Why I’m done with moderates…

Joe Manchin has effectively alienated millions of voters…

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I wasn’t as clued in as I should have been during the 2018 midterm Democratic primary when Paula Jean Swearengin challenged Joe Manchin for the West Virginia Senate seat. I remember watching a documentary on Netflix about AOC; Jean Swearengin was featured as well. Dejectedly, she lost to Manchin by about forty percent, mostly because he had the donors and the moderates.

What struck me as remarkable in the documentary was Jean Swearengin’s passion for aspiring to at least care about offering a helping hand to her constituents. She was not a common politician. She was for disrupting the continued efforts to destroy the Appalachian Mountains through coal mining, as well as helping families through financially supportive programs we have always seen Democrats endorse — especially liberal progressives.

Retrospectively, I didn’t think it was ever a good idea for liberal progressives to be challenging moderate Democrats, as I figured that would provide a very easy road for Republicans (especially our new “populist” Republicans) to gain power and perpetually win elections. However, all that has changed now.

After we got rid of Trump this past January, I wanted to give Biden the chance to see if he could work with Republicans. The problem: after not denouncing Trump since January 20th — as well as not convicting him for inciting the riot on Jan 6th — the Republicans are a lost cause. Thus, because the Democrats hold power in the House, White House, and have the tiebreaker in the Senate, now is the time to go on a resilient offensive against the populist Republicans. Hold nothing back.

Here is the difficultly with that strategy: Joe Manchin. What’s his problem?

Thanks to his recent refusal to go along with Biden’s American Rescue Act, we now see the Biden administration handcuffed to this guy. I understand the severity of the 50/50 split in the Senate (how all Dems need to vote together), but why are they indulging him? Do they feel he won’t vote with them? Why would his constituents would even put up with that? I won’t say I even fathom what the constituents in West Virginia stand for, but I can’t imagine they are holding up very well during the pandemic.

Although, the issue is not about West Virginia.

For weeks, a handful of moderate Democrats in the Senate have been fighting to prevent $1,400 COVID-relief checks from reaching their own upper-middle-class constituents. It has never been all that clear to the public — or, by all appearances, to the senators themselves — why they wanted to restrict eligibility for these relief payments so badly. It is not as though Joe Manchin or Jeanne Shaheen are opposed to welfare for the affluent in all forms. To the contrary, Shaheen has lambasted Republicans for restricting the state-and-local-income (SALT) deduction, a tax subsidy that primarily benefits well-off homeowners.

Nor could the moderates’ opposition be chalked up to (superstitious) fears of high deficits: Every Democratic senator has already tacitly agreed to support a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, and eligibility restrictions under discussion were always too minor to significantly impact the legislation’s bottom line.

Nor could moderates claim to have the public on their side; the relief checks were overwhelmingly popular in their initially proposed form. And on this issue, one can’t attribute the moderates’ resistance to fealty to corporate interests; large retailers love stimulus checks.” (Levitz, New York Magazine).

Furthermore…

So, what do Democrats gain at the cost of denying checks to 12 million potential 2022 voters? How much money did Joe Manchin “save” the U.S. Treasury?

According to a Democratic who spoke with the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein: $12 billion.

Which is to say, it makes the relief package 0.63 percent cheaper.” (Levitz, New York Magazine).

If this cut of stimulus checks occurs — which is likely as negotiations between “populist R’s” and Democrats will most likely lead to more cutting of the relief package — then Manchin will be singularly responsible for losing millions of voters who may have been more inclined to keep their vote with Trump than Biden this past election cycle. I wonder how many of these voters had the foresight to figure they would receive nothing when Democrats took control of the White House. After all, this is the same political party notorious for spending money to help the middle-class. It’s very possible a large portion of the 12 million people, who may have “crossed” over during the last election — and won’t be given a check — may not be so magnanimous the next election cycle.

There’s a bit of tragedy here as well; Manchin, who is the senator of a state with massive poverty, is imposing a considerable blow to urban cities where the cost of living is, at times, overwhelming. The whole ordeal is suitably ironic; the idea of the senator from West Virginia cutting off expected financial aid to millions of young — and even older people — in cities like San Francisco or Seattle, where some can’t even afford to buy a house on their annual salaries.

AOC said it best; in a tweet yesterday afternoon:

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post by Jennifer Rubin, it’s clear to see this a really deficient strategy by the Biden administration and moderate Democrats:

It does not mean giving up on policy positions overwhelming popular because Republicans in the House and Senate remain intransigent and out of step with the country. The latest Monmouth poll shows the coronavirus rescue plan has over 60 percent approval. While bipartisanship sounds nice, “Preference for bipartisanship plummets, though, when the public is asked this same trade off about the direct stimulus checks specifically. Willingness to make cuts to this component of the bill in the name of bipartisanship stands at just 25%.” Likewise two-thirds of Americans — including more than half of Republicans — want $1,400 checks even without Republican support.

