Opinion: How Joe Manchin and Republicans are wrecking our most important debates

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
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By Paul Waldman
Columnist
Today at 1:21 p.m. EST


In a political system full of pathologies, here’s one we don’t often consider: Even when we decide to spend a bunch of money to meet the country’s pressing needs, the debate we have about exactly how to go about it is so distorted that it becomes almost impossible to make good decisions.
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It’s a particular kind of distortion, one that obscures and distracts from the substantive choices we have to make, so that the original point of the enterprise becomes almost an afterthought.
Consider the Build Back Better bill, whose fate still lies with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Manchin now reportedly wants to either cut or eliminate the expanded child tax credit — one of the most effective antipoverty measures in history — because he thinks it’s too expensive.

Manchin is also arguing with President Biden about the fact that many of the programs in the bill phase in or phase out over the course of 10 years, which Manchin considers problematic budget gimmickry.






On that point he isn’t wrong, strictly speaking; it is gimmickry, of a type that has been used by both parties. But do you know who’s most responsible for that feature of this bill? That’s right: Joe Manchin.
Biden and congressional Democrats have spent months courting and pleading with Manchin, over matters that have had almost nothing to do with the things the bill is supposed to accomplish. Again and again, Manchin has declared that whatever the total cost of a given version of the bill was, it was too much. You don’t like $3.5 trillion? How about 2.5? Or 2.1? Would 1.75 be okay?

Because of the focus on total cost, the inevitable paring and shaping of the bill hasn’t been driven by the country’s most important needs and how best to meet them, but by what would satisfy Manchin’s arbitrary arithmetic demands.


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And now he’s consumed with whether one provision or another should phase out after five years or last for 10. So we’ve spent all this time not debating the things the bill does, because apparently for Manchin that’s barely relevant.
In the end, Manchin will probably vote for the bill, but the substantively impoverished debate has created its own set of problems even if it passes. Had we spent six months debating details of, for instance, universal pre-K — what its benefits are and how to implement it — when Democrats did pass a bill to make it happen, the public would understand what had just happened.

Which means voters would be more likely to credit Democrats for the program, and then in the future be able to judge whether it was a success. But now they have only the vaguest idea about what might occur, and when it does they won’t connect it to the political process that produced it. All they know is that there was a bunch of wrangling over a bill with a lot of big numbers in it.


Even worse is the way Republican politicians are united in their determination not to allow us to have a substantive debate.
The New York Times reports on how many GOP governors joined their compatriots in Washington in blasting the American Rescue Plan that passed in March with zero Republican votes — then those same governors took the money it included for their own states. They used that money to fund whatever projects they found worthwhile, and are happily taking credit for them.

This is hypocritical, of course. But hypocrisy isn’t the real problem here.
Republicans would like us to just talk about whether any government spending that helps people is “socialism” — even if they take the money for their own states — so we end up having an abstract and superficial debate, rather than one focused on specifics like pandemic relief, infrastructure or Build Back Better. Those governors had preferences for what sort of spending they favored — which were revealed when they quietly took the money — but their constituents never heard them make a real case for one set of priorities over another.






That means the money is less likely to be spent wisely and less likely to reflect the public’s own preferences. If we had a real debate showing what people in a particular state cared about — say, replacing old water pipes and updating school buildings — not only would the money have probably gone to those projects, there would be accountability for politicians who did or didn’t deliver.

Perhaps it’s too much to ask for debates over government spending to be a model of careful deliberation. But it’s not impossible: There have been moments in our history when voters were presented with competing options for government action, decided which they preferred and got what they asked for. Popular proposals have been enacted (such as the creation of Medicare) and unpopular ones have been rejected (such as George W. Bush’s attempt to partially privatize Social Security).
Though Build Back Better is still more likely than not to become law, this is clearly not going to be one of those moments. Even after Manchin is done hacking away at it, it will still do tremendous good for the public. But chances are that voters will barely realize it.

 
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bhawk24bob

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Really smart of Biden to continue wasting his time on this bill while Covid continues on, inflation wiped out any gains in income, and he continues to set his party up for failure in 2022 by resuming student loan payments on 2/1 despite his campaign promise to forgive $10k for every borrower. Really smart.
 

binsfeldcyhawk2

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So it’s Manchins fault that the Dems had to use bs gimmicks to pretend to bring the price tag down?
🙄
 
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Because of the focus on total cost, the inevitable paring and shaping of the bill hasn’t been driven by the country’s most important needs and how best to meet them, but by what would satisfy Manchin’s arbitrary arithmetic demands.
Bingo.

Republicans and FOX (in particular, but Dems aren't a whole lot better) have trained Americans to object to costs and to demand cuts in spending without ever asking "what are we getting for our money?"

