The humiliating debacle currently playing out in the United States Senate is a perfect illustration of the shameless corruption and deep-rooted dysfunction that rots in the core of American politics. The Democratic Party is faced with the first real chance it has had in a decade — and quite possibly the last chance it might ever have — to enact meaningful material change in the lives of the American people and prove to a disillusioned and disgusted nation that the government is actually capable of doing something to make people’s lives better.
But instead of eagerly and enthusiastically seizing at the chance to transform American society for the better, the Democratic Party’s inherent ideological schizophrenia and the oligarchy’s ability to outright purchase the votes of our elected politicians are poised to collapse the precarious house of cards that President Biden’s agenda rests upon.
Democratic leadership loves to tout the “big tent” of competing interests and ideologies that make up the party’s political body, but time and time again a tiny minority of conservative DINOs deep in the pockets of lobbyists and oligarchs successfully obstruct the Democratic Party from passing the policy platform it got elected on.
This time, it comes down to two conservative Senators, Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, both wealthy and deeply beholden to dark money donors. They have decided to throw a tantrum over the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that contains the bulk of the Biden administration’s political agenda because they’re “worried about spending.” This is preposterous given their unquestioning support for spending $7.5 trillion on the military and defense corporation contracts over the past ten years, but their excuses are by default accepted as both reasonable and appropriate by the corporate media jackals whose superiors are also “worried about spending,” which in this case translates to “having to raise taxes on the wealthy to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.”
If there is one thing that the pitiless reaper of American capitalism is actually efficient at doing, it is severing society’s human connection to its victims. The homeless are driven away from public areas by force, minorities segregated into ghettoes, poor families gentrified out of their communities by the inexorable march of capital; they are put out of sight, out of mind so the rest of us don’t have to trouble our consciences. It is the same with the human element of our political negotiations; all this obsessive fixation on the numbers and performative pearl-clutching over “how are we gonna pay for it” completely divorce the issue from the transformative effects that it would have on the wellbeing of the American people.
Two free years of community college for every American. Two years of free universal pre-k for kids ages three to four and enough money to cap childcare costs at 7% of household income — a downright revolutionary development for poor families, many of whom cannot afford the astronomical cost of childcare and must sacrifice a partner’s earning potential to look after the kids. It would expand Medicare to cover vision, dental and hearing care. It expands the child tax credit, putting desperately needed money in the pockets of American parents. Paid medical and parental leave for the first time in U.S. history. It’s hard to stress what a monumental change these programs would have in the lives of average Americans. The first round of child tax credits alone helped lift three million children out of poverty!
So when Joe Manchin talks about cutting the $3.5 trillion bill, he might as well be saying he wants to take food out of the mouths of American children, money out of their parents’ pockets, a hearing aid out of the ear of a struggling senior, a future career away from a young person. All so that money remains in the hands of the megawealthy to be frittered away on extravagance or worse, simply left unspent and useless, rotting away in bank accounts doing nothing but feeding the greed of soulless monsters entirely alienated from their fellow humans.
As if his callous cruelty towards millions upon millions of American families wasn’t enough of a reprehensible moral obscenity, that’s not even the worst part. His deepest opposition is reserved for the climate change provisions in the bill that will make up our too-little-too-late effort to slow the warming of the planet and the looming ecological apocalypse. If he gets his way, even these piecemeal attempts to rein in the fossil fuel industry and transition to clean energy won’t make it through Congress, ensuring that the future holds nothing for humanity but suffering under the tempestuous wrath of Gaia and the end of civilization as we know it.
One shudders to even think of the destruction and death toll that awaits us if we don’t take radical action to stop climate change — but all Manchin has to say is “what’s the urgency?” He knows he’ll be burning in hell long before he would ever be affected by the climate crisis.
While the media loves to portray Manchin as a “moderate” and a “centrist,” there is nothing moderate about the unforgivable moral obscenity he’s committing by opposing this bill — and we need to start treating him and every other greedy self-serving “centrist” willing to sell out our nation to the wealthy with the same disgust as we would any terrorist; they are holding the well-being of our people and the future of our planet hostage and are making it very clear they’re willing to crash this plane.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.