The Biden team agrees. Citing polling, support from business and labor, and backing of bipartisan groups of mayors and governors, they are not equating bipartisanship with “giving into an unpopular minority position.” (Rubin, Washington Post).

I can’t say I understand what Manchin is doing, other than showing us that he is better off just calling himself a Republican. He seems to have their values, anyway. Biden, though, is breaking my heart. The whole insolence from moderate Dems, and now from the Biden admin, is so arbitrary. In the last six weeks, I read over and over, so many times: what is the one thing Biden regrets from the 2009 rescue plan? The fact that the amount wasn’t big enough to get the economy moving, faster. Are we going to make that mistake again?

In another opinion piece in the Post – this time from Henry Olsen – I see a few aspects I agree with, but also will argue against:

The fact is that the pandemic has not seriously financially harmed most Americans, and many of those who have been harmed found relief in earlier measures. Savings rates are at a record high, and personal income as a whole is up, not down, since the pandemic struck. This is also true for average and low-income households. A December report from the JPMorgan Chase Institute found that checking account balances were up by as much as 40 percent for all income groups. This was before the December stimulus checks were sent, so we should expect that cash cushions have increased even more since then. Some people are clearly hurting, but already-approved measures have largely prevented mass poverty.

Moderate Democrats should consider what stories will likely come out in 2022 as they run for reelection. It won’t be hard for reporters to find examples of wealthy people who used government money on lavish expenditures or state governments that used federal money to pay off politically influential interest groups. There’s also the possibility of an inflationary effect from throwing unnecessary cash into the economy. Inflation is always a case of too much money chasing too few goods and services. The U.S. economy is already awash in cash from prior relief measures. A poorly targeted additional $1.9 trillion will simply add to those pressures once the pandemic-related regulations that are artificially suppressing consumer demand are removed.” (Olsen, Washington Post).

While I concur savings rates are at a record high, I would still ask Olsen this question: what about folks who accrued debt during the pandemic, but didn’t use savings to pay that debt? What if they live in fear of constantly losing their job? What if their savings is their safety net to pay the mortgage or the car payment if they lose their job unexpectedly?

I would also argue to Olsen, this: what about the purpose of what the PPP funds have done to keep businesses afloat and continue paying their employees? If there was zero PPP funding, how many businesses would have been jettisoned and those people laid off? Would their checking accounts be 40 percent higher?

The reality is that Millennials — especially — will be affected acutely by this decision. For so many, particularly those in urban cities, to come out of student loan debt (in some cases), and then go through this pandemic is hard enough. In so many instances, many of these young people had been laid off and forced to collect unemployment for the first time in their life.

And why is Manchin doing this?

So “populist R’s” are more inclined to vote for the package, which they never intended to vote for in the first place. Why didn’t Biden and moderate Dems see that it’s the same game they play regularly? All you have to do is try to get Collins, Romney, Murkowski, and few others to vote and it will all work out.

Biden and the moderates are playing with fire, and I certainly didn’t see that coming. So many people voted this past cycle for the very thing they were against: a group of “populist R’s” — and an authoritarian President — destroying their chances of advancing their financial futures. Yet, here they are now, feeling cheated and ready to suffer the same consequences of the past. The message in this country is distinctly evident: don’t expect to make too much money if you live in an urban city – just make enough, so that you will qualify for a stimulus check. It unquestionably advances the debate on whether it’s even worth living in an urban city.

If it’s up to Manchin, maybe we should all move to West Virginia.

Works Cited:

1. Levitz, Eric. “Moderate Democrats Strip Stimulus Checks from 12 Million Voters for No Reason.” New York Magazine. March 3, 2021. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/1400-stimulus-checks-eligibility-democrats-covid-relief-bill.html. Accessed March 4, 2021.

2. Rubin, Jennifer. “Being bipartisan does not mean looking the other way.” The Washington Post. March 4, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/04/being-bipartisan-does-not-mean-looking-other-way/. Accessed March 4, 2021.

3. Olsen, Henry. “Biden has finally agreed to slim down stimulus checks. There’s a lot more he could cut.” The Washington Post. March 3, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/03/biden-has-finally-agreed-slim-down-stimulus-checks-theres-lot-more-he-could-cut/. Accessed March 4, 2021.

CA-based, perpetually hopeful for the progress of society… Follow me on Twitter @andrewnintzel22

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