Joe Manchin, Giant-Killer?

In the great Woody Allen comedy, Love and Death, Allen plays a Russian nebbish who is celebrated for his heroism when, after hiding in a cannon during a battle, he gets fired into the Napoleonic command tent, taking down four enemy generals and thereby winning the battle.  His rival, played by Harold Gould, derides his newfound celebrity with the understated line, "I understand your heroism was quite inadvertent."

Americans may soon realize that the newfound celebrity of U.S. senator Joe Manchin may be due to something similar.

Caricature by Donkey HoteyCC BY 2.0 license.

The Build Back Better Bill, also known as the $5-trillion spending plan, or the $2-trillion spending plan, or the $3.5-trillion spending plan, or the Moving Target spending plan, is essentially the Green New Deal married to a Welfare State wish list, with an alliterative and euphemistic title slapped on top for P.R.

Conservatives rightly oppose it, not merely because it's expensive, but because it includes a litany of distinct policy directions that are dead wrong for this country — wrong, in fact, for any country.

For example:

The bill would create numerous programs at the state or local level, funding them only for the first two years to make the bill's costs appear cheap.  Such programs are like the free drugs that pushers used to distribute, to build addictions in future clients.  After being on board for two years, the cities wouldn't fire these new employees; they'd go farther into debt or demand an extension of federal aid — the aid that this bill's backers are today promising would not come.  Even the liberal CBO couldn't stomach this.  Such tricks are the height of deception and have no business in the legislative process.

The bill would incentivize electric cars by having the federal government directly install tens of thousands of electric vehicle charging stations, all over the country.  While the government has used subsidies to give an unfair edge to electric vehicles before, this outright effort to usurp the role of private gas stations is new and disturbing on multiple levels.  In addition to the immense expense and the "picking of winners and losers," the idea of supplanting an existing private industry, without even giving that industry the chance to incorporate charging stations on its own as the market need develops, is a level of federal involvement in the day-to-day economy that the Constitution was specifically designed to thwart.

The bill expands upon the attacks on the petroleum industry that heretofore could only be initiated by Obama and Biden executive orders, now giving them the force and permanence of law to protect bad policy from good future presidents' "reversal pens."  The United States of America was energy-independent just one short year ago; this bill would try to render energy independence a permanent impossibility for the future.

There are dozens of such examples in this truly awful piece of legislation.  A principled statesman, recognizing his obligation to put on the mantle of the Framers when evaluating it, would focus the public on such critical sins as these.

Senator Joe Manchin, however, does not attempt to scale these heights.  He focused on the expense (both published and hidden), telling the Biden-Harris regime he could support it if its costs were lowered and looked less inflationary.  He objected to its provision of a national version of a daycare program his home state had implemented on its own.  He objected to its assault on natural gas, a product of his own state, without making the case that a green energy replacement of the traditional energy sector both is doomed to failure and would upend our entire national economy, increasing our dependence on foreign enemies while destroying American wealth.

Senator Manchin, rather, seemed willing to vote for a scaled back version, despite all the bill's broad crimes, if only the Biden-Harris regime were willing to reduce the cost and treat moderate Democrats with respect.  One can hardly know what's in another's mind, but it has certainly often looked as though Manchin was just looking to win enough concessions that he would be a hero in his home state, able to continue winning office as a Democrat despite a conservative electorate.

Important lessons have certainly been learned here. 

Once again, the so-called progressives have proven themselves to be the Bolshevik caucus, twisting a bare (and arguably illegitimate), moderate electoral victory into radical and destructive governance, no longer simply satisfied to force the plebs into submission, they cannot resist even ordering an independent and powerful statewide senator of their own caucus to buckle under their gaze.  These are vicious people, and their mask is off.

Once again, the Democrats have proven, as a group, that their fiscal irresponsibility knows no bounds, refusing to even acknowledge the unprecedented, crippling cost of their programs, outrageously claiming that multi-trillion-dollar spending plans are counter-inflationary.

And once again, they have proven utterly dismissive of the Constitution's legal limitations on the growth and scope of the federal government.

But think how many more lessons could have been learned, if only Senator Manchin had chosen to fight the bill on the proper principles of limited government, rather than negotiating for months, angling for moderate reductions in a bill that deserves only to be shredded.

We are lucky that Democrat bosses stuck to their guns and refused to compromise with Senator Manchin.  We are lucky that the sheer nastiness of the progressive caucus and the Biden-Harris crowd showed through, finally driving Manchin to put an end to it, publicly, for good.

But there are areas in which we were not lucky.  This should have been a wonderful opportunity to educate the electorate about how un-American the modern Democrat platform has become, not just how fiscally irresponsible, but how truly destructive their programs are to the foundations of our economy.  But Manchin didn't try to make that full case, which necessarily alerts us to the fact that, in the new year, there is always the chance that they will pretend to cut just enough to win his vote...and then we will depend on finding some other Democrat willing to risk the abuse of the Antifa/BLM crowd and their donor class.

It is too early to celebrate anything but luck.  We have been granted a reprieve, certainly, but that reprieve seems due more to a proud man's refusal to be bullied than to a true statesman's courageous and eloquent adherence to principle.

Normal election-year caution may save us from this bill next year, or perhaps the battle between relatively sane liberals and wild-eyed leftists will deny this awful bill a second wind.  All we can be sure of is that Senator Manchin is being praised for a good call that looks as though it owes more to his temper and sense of self-respect than to philosophical commitment.

It pains me to say it, but, short of future displays of true constitutional devotion, we are forced to conclude that the senator's heroism may indeed be quite inadvertent.

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based writer and trade compliance trainer, a onetime county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party.  He writes a regular column for the Illinois Review, and his books, including his vote fraud exposé The Tales of Little Pavel and his current political satires about the current administration, "Evening Soup with Basement Joe," are available on Amazon.

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