America has become a nation of idiots who, when faced with the need to tighten their belts, would stop paying the mortgage, on grounds that you should start there because it's the biggest bill.
 
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Nov 28, 2010
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Manchin has announced he won't vote for the BBB bill.

Joe Steele wouldn't put up with this guy.

Unfortunately, Joe Manchin is more like Joe Steele than Joe Biden is.
 
Feb 9, 2013
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Mostly.

What part of the explanation gave you trouble?
I haven’t paid much attention to how the bill was written when talks broke down, but for a while they were reducing the “cost” by claiming only the first year or so of certain components.

Seemed to me like someone buying a $100,000 BMW and claiming it’s affordable because the first year payments only totaled $20,000.
 
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I haven’t paid much attention to how the bill was written when talks broke down, but for a while they were reducing the “cost” by claiming only the first year or so of certain components.

Seemed to me like someone buying a $100,000 BMW and claiming it’s affordable because the first year payments only totaled $20,000.
Not really the same. To use your example, yes they were only counting the first year payments, BUT they were planning to return the car at the end of the first year unless they raised more money for it.

Think of it as leasing vs buying. It's different, but not cheating. And in the interim you get to use the car for (at least) one year.
 
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Not really the same. To use your example, yes they were only counting the first year payments, BUT they were planning to return the car at the end of the first year unless they raised more money for it.

Think of it as leasing vs buying. It's different, but not cheating.
Lol, no, that is why people called it a budget trick. You think the government is going to greatly expand government programs and then abandon them after a year because they’re not funded? Come on.
 
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Alternative headline:


How a Democrat is ****ing shit up.
Or:

"Most Hated Democrat in History destroys America's efforts to combat climate change."

Is he really the most hated Dem in history? I don't know. Maybe. Who else have you got.

LBJ was pretty hated for his prosecution of the Vietnam war. But he was also widely praised for his civil rights, voting rights, and safety net actions.

Has Manchin done anything good? Ever?

Dems need to strip Manchin of his committee positions and everything else.

If he switches parties in retaliation, will anyone notice?

If the Senate turns red because Manchin switches parties, will that change anything? It's not like being in charge of the Senate has produced very much. And even to the extent it got a couple of things passed, that won't happen again unless the Dems win a working majority in the Senate in the midterms.
 

gonegolfing

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Thank God we have 51 Senators not quite ready to throw away the country. Hopefully by this time next year, we won't have to deal with this crap anymore. Start getting the trash that support these types of bills out of here and into countries that are already shitholes. Leave ours to what it once was and allow us the chance to get back to being the best country in the world.
 
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Lol, no, that is why people called it a budget trick. You think the government is going to greatly expand government programs and then abandon them after a year because they’re not funded? Come on.
Yes they could abandon them. But of course the hope is that they can use that year or 2 to convince people to continue the programs in question.

That's not a trick. That's right there in plain view. And it's a perfectly reasonable strategy that both sides have employed.

I don't understand the need to use disparaging labels like "trick" or to act like this is somehow dishonest or disreputable sausage-making.

You have a lung problem and you need oxygen to live. You can't afford to purchase a lifetime plan, so you get the 2-year plan.

You hope you can afford to extend the plan by the time it runs out. Maybe you can, maybe you can't. Meanwhile you get to live a couple more years.

Is that a "trick"?
 
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Yes they could abandon them. But of course the hope is that they can use that year or 2 to convince people to continue the programs in question.

That's not a trick. That's right there in plain view. And it's a perfectly reasonable strategy that both sides have employed.

I don't understand the need to use disparaging labels like "trick" or to act like this is somehow dishonest or disreputable sausage-making.

You have a lung problem and you need oxygen to live. You can't afford to purchase a lifetime plan, so you get the 2-year plan.

You hope you can afford to extend the plan by the time it runs out. Maybe you can, maybe you can't. Meanwhile you get to live a couple more years.

Is that a "trick"?
Look, I’m not weighing in on the merits of BBB. There are pros and cons.

My point is simply that if a single Senator is concerned -rightly or wrongly - about the total cost of a program, it’s silly to lower the cost by only counting the first year. He’s not a dumb guy. The programs will not be ended once put into place. If that was a realistic possibility, the Democrats would not be in favor of funding for just one year.
 
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The programs will not be ended once put into place.
That's just not true. Why do people state that as absolute fact?

A red Congress would almost certainly cancel some of these programs.

And the renewal of some of those programs could become important election debates. Which is a good place for them. Let people run on whether they want to continue those programs or not.
 
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it’s silly to lower the cost by only counting the first year. He’s not a dumb guy.
No one is trying to fool Manchin. As you say, he's not dumb.

They are hoping to find a dollar amount Manchin will let through. And they are hoping to hold onto as many programs as they can, even if in smaller amount or for shorter durations.

They are trying to get as much done as they can, not trying to get away with anything.

