Speed Reads

the manchin problem

How Joe Manchin's 'arbitrary centrism' could hurt the voters he represents

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one half of the infamous moderate pair holding up passage of Democrats' spending package, has, in his continued opposition, created a sort of paradox for himself.

The senator is worried about the cost of passing President Biden's Build Back Better agenda, "but what about the cost of not passing it?" argues The Washington Post's Greg Sargent. Specifically, what about his new demands — which seek to shrink the bill's child poverty and climate change components — could harm the West Virginian voters Manchin is intended to protect?

First off, Manchin's desired work and means-test requirements for the expanded child tax credit could cut the number of West Virginian children benefiting by "as many as 190,000, and the state's residents could lose more than a quarter billion dollars in annual purchasing power," writes Sargent, per modeling from the Niskanen Center.

"The CTC expansion represented an influx of nearly $100 billion in new purchasing power for households with children," said Niskanen policy director Samuel Hammond. "It has helped boost local economies, particularly in rural states with weak demand. Under Manchin's proposal that would be cut in half."

Hammond also debunked the senator's "misguided" call for a work requirement on the credit, considering "people need the CTC not because they are unwilling to work, but because children impose additional costs," notes Sargent.

"Narrowly targeting the credit to the lowest income families risks creating a stigmatizing poverty trap," added Hammond. 

What's more, The New York Times has reported that Manchin's effort to downsize climate provisions could bode poorly for his home state — "West Virginia's geography and topography means the state's infrastructure faces unusual risk levels from extreme weather events," writes Sargent.

But "alas," he concedes, "the ideology of arbitrary centrism is blind to these trade offs."