The Inextricable Manchin Problem... And The Agony Of The FDR Wing Of The Democratic Party

Desolation Row

Manchin vetoed Biden's modest plan to require billionaires to pay a small minimum tax. While a a progressive tax plan would have marginal rates that would force billionaires to pay something like 80% above any income in excess of... say several million dollars, Biden just wanted billionaires to pay a minimum of a pitiful 20%. Republicans immediately opposed that of course. But yesterday, so did Manchin, less than 24 hours after the White House proposed it-- along with plans to increase funding for the military and the police.

Manchin says he doesn’t support the president’s plan to tax the unrealized gains of billionaires, which would set a new precedent by taxing the value an asset accrues in theory before it is actually sold and converted into cash.
“You can’t tax something that’s not earned. Earned income is what we’re based on,” he told The Hill. “There’s other ways to do it. Everybody has to pay their fair share.”
“Everybody has to pay their fair share, that’s for sure. But unrealized gains is not the way to do it, as far as I’m concerned,” he added.
Manchin’s opposition means Biden’s proposal is likely dead only a day after the White House unveiled it.

No one's heard from Sinema on the billionaire minimum tax, but judging by her past statements and past record, she would be even less likely than Manchin to support anything like it. Oh, more more thing about Manchin before we maven. Did you read the New York Times corruption exposé on Manchin by Chris Flavelle and Julie Tate last week? It was epic-- "At every step of his political career," they wrote, "Joe Manchin helped a West Virginia power plant that is the sole customer of his private coal business. Along the way, he blocked ambitious climate action." And the Democratic Party wonders why millions of voters see them as-- at best-- the lesser of two evils?

While the fact that Manchin owns a coal business is well-known, an examination by the New York Times offers a more detailed portrait of the degree to which Manchin’s business has been interwoven with his official actions. He created his business while a state lawmaker in anticipation of the Grant Town plant, which has been the sole customer for his gob for the past 20 years, according to federal data. At key moments over the years, Manchin used his political influence to benefit the plant. He urged a state official to approve its air pollution permit, pushed fellow lawmakers to support a tax credit that helped the plant, and worked behind the scenes to facilitate a rate increase that drove up revenue for the plant-- and electricity costs for West Virginians.
Records show that several energy companies have held ownership stakes in the power plant, major corporations with interests far beyond West Virginia. At various points, those corporations have sought to influence the Senate, including legislation before committees on which Manchin sat, creating what ethics experts describe as a conflict of interest.
As the pivotal vote in an evenly split Senate, Manchin has blocked legislation that would speed the country’s transition to wind, solar and other clean energy and away from coal, oil and gas, the burning of which is dangerously heating the planet. With the war in Ukraine and resulting calls to boycott Russian gas, Manchin has joined Republicans to press for more American gas and oil production to fill the gap on the world market.
But as the Grant Town plant continues to burn coal and pay dividends to Manchin, it has harmed West Virginians economically, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in excess electricity fees. That’s because gob is a less efficient power source than regular coal.

You should read the whole thing... and a piece by Kara Voght in Rolling Stone that makes the point that "Democrats had reason to believe they could win over Manchin, who privately told the White House in late December that he would back some version of a tax on billionaires, the Washington Post reported. But while Manchin frequently says he’s open to some version of a Democratic proposal, he’s almost never open to the version that’s on the table, nor is he willing to propose a version of his own... Poll after poll has found that taxing the likes of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk spark joy for voters in both parties."

This morning Brent Budowsky, once an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX), offered a proposal for dealing with Manchin based on his fantasy of how JFK would if he were still president. He ruled out physical violence, claiming JFK would have suggested a better way:

The 98 percent to 99 percent of Democrats in Congress who back critical provisions originally proposed in the pending and delayed reconciliation bill should launch a powerful and aggressive JFK-style public campaign to voters across West Virginia in support of the major ideas waiting to be passed.
The most important goal for Democrats today is to enact proposals that help voters in real ways, which every voter clearly understands, and which inspire approval and support from those voters — who would appreciate and support the Democratic president and Congress who fought for them.
As of today, Democrats will enact a bill to dramatically lower the price of prescription drugs, which will be widely popular with large numbers of voters. They will enact a significant increase in support for alternative energy that protects the earth and makes the world less dependent on Russia. They will enact a significant tax increase for those who can well afford it, some of which will reduce the deficit, which all 50 Senate Democrats support, leaving money to finance efforts to directly help middle-income and poor Americans who are hard-hit by inflation.
Through the JFK-like public campaign beginning with West Virginia voters, Democrats can advance proposals to lower the cost of child care, improve education, improve life for women and workers, help rural America or other goals. JFK, the realist, would warn us: We cannot achieve everything now. We must choose which plans to champion today, and get the rest tomorrow. JFK, the idealist, would inspire us: We can achieve significant new, widely understood and highly popular plans in the coming ten weeks.
This JFK-like plan would involve massive and saturation ads on West Virginia television, radio, newspapers and social media. These ads would clearly describe how the selected plans would make life better for West Virginia voters, and would only mention Manchin at the end, suggesting voters urge both West Virginia senators to back them.
I am reliably told that some of the pending ideas have privately polled very well in West Virginia. This saturation public campaign would inspire public polling that would dramatize support in West Virginia and could be replicated across the nation.
This would help Manchin fulfill his commitment to help West Virginians whose lives are lifted by these plans. It would send a powerful message throughout America that it is Democrats who battle for a land of realized hopes, better lives, and shared dreams for all Americans.