As a senator, his greatest achievements have been to consign his Mountain State even deeper at the bottom of the litany of state rankings. West Virginia ranks:
- 50th in public health,
- 50th in disconnected youth - non-high school grads not in school and not working,
- 50th in higher education attainment,
- 50th in foster care,
- 50th in hunger and food insecurity,
- 50th in the lowest percentage of adults with a college degree,
- 50th in infrastructure,
- 49th in life expectancy,
- 49th in poverty,
- 48th in median household income,
- 48th in overall economy,
- 47th in health care,
- 47th in unemployment,
- 45th in education,
- 44th in child poverty, and
- Near the top in dirty air and water.
There are a lot of programs in the president’s Build Back Better Act that would dramatically improve the lives of Manchin’s long-suffering constituents. But, as he told Fox News, he cannot support the bill–it is dangerously inflationary.
That’s risible in the extreme, given that he just voted for a bloated defense budget that will cost at least five times the cost of the BBB proposal while contributing next to nothing to West Virginia’s or the nation’s security. One man’s reckless inflation is another man’s fiscal responsibility.
Then again, perhaps Manchin’s blowing up the most economically transformative piece of legislation in more than half-a-century will force Democrats to take a more studied second look at the $1.75 trillion BBB bill. The best parts of this omnibus bill are the child care tax credit, which will move and keep millions of children out of poverty, universal pre-K, and the healthcare provisions that will bring us closer to healthcare for all at lower insurance premiums. If the bill were pared down to these three provisions and they were made permanent, perhaps even the Manchin family scion might support them. Moreover, it would make sense to cut off the child care credit at something less than $400,000 annual income for a two-parent family.
West Virginia’s economy has depended so heavily on coal that declining production is killing the state. Today, mine safety and ecological concerns are major challenges to West Virginia. Even the much put-upon United Mine Workers Union sees the logic of the bill and is begging Manchin to support it.
“Coal Slurry” Joe’s vote is desperately needed to bring BBB over the finish line. It is a given that not a single Republican senator will vote for anything supported by the Democrats even if it would actually improve American lives.
“The perfect,” to quote that trite, hackneyed, cliche-ish and overused saying, “must never be allowed to become the enemy of the good.”
December 24, 2021