Joe Manchin Is Killing Our Future

All weekend I kept reading stories about Joe Manchin putting his foot down to stop a key part of President Biden’s climate change policy.

According to the New York Times’s Coral Davenport, who first reported the news on Friday, Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will not support the sweeping clean electricity program widely seen as the centerpiece of the bill’s climate plan.

The $150 billion program — officially known as the Clean Electricity Performance Program, or CEPP — would reward energy suppliers who switch from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to clean power sources like solar, wind, and nuclear power, which already make up about 40 percent of the industry, and fine those who do not.

Experts believe the program is the most effective way to slash US carbon emissions significantly enough to prevent the global temperature from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold which would have drastic consequences for the planet if exceeded.

Have I mentioned that Manchin made a fortune investing in coal? I believe I have. And I’m a bit tired of the excuse that West Virginia is a coal state, so Manchin has to support the coal industry. Coal is old technology. Coal is not coming back. This is not just because “clean coal” is a mirage. Coal energy is more expensive than natural gas or renewable energy. It’s not cost-effective. If Joe Manchin were genuinely concerned about his constituents more than his stock portfolio, he’d be looking into new kinds of enterprises that would bring jobs to West Virginia that don’t involve coal.

According to Greenpeace, the U.S. coal industry gets $20 billion in direct government subsidies every year. Let’s put an end to that and use the $20 billion to pay for the transition to cleaner energy. What do you say, Joe Manchin?

Manchin has another demand, which is that the child tax credit must include a firm work requirement and family income cap in the $60,000 range. (Currently there is no work requirement, and the income caps for the full credit are single, $75,000; head of household, $112,500; married filing jointly, $150,000. For each $1,000 of income above the threshold, the credit is reduced by $50.)

In other words, if a single mother loses her job and can’t get another one because she can’t afford day care, too bad. No $3,600 per toddler for her.

I hate the attitude from lawmakers that workers must be made to suffer so they’ll take whatever jobs they can get. People work or don’t work for a lot of reasons. Remember the way Republican governors were cutting off expanded unemployment benefits early, to force people to take jobs? There is no evidence that worked. Indeed, there’s all kinds of evidence workers are fed up and demanding better pay and working conditions, or no deal. This is encouraging.

But we still have the Joe Manchins and others who see ordinary people as nothing but a cheap resource to be exploited. If our labor isn’t making profits for the stockholders, what good are we? I swear, if conservatives could get away with it they’d reinstitute indentured servitude and sharecropping. If only there were some way to “incentivize” Joe Manchin to get some integrity.

Back now to the climate change policies — Greg Sargent writes,

Manchin’s opposition to the bill’s clean energy program will likely mean it will be jettisoned, according to the New York Times. This policy, which would reward power companies that transition to clean energy sources and penalize those that don’t, is widely seen as critical to securing our decarbonized future.

To satisfy Manchin and fellow spendophobe Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Biden has proposed a reconciliation spending target of around $2 trillion. This has Democrats scrambling to chop down the package from its original $3.5 trillion.

This is necessary because Manchin, who fears deficits and inflation, has drawn a line at $1.5 trillion. But that appears arbitrary: Manchin has even suggested to colleagues that he doesn’t particularly care which progressive priorities get jettisoned; he just wants to see some of them gone.

Sargent thinks better of Manchin than I do. Sargent accuses Manchin of “arbitrary centrism,which is the posture that “any effort to restrain liberal governance is an inherent good, with no serious acknowledgement required of the real-world trade offs it entails.” I think Manchin sees trade-offs just fine. He’s not willing to trade off his annual $500,000 in coal stock dividends. And his buddies on K street don’t want to have to raise wages for the working stiffs, so let’s make ’em hurt so they’ll take whatever or starve. Seems plenty transactional to me.