Sen. Joe Manchin: ‘I cannot vote’ for Build Back Better amid ‘real’ inflation
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., explains why he ‘cannot vote’ for the ‘mammoth legislation,’ noting that he’s had reservations since he first heard about it.
Washington can be a frustrating place. When it falls short of passing big and transformative legislation, as it did this week on the Build Back Better bill, the blame game begins. Some have said It was President Biden and the White House staff. Others have said it was Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. This parlor game will play out for a few more days.
But pay no attention to the spirited recriminations. They are the elevator music of the nation’s capital.
Instead, we should pay much more attention to our economic competition with China. They are investing 10 times more than we are in growing their economy and expanding the middle class. And they are investing in hypersonic missiles that have pinpoint accuracy and building out their naval fleet.
We need a reset. A do over. Both sides need to retreat to their corners and assess what can get done, not what they hope or wish or dream can get done. This political calculation is the cold, hard reality of the Democratic majority consisting of a 50-50 Senate and a three-seat majority in the House.
The politics of Washington has become stale. It’s tribal. It’s angry. And it does nothing for the American people, other than make them lose more trust in their government.
To restore that trust, to help millions of American families who wake up every day to the quiet desperation of trying to provide for their families and to enhance our economic competitiveness, Congress should use this reset effort to focus on and fund the following:
Universal Pre-K. Nobel Prize winning economist, Dr. James Heckman, at the University of Chicago has done groundbreaking research that shows that quality early childhood development heavily influences health, economic and social outcomes for children.
Dr. Heckman’s research clearly shows that investing in early childhood education is one of the most significant investments our government can make in the children of our nation. We should have done this two or three decades ago, but we can do it now and millions of children – especially poor children – will greatly benefit.
Child Tax Credit. In the world’s richest nation, 14 million children, 1 in 7, live in poverty. In many states it is higher. Child poverty has remained stubbornly high for decades in states like West Virginia, Maine, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
Children growing up in poverty have poorer physical and mental health, worse performance in schools and end up contributing to loss of worker productivity, higher costs to the health care system and the costs of incarceration.
The National Academy of Sciences estimates child poverty costs the US economy between $800 billion and $1.1 trillion a year. The child tax credit will reduce child poverty by 50 percent by providing money to families with children.
Child Care Subsidies. Quality child care for most low and middle income parents is beyond their ability to pay for it, often leaving one parent unable to work so they can stay home to care for a child.
It’s far past time we expand the current child care subsidies to make child care more available to working families. Most parents would pay no more than 7 percent of their yearly income for child care under the bill – and it provides money to states to hire child care workers.
The Democrats in congress should pass what they can and come back to fight another day. These programs would change the economic landscape for families and children and begin to lead us down the path of making the country more competitive.
Adopting these programs early in the New Year does not mean we turn our back on other essential programs like investments in climate change, lowering prescription drug prices and elder care. These programs should be the next order of business.
Again, Washington is frustrating at times. It’s frustrating that not one Republican has stepped forward to support investing in universal pre-K, reducing child poverty or subsidizing child care.
It’s frustrating that Democrats have such a slim majority they may have to pass their overall economic agenda in a few bills, instead of doing it in one big one. But our country is divided and our politics impedes our ambition to do more. But most certainly, we should do no less.
America’s economic and competitive standing in the world requires that we make a broad set of investments to strengthen our future.
Our most challenging competitor, China, is racing ahead making these investments in an effort to dominate this century.
We must not shrink from this challenge.
Politics is about the art of the possible. If we keep doing the possible in both good times and bad, we will meet our obligation of being good stewards to preserving and growing the greatest economic democracy in the world.
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