Pick a program and think of it as though you are a big fan of it. Manchin wants to cut the bill and some are suggesting cutting your program. It's perfectly reasonable to say "well, give me 3 years instead of 10. I think I can sell renewing after it proves itself for 3 years."

What wrong with that? No tricks. No dishonesty. Just negotiating.

The dishonesty is all on Manchin's side. As we now see. He just keeps shifting the goal posts whenever the real Dems try to squeeze down to meet his demands.

Look, it should be clear by now that one big deal for Manchin is to kill most climate change elements. I'd be curious if Manchin would go along if those provisions were removed. Not that I agree with removing them. They are too tame as they are. But I'm really curious if that would do it for Manchin.
 
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Huey Grey

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Look, I’m not weighing in on the merits of BBB. There are pros and cons.

My point is simply that if a single Senator is concerned -rightly or wrongly - about the total cost of a program, it’s silly to lower the cost by only counting the first year. He’s not a dumb guy. The programs will not be ended once put into place. If that was a realistic possibility, the Democrats would not be in favor of funding for just one year.
Out of curiosity, why do you argue that it won't be ended?
 

Huey Grey

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Given that he will be pushing 80 by his reelection, I think it's safe to assume that Manchin is won't seek office again. Also given that his net worth is $5 million, it's highly possible that he is trying to cash in on everything he can to swell that number before retirement.
 
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Huey Grey

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Fair enough. There’s always a chance that a program will be ended. The Democrats are betting that they won’t, though.

Here’s an interesting piece on the subject - actually argues that Ds should call Manchin’s bluff, take fewer programs but make them permanent:

https://slate.com/business/2021/12/manchin-democrats-bbb-spending.html
I guess my take is that if there is a high demand to renew the programs then that is a good thing and only bolsters the need to pass it.
 

WorldSeriesChamps2015

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Thank God we have 51 Senators not quite ready to throw away the country. Hopefully by this time next year, we won't have to deal with this crap anymore. Start getting the trash that support these types of bills out of here and into countries that are already shitholes. Leave ours to what it once was and allow us the chance to get back to being the best country in the world.

Kill Yourself and Im serious when I say this. You live in a phucking trailer and married your cousin. Just kill yourself now. What’s the point of living for you trailer park?
 
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joelbc1

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you can’t always get what you want!
Lets be honest. He can't vote for it because he wants a yacht for retirement.
He has a yacht. I believe he lives on his on the Potomac. At least he does a ton of entertaining on it. Huey...you and I have very different views regarding Manchin. I don't find him to be the evil person many here do. He is scheduled to run for re-election in 2024.
 

Huey Grey

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He has a yacht. I believe he lives on his on the Potomac. At least he does a ton of entertaining on it. Huey...you and I have very different views regarding Manchin. I don't find him to be the evil person many here do. He is scheduled to run for re-election in 2024.
I don't know, Joel. His actions don't suggest he is working for WV anymore. His actions speak that he is trying to pad his pocketbook and screw over his constituents for personal gain. You may still believe him a decent man, but based on his actions he clearly seems out for himself these days, imo.
 
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I guess my take is that if there is a high demand to renew the programs then that is a good thing and only bolsters the need to pass it.
Plus, look at it logistically. If programs have to prove themselves after a few years, won't people be extra careful to make them actually be good programs? Easier to sell that way.

You sell it now on the need and the expected benefits. You sell it later on the proven benefits.

Frankly, I think most programs should be implemented this way. Give the voters a chance to weigh in every few years, based on actual costs and performance.
 

joelbc1

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you can’t always get what you want!
I don't know, Joel. His actions don't suggest he is working for WV anymore. His actions speak that he is trying to pad his pocketbook and screw over his constituents for personal gain. You may still believe him a decent man, but based on his actions he clearly seems out for himself these days, imo.
Unfortunately, I believe he IS working for the majority of West Virginians. I don’t see how’ve a man who has been scorned by many as he has been, by his own, can be seen as working for himself. He’s an old “yellow dog” Democrat and wants a lot of this infrastructure stimulus paid for. He is a die-hard for voter’s Rights and has legit concerns regarding climate change. He is just an old style “Southern” Senator...one the folks in WV feel they can trust.
 
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He’s an old “yellow dog” Democrat and wants a lot of this infrastructure stimulus paid for.
If he really wanted things paid for - which I agree is what he claims - why was he so instrumental in eliminating the revenue-raising avenues that would increase taxes on the wealthy, big corporations, and Big Oil?

I didn't realize that the population of WVa fell in those demographics. But those are clearly his true constituency.

It really pisses me off that Manchin prevents the main efforts of Dems to pay for their plans, and then turns around and accuses the Dems of tricks when they fall back on the less direct funding approaches he has left them with.

He is a dishonest, dishonorable politician.