The Nation Can’t Afford Two Presidents. Biden Has to Deal with Manchin.


— from Daily Kos

The de facto president of the United States, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, had a busy weekend making decrees about the limits he is placing on the actual president, Joe Biden, in passing his big economic agenda plan in the Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill. He has informed the White House that he will not allow the core element of Biden’s proposal on climate change, the Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would accelerate utilities’ shift from coal- and gas-powered plants to renewable technology—wind, solar, and nuclear—to help reach the goal of zero carbon emissions in power generation by 2035. Manchin is having none of that.

Not content to do his damnedest to doom children to living in a future hellscape, Manchin is also reportedly demanding that their present lives are also much harder. According to Axios, Manchin has told the White House that he won’t allow the child tax credit (CTC) to remain in the bill as is. Manchin wants strict limits on the payments, including a “firm” work requirement and means testing, capping payments to families making more than “the $60,000 range.”

Those are the payments that have already sharply reduced child hunger and provided an economic boost to help the nation recover from the pandemic. Biden and Democrats included the expanded CTC in the COVID-19 relief American Rescue Plan, and authorized the payments, which had been annual, to now be delivered in prorated monthly payments. The credit was also increased to up to $3,600 a year per child for children 5 and younger, and $3,000 for ages 6-17 per child. It is a near-universal program, with families making up to $150,000 receiving the credit.

In August, the conservative-leaning Niskanen Center released a report finding that the expanded CTC “will enable $27.6 billion in new household spending, support over half a million new jobs, and boost the economies of rural America, in particular.” The Center explains that “child benefits like the CTC can serve as a powerful economic stimulus for local communities given the greater consumption needs of households with children.”

Rural communities, like many in West Virginia, would see the most support from this program. “The child tax credit expansion is going to be huge for rural working-class communities,” Samuel Hammond, the Niskanen economist who co-authored the report, toldThe Washington Post’s Greg Sargent back in August. “It’s strange to see Republicans oppose spending money even when it goes to their own constituents.” It’s even stranger to see a Democrat oppose spending that money.

Here’s how West Virginia families spent the first monthly payments, according to the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy: 76.7% of households that spent the payment bought food. It also went to utilities, clothing, and paying down debt. The WVCBP estimates that if every West Virginian family eligible is able to secure the tax credit, “346,000 children will benefit statewide, including 50,000 who would be lifted above or closer to the federal poverty line.”

Sargent followed up with Niskanen to see what Manchin’s demands would do to his home state, “and the results are stark: The number of children benefiting would be cut by as many as 190,000, and the state’s residents could lose more than a quarter billion dollars in purchasing power.”

Hammond called Manchin’s new demands “performative austerity,” which will backfire. Manchin wants the work requirement to discourage what he calls an “entitlement society” of people sponging off the system and refusing to work. It’s ignoring the reality that raising children is expensive, and that those children need to eat, and that wages for working families often don’t meet those needs.

“If Manchin is worried about dependency, he should see the value in having the CTC be relatively universal,” Hammond told Sargent. In other words, Manchin’s means testing could create incentive for people to not work more and achieve a higher income, so that they can keep the guarantee of this assistance. “Narrowly targeting the credit to the lowest income families risks creating a stigmatizing poverty trap,” Hammond said.

“The CTC expansion represented an influx of nearly $100 billion in new purchasing power for households with children,” Hammond said. “It has helped boost local economies, particularly in rural states with weak demand. Under Manchin’s proposal that would be cut in half.”

He is purposefully harming his own constituents. Why he’s opposed to helping families isn’t clear, unless it’s because he is at heart a Republican. Why he’s so committed to destroying the planet is a lot more apparent: money. He’s the No. 1 recipient in Congress—House or Senate—of funding from the coal mining, mining, natural gas, and oil and gas industries. His stock holdings include somewhere between $1 and $5 million in Enersystems Inc., a coal brokerage he founding in 1988. Last year, his dividends from that company totaled $491,949.

Manchin’s stranglehold on the Senate—and thus on everything from saving our democracy to taking this last opportunity to stave off catastrophic climate change—has to stop. He’s not going to change his mind on this out of altruism or enlightenment. It’s got to be raw political power at this point, the kind that only a president can yield. Biden has to stop treating Manchin as just another Senate colleague and start treating him as someone he can break politically.


About author
A lifelong Blue girl in a Red state, I’m now Senior Political Writer for Daily Kos. On any given day, I’d rather be horseback, but there’s more demand for political writers than cowgirls.

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