Sen. Joe Manchin is feeling pretty damned full of himself these days, dictating to President Joe Biden and Democratic leadership the terms of their plan to revitalize the economy and address economic and racial inequality while possibly saving the earth by dealing with climate change. Manchin is insisting that the United States, the wealthiest country in the world that spends $740.5 billion annually on defense—more than something like 20 other countries more than something like 20 other countries combined—can't give working people all the necessary things.
Axios reports that Manchin is telling Biden and Democrats to pick just one among three crucial programs for working families in the Build Back Better project: expanded child tax credit, paid family medical leave, or subsidies for child care. It's Axios, so of course, they characterize his position as "signaling his willingness to negotiate." There's nothing in this report to put it into question.
Particularly since it follows exceedingly offensive remarks about Biden's proposals and the human investment included among them. "I've been very clear when it comes to who we are as a society, who we are as a nation," Manchin said. "I don't believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society. I think we should still be a compassionate, rewarding society." Because compassion is keeping working families, and particularly families of color, in struggle?
Manchin deserved every minute of the lambasting he received in response from Sen. Bernie Sanders. "Senator Manchin, as I understand it, talked today about not wanting to see our country become an entitlement society," Sanders said. "Well, I am not exactly sure what he means by that." He then asked:
Does that mean that we end the $300 direct payments for working class parents, which have cut childhood poverty in this country as a result of the American Rescue Plan, in half? Is protecting working families and cutting childhood poverty an entitlement? Does Senator Manchin think we should once again have one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth?
The answer is “yes” to most of that, given Axios' reporting, which Manchin has not refuted. "I'm not here to disparage Sen. Manchin. I respect him," Sanders said, while he reeled off elements of the plan: "does Senator Manchin really believe that seniors are not entitled to digest their food and that they're not entitled to hear and see properly?"
"Does Senator Manchin not believe that working families in this country are entitled, entitled to affordable housing, and that we should not have some 600,000 people in America, including many veterans, sleeping out on the streets?"
Does Senator Manchin not believe that at a time when we have a major labor shortage in many parts of this country because our young people lack the skills they need that they are not entitled to at least two years of free community college so they can get the training in order to go out and get the good-paying jobs that are there?
Sanders did get one thing to happen—he got Manchin to say what he has a problem with, and it turns out to be giving the nation's children and their families economic security. As if the United States wasn't already at the bottom of developed nations when it comes to family support. And not just at the bottom. At rock bottom.
"The U.S. spends 0.2% of its GDP on child care for children 2 and under—which amounts to about $200 a year for most families, in the form of a once-a-year tax credit for parents who pay for care," The New York Times found in an analysis of child and family policies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Those other wealthy countries, they found, "spend an average of 0.7% of GDP on toddlers, mainly through heavily subsidized child care." The spending ranges from the equivalent of $29,726 that Norway spends per child, to $3,327 that Israel spends. The U.S. spends $500. Annually. Per child.
And Joe Manchin is perfectly fine with that. He's perfectly fine with forcing young parents to scramble to afford all the necessities—along with child care to keep working. He thinks it's compassionate, apparently, to demand that at the same time poor people who get pregnant don't have access to abortion, keeping them in poverty and forcing them to have children to whom he refuses provide real assistance.
So, yeah, Manchin deserves every bit of scorn and opprobrium Sanders has to spare. He deserves more. He should be getting it from every Democrat, and from President Biden, and from all decent people.