who were confirmed by Senators who in total had less popular votes in being elected than their Democratic opponents. Is this the way democracy works? Unfortunately, it is. The only way this partisan Court can be changed is by Democrats maintaining control of the Senate and voting to expand the number of justices on the Court. Limiting the terms of justices so there is more frequent turnover would also be a sensible idea.     

www.robertlevinebooks.com                 Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.