Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, is still being willfully obtuse on the economy, on inflation, and on President Joe Biden’s economic stimulus, jobs, and climate change bill, known as Build Back Better (BBB). Manchin would also have you believe he does his own grocery shopping and that he’s the guy who takes his Maserati to the gas station for fill-ups. He’s one with the people of West Virginia, he suggests.
“A gallon of milk is now $4 in many places. It’s taking a toll. And I hear it when I go to the grocery store or if I go to the gas station. They say, ‘Are you as mad as I am?’ and I say, ‘Absolutely,’ ” Manchin told reporters, talking about how he hangs out with the people back home. When asked specifically about the statements from all those Nobel laureate economists about how Build Back Better can actually lower inflation, he said: “I really haven’t heard any specifics on that one. They say it’s going to lower [inflation]? I’ll have to check on that one.” He’s too busy hanging out at the Shop ’n Save to listen to egghead economists, I guess.
Maybe he’ll hear it from the economists and analysts at those radical Moodys and Fitch rating agencies, both of which tell Reuters that the $1.75 trillion package “should not have any real material impact on inflation.” That’s William Foster, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service.
“The bills do not add to inflation pressures, as the policies help to lift long-term economic growth via stronger productivity and labor force growth, and thus take the edge off of inflation,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The bills are largely paid for through higher taxes on multinational corporations and well-to-do households, and more than paid for if the benefit of the added growth and the resulting impact on the government’s fiscal situation are considered”, he told Reuters. Charles Seville, senior director at Fitch Ratings, told Reuters that combined, the Infastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) and BBB “will neither boost nor quell inflation much in the short-run.”
Maybe that’ll catch Manchin’s attention. Maybe the fact that Republicans are seizing on his constant refrain of inflation to fight the bill will also help. House Republicans are seeking to change the subject from the censure vote against their violent, white nationalist colleague Rep. Paul Gosar for making public his homicidal fantasies against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Biden. They seized on, you guessed it, inflation, and how Biden’s agenda will make it worse.
And just look at how gleeful Sen. Rick Scott, the Florida Republican leading the GOP’s 2022 Senate campaign, is about the pain Americans feel from inflation. “You can see what’s going to happen next. We’re going to continue to have inflation, and then interest rates will go up,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “This is a gold mine for us,” Scott said.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called that out on the Senate floor, and in a tweet. “If you want to know why Americans can get frustrated with Washington, look no further than the comments like the one from the gentleman from Florida,” Schumer said. “The Republicans—who voted for a giant tax break for millionaires and billionaires—don’t have any solutions for working families. But they see political gold in exploiting their struggles.”
“Stronger growth, less inflation. I’ll say it again: if you want to fight inflation—if you want to lower costs and grow the economy—support Build Back Better,” Schumer said. “If you want to fight inflation, support Build Back Better.”
Republicans working so hard to politicize the inflation issue might be doing Biden and Schumer a favor here. They are so obviously exploiting Manchin, and so obviously celebrating Americans’ pain that even he should be able to see what’s happening here. He might happily be used by Republicans, but he also might realize that they’re making him look like a tool.