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President Biden has been doing his best to convince America that inflation is primarily the result of Putin’s war in Ukraine. And while the war does play a role in rising oil and gas prices, “Putin’s price hike” is definitely not the whole story. In fact, inflation was up months before the war started and there’s some evidence that’s the result of the Fed’s loose monetary policy and the Democratic Party’s efforts to a) keep spending like drunken sailors and b) its refusal to acknowledge rising inflation was a real problem and not “transitory.”
But looking back, things could have been worse. If Democrats had gotten their way last year, they’d have spent another $3.5 trillion on “social infrastructure” priorities. The so-called Build Back Better bill might have been as high as $6 trillion if progressives had had their way. Fortunately, there were two very lonely voices in their own party saying no to all of that, Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema.
With all that’s going on now it’s easy to forget how big a battle this was and how long it lasted. Both Manchin and Sinema announced they would not be voting for the $3.5 trillion version of the bill last July. What followed was a sustained pressure campaign aimed at both of them which lasted about six months. Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed targeting Manchin in a West Virginia newspaper. There was a face-to-face negotiation in which Sanders said the bill should really be $6 trillion and Manchin said he was “comfortable with zero.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Sinema was threatened with censure in her home state. Then she was hounded by protesters, some of whom even followed her into a bathroom with a camera. The Bernie Sanders associated group Our Revolution announced that it was determined to “make her life unpleasant.” NBC published an opinion piece announcing that Sen. Sinema wasn’t a “bi icon” anymore.
“Is she bad for the bisexuals?” I find myself wondering on a nearly daily basis. It feels uncharitable to put so much responsibility on one woman’s shoulders. Yet given that she’s arguably the most prominent bisexual woman in the nation, it feels fair to wish she’d put a little more effort into being a bit less of a stereotype.
There was a stretch where reporters were demanding every day to just know what it was Sinema wanted. She was accused of intentionally refusing to tell anyone as a way to avoid negotiations. This demand went on for a couple of weeks but in fact, Sen. Sinema had already told the White House what she wanted. She just wasn’t interested in negotiating through the media.
As the pressure campaign rolled on, Manchin was still holding direct negotiations with the White House. Meanwhile, there were protesters from the Sunrise Movement showing up at his home (a houseboat). So when Biden put out a press release specifically blaming Manchin for the stalled bill, Manchin decided he’d had enough and pulled the plug.
Of course that wasn’t the end of it. Progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman still went on TV to declare that Sen. Manchin didn’t care about black people.
.@JamaalBowmanNY: “It’s an example of Joe Manchin, as a White man, showing that he doesn’t care about Black people, he doesn’t care about Latinos, he doesn’t care about immigrants, he doesn’t care about women, and he doesn’t care about the poor.” pic.twitter.com/rizsscRle4
— The Hill (@thehill) December 21, 2021
Jump forward a few months later, with inflation still rising to highs not seen since the late 1970s/early 1980s, and suddenly it seems to have become conventional wisdom that Sen. Manchin saved the country from even worse inflation. Here’s Joe Scarborough and Steve Rattner agreeing on MSNBC this morning that’s the case. “In an ironic way you almost have to think Joe Manchin for blocking that,” Rattner said of Build Back Better.
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) June 13, 2022
Everyone owes Sen. Manchin a big thank you for standing up to months of the worst pressure his party and the media could dish out. And though Sen. Sinema isn’t mentioned in this clip, she deserves the same credit. The entire country and their own party would be in an even worse place right now if they’d caved in to the pressure.