To get right to the point, Sen. Joe Manchin is evil.
He is holding up President Joe Biden’s whole Build Back Better agenda on basically two points: He wants to pretend that the coal mining industry that is slowly dying, even in his home state of West Virginia — or, as Stephen Colbert put it last night, Wet Virginia — needs to be protected from any federal effort to move to clean energy.
And he insists that any federal aid to families with children must include some kind of work requirement and income cap, basically gutting the whole idea of the United States becoming a First World nation in terms of family support.
Rich countries contribute an average of $14,000 per year for a toddler’s care, compared with $500 in the U.S.
— How Other Nations Pay for Child Care. The U.S. Is an Outlier. — Claire Cain Miller | The New York Times
Manchin has made some accommodating noises of late — even been seen hugging Bernie Sanders — so it is possible that all may not be lost.
But it might make sense for someone in the White House or among Senate Democrats to be having some serious back-channel talks with Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney about doing a deal that would move some serious legislation across the finish line without Manchin’s swing vote.
Most hopeful is the possibility that Biden and Romney might be able to come to some kind of an accommodation on their competing plans to boost the income of families with children. Both are all about putting money in the pockets of parents struggling to raise children — and anyone who has children is struggling to raise them.
Romney’s proposed Family Security Act differs from Biden’s approach in that Romney would give parents a flat amount per month — $350 from four months before birth to age 5, $250 from age 6 to 17 — while Biden’s plan is more oriented toward helping working parents pay for daycare. So, in a sense, both Biden and Manchin want to push parents to work and children to go daycare while Romney’s approach is to give parents the money and let them decide whether both parents (or the only parent) should work or stay home with their young children.
Work requirements — for child care, for welfare, for health care — are irredeemably evil as a matter of social policy. They weigh down the already weighed-down households and are absolutely backwards in terms of making people able to function in modern society. They are the very opposite of “family friendly.”
First you have access to health care, assistance with raising children, access to affordable housing. Then, and only then, can you be expected to hold down a 40-hour-a-week job, go for education or training or start up the career ladder. The household benefits, the community benefits, the nation benefits, the economy benefits. Only the already rich people who like to see the poor suffer and die lose out.
Romney might also be get-atable (as Franklin Roosevelt used to say about Joseph Stalin) on the matter of Biden’s Clean Energy Payment Program. Romney, unlike a lot of other Republicans (and unlike that Democrat from West Virginia) acknowledges the reality of climate change and at least says he wants to do something about it. Whether it’s Biden’s clean energy agenda, a carbon tax or something else, Romney might be a vote in favor, and might pull a few other moderate Republicans along with him, making Manchin’s vote unnecessary and, perhaps, even setting aside the need to kill the Senate filibuster.
Manchin is apparently unmovable on this because, even though the part of the West Virginia economy derived from coal is already shrinking to undetectable levels, he personally makes a ton of money from the few remaining mines.
“West Virginia stopped being coal country a generation ago. Oh, and the small industry that remains is on its way out, whether or not we get an effective climate policy; given dramatic technological progress in renewable energy, coal just isn’t competitive anymore.”
— Joe Manchin vs West Virginia — Paul Krugman | The New York Times (via Salt Lake Tribune)
The discouraging word on this is Romney’s letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm pushing her to reinvigorate something called the National Coal Council. That’s apparently a body that exists because, Romney writes, “it is essential that the United States remains a leader in advancing coal and carbon related technologies.”
Actually, it is essential that public policy catch up to the market and transition away from coal ASAP. A new federal program to recognize that and help individuals and communities shift their economic futures to a clean energy environment — as would be useful in parts of Utah — is what we need.
While Utah’s urban centers like Salt Lake City and Provo have boomed, adding jobs and population rapidly in recent decades, many rural areas of the state like Carbon County have stagnated, losing residents and jobs. The cause is a shift away from the extraction industry, an aging population and the automation of jobs. The same patterns can be seen in rural areas across the country. Though reinvigorating these areas is an uphill battle, efforts to repurpose these towns and diversify their economies have seen some success.
— As Utah explodes in growth, coal country is left behind — Shane Burke | The Salt Lake Tribune
George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, likes his job so much that he can pretend he doesn’t have a work requirement.