Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Joe Manchin's Real Reasons

Yesterday, the news came out that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin's real reason for stopping the Build Back Better act is that he believes parents will spend the Child Tax Credit on drugs, and people will fake illness if they have paid family leave so they can go hunting. While he hasn't said these things publicly, someone he said them to told someone who told someone.

It wasn't surprising in a way, since he has made noises like this before. This man who lives on a yacht and drives a Maserati has the nerve to talk about people wasting money on "unnecessary" things.

I'm sure he has a little pile of anecdotes that he warms his hands over. But the data do not support him.

Here's how the Census Bureau found CTC dollars were spent, as compiled by Bloomberg News:

Food, rent, and utilities and paying off debt top the list. As Twitter user Chris Evans pointed out,

The fact that so many people used extra money for food shows just how food insecure so many children are in the United States. Shameful.

Writing in response for the People's Policy Project, Matt Bruenig described the effects of child benefits in Canada:

They found that receipt of child benefits caused families to reduce spending on tobacco and alcohol. Specifically, a one dollar increase in child benefits was associated with a 6 cent reduction in tobacco spending and a 7.3 cent reduction in alcohol spending. For low-income families, the researchers’ model also found reductions in tobacco and alcohol spending, but the difference was not statistically significant. Thus, for low-income families we cannot say that spending on those categories decreased but we can say that it did not increase.

It seems completely obvious that having less stress over money may lead to less use of intoxicants because there's less need to escape the grind of daily life.

Bruenig argues, and I agree, that of course some parents (of all economic classes) have problems that make them unfit to be parents, but that is separate from money, or especially where the money comes from. "A parent in the grip of addiction can squander a paycheck just as easily as they can squander a welfare check. The issue is not the source of the income but rather how the income is being spent." Child Protective Services is the part of society that is supposed to deal with children's welfare, not squeezing their family's income:

...cutting child benefits does nothing to address the problem of bad parents. It does not separate their kids from them. It does not intervene to try to help the parent get better. It just leaves these dysfunctional families exactly as they are while making them poorer. This does not help anyone. It makes things worse.

And when it comes to paid family leave, here we are in the middle of a pandemic with women, particularly, dropping out of the workforce because they have to care for children or others in their families. While almost every other country on the planet has such benefits.

What would it take for Joe Manchin to hear these arguments, since they apply to a large majority of people in his own state? We all do better when we all do better, as Paul Wellstone said. Join us, Joe. Be a real Democrat.

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