December 6, 2023

Message to Manchin

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
A message to Manchin
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) is ignobly standing in the breach, behind a shield of ignorance, before bewildered colleagues as he spews mantras as if they were rational, educated thoughts.
          He blocked his party from expanding Medicare to include hearing, vision and dental because, he says, the Medicare Trust Fund is going broke, and he doesn’t want to pass on the debt for more generous benefits to his 10 grandchildren.
          He is wrong on this and other issues, and here’s why.
          First, the Medicare Trust Fund is not going broke, and Social Security is fine too. Future congresses would not let either of these popular programs lapse (eventually, they will be paid out of general revenues, not from ongoing dedicated taxes). FDR created Social Security as part of the New Deal, and LBJ created Medicare as part of the Great Society. Both programs are here to stay. The problem with Social Security is its inequitable funding because it is a tax only paid on the first $142,800 of income, which means this regressive tax is a boon to big wage earners. And the Medicare tax is the same percentage for everyone – another regressive, non-graduated tax.
          Secondly, we have been hearing that old canard about burdening our grandkids with debt. But money is so cheap (the government currently borrows money through its 10-year T-bills at around 1.5 percent) that borrowing now to make the investments in roads, bridges, education, health care, and the environment will far exceed the cost of 1.5 percent money, and our grandkids will thank us.
          We are not passing on debt, senator; we are investing in the nation’s future, and the cost-benefit ratio is beyond debate or foolish mantras, pandering reelection campaigns, or blatant self-dealing.
          Among Manchin’s legislative handiwork is to end a climate program that would force utilities to meet greenhouse gas emission targets or pay a penalty. Manchin objected to paying companies for what they are already doing. That’s another one of Manchin’s canards, that the fossil fuel industry is cleaning itself up, and doesn’t need big government interference.
          A New York Times editorial noted  that Manchin has “raked in money from the coal industry, both from political donations and from his stocks in a coal brokerage firm that his son now controls.” This has led many people to assume he is “voting with his wallet,” the Times observes while arguing that it’s more complicated, that coal is dying as an industry but still has a “stranglehold on the region’s culture and identity.”
          He also blocked two years of free community college and paid family leave even after it was scaled back from 12 to four weeks. “I don’t believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society,” he says. More sloganeering.
          The senator is entitled to vote his principles or even his constituents’ principles, although our Founding Fathers assumed political leaders would be patriots and cast their votes for the good of the country. But then, they never expected politics to become a career, or reelection to become a primary motivator.  In any event, principles must be rooted in truth, and this is where Sen. Manchin fails as a leader, as a patriot, or even as a politician.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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