Manchin claim that we can’t afford $3.5 trillion holds no water
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., speak to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 13, 2021. As congressional Democrats speed ahead this week in pursuit of President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion plan for social and environmental spending, Manchin, a Democratic senator vital to the bill's fate, is demanding it be slashed to win his support. | J. Scott Applewhite / AP

What determines how much the government spends and on what depends on who is in political control, not on how much money there is in a mythical government pot.

When Republicans were in control, they were able to afford the $2 trillion tax cut for the rich. When the Democrats were in control, they were able to afford the $2 trillion-plus COVID-19 rescue package.

In the last year alone, the total amount spent in response to COVID was almost $5 trillion, more than what the reconciliation package currently being debated will cost over the next ten years. All signs are that approval of the package can end the problems that have plagued this country for many decades. Even what was spent on one single thing, the $300 tax credits for each child in a family, had the incredible effect of lifting almost half the nation’s children out of poverty.

Among many other things, the $3.5 trillion soft infrastructure reconciliation package would continue those credits. Are Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and his GOP pals saying it is OK to throw them all back into poverty? Over ten years, the cost of that to the economy—and more importantly the cost in human misery that will result—far outweigh the cost of the entire package.

The estimated GDP for the next ten years is $300 trillion, meaning the reconciliation package is only one percent of that overall product of the country’s economy.

It is a small cost to pay for the biggest transformation of the economy since the New Deal. The argument that it is too expensive is totally ludicrous. No one who has said that has bothered to explain why it is too expensive because, quite simply, it is not.

The Republicans of course oppose the package because they fear incurring the wrath of the rich, who may have to pay more of their fair share in taxes for it. So they call it socialism. They ignore the fact that many of the advanced capitalist countries around the world already provide their people with the things Americans would get from the reconciliation package: health care for Medicare recipients that includes dental and vision care, affordable daycare so folks can go back to work, child tax and living credits, schools in buildings that are not crumbling, free college education at least up to a certain level, higher minimum wages, union organizing rights, and so many other things that are in the package.

The centrist Democrats who oppose the reconciliation package have not made the case that the spending will be harmful to the economy, Stephanie Kelton, an economist at Stony Brook College in New York, said on MSNBC this weekend. She even rejected the idea that spending to meet people’s needs causes inflation, a claim now being made by many in the GOP.

“All signs are,” she said, “that as you spend to increase productivity you will decrease inflation and increase the spending power of everyone, thereby helping the economy. If a bill gives money up front to people who spend it and lifts half the children out of poverty—why not pass this package and lift the rest of the children out of poverty? It was so easy to lift up half, why not go further?

The truth is there is no good economic, political, or moral reason not to proceed with the full $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan. Opposition means you favor continuing to let the wealthy in this country completely off the hook. You favor allowing them to destroy both people and the planet to keep their positions of privilege. It is wrong and it cannot be allowed to continue.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.