Robert Reich
The Coffee Klatch with Robert Reich
Is it time for Democrats to kick Joe Manchin out of the party?

Is it time for Democrats to kick Joe Manchin out of the party?

America needs only one party to represent big money

On Friday, after putting a final spear through the heart of what remained of Biden’s and the Democrat’s domestic agenda, West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin also rejected any tax increases on big corporations or the wealthy — until inflation is no longer a problem.

This is rich, in every sense of the word. Raising taxes on big American corporations and the wealthy would not fuel inflation. It would slow inflation by reducing demand — and do it in a way that wouldn’t hurt lower-income Americans (such as those living in, say, West Virginia).

Manchin’s state is one of the poorest in America. West Virginia ranks 45th in education, 47th in health care, 48th in overall prosperity, and 50th in infrastructure. Tax revenue from corporations and billionaires could be used to rebuild West Virginia, among other places that need investment around America.

But Manchin doesn’t seem to give a cluck. After all, the Democrat’s agenda — which Manchin just obliterated — included pre-K education, free community college, child subsidies, Medicare dental and vision benefits, paid family leave, elder care, and much else — all of enormous value to West Virginia. (On a per-person basis, West Virginians would have benefitted more than the residents of all but two other states.)

It’s not as if Manchin has championed anything else Democrats have sought. Remember Manchin’s “bipartisan compromise” on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act? Nothing came of it, of course. Nothing has come of any of the fig leafs Manchin has conjured to cover his unrelenting opposition to every other Democratic goal.

What’s going on here? It’s spelled m-o-n-e-y.

Few if any American-based global corporations or billionaires reside in West Virginia, but lots of money flows to Manchin from corporations and billionaires residing elsewhere. Manchin has not only taken more campaign contributions from oil, gas and coal companies than any other senator (as well as dividends from his own coal company), he has one of the largest war chests from all big American corporations.

If the Democratic Party had any capacity to discipline its lawmakers or hold them accountable (if pigs could fly), it would at least revoke Manchin’s chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. To continue to allow this key position to be occupied by the man who has single-handedly blocked one of the last opportunities to save the Earth is an insult to the universe.

I’m told the Democrats don’t dare take this step for fear Manchin would leave the Democratic Party and switch his allegiance to the Republicans.

Why exactly would this be so terrible? Manchin already acts like a Republican.

Oh, no! they tell me. If Manchin switches parties, Democrats would lose control over the Senate.

Well, I have news for Democrats. They already lost control over the Senate.

In fact, the way things are right now, Biden and the Democrats have the worst of both worlds. They look like they control the Senate, as well as the House and the presidency. But they can’t get a damn thing done because Manchin (and his intermittent sidekick Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema) won’t let them. So after almost two years of appearing to run the entire government, Democrats have accomplished almost nothing of what they came to Washington to do.

America is burning and flooding but Democrats won’t enact climate measures. Voting rights and reproductive rights are being pulverized but Democrats won’t protect them. Gun violence is out of control but Democrats come up with a miniature response. Billionaires and big corporations are siphoning off more national wealth and income than in living memory and paying a lower tax rate (often zero), but Democrats won’t raise taxes on big corporations and the wealthy.

Which means that in November’s midterm elections, Democrats will have to go back to voters and say “we promised a lot but we delivered squat, so please vote for us again.”

This does not strike me as a compelling message.

By kicking Manchin out of the party, Democrats could at least go into the midterms with a more realistic pitch: “It looked like we had control of the Senate, but we didn’t. Now that you know who the real Democrats are, give us the power and we will get it done.”

Maybe this way they’ll pick up more real Democratic senators, and do it.


Leave a comment