24 February 2021

Problem Democrats and getting things done

I should start this post by putting in a word or two for Joe Manchin, who has been getting a lot of flack lately.  On a couple of issues, he's raised legitimate points.

The money being spent on sending covid-19 relief checks to the entire population would be better spent if it were targeted to those with the greatest need (I made a similar point here last year).  A person like myself still doing a regular job from home, whose income is unaffected by the pandemic, doesn't need to get $2,000 in free money from the government, and a person out of work struggling to pay several months of rent and health insurance needs a lot more than $2,000 to actually get out of that hole.  It would make more sense to take the same money and funnel it entirely to people in the latter category so we could give, say, $12,000 to each unemployed person, while not wasting money on people like me who still have a normal income.

Similarly, while I fervently support raising the minimum wage to $15 to bring the US more into line with developed-country norms, Manchin has a point that in less-developed parts of the US, $15 might be too high for the local economy to absorb in the same time frame that the more-developed regions need to have it.  Perhaps the federal minimum wage could be indexed to the cost of living in each state in some way, or incentives created for each state to raise its own minimum wage to an appropriate level.  It's a legitimate issue.

This being said, the position he and Sinema have taken against eliminating the filibuster is a potentially crippling problem.

The filibuster isn't an issue for the Biden covid-19 relief plan because that's being passed via reconciliation.  However, at the moment, it appears that not one Republican senator will vote for it.  This is legislation which is supported by 83% of the US public (obviously including a lot of Republican voters) and which Standard and Poor says would hugely benefit the economy.  If not one Republican senator will vote for that, what are our odds of getting ten of them to support voting-rights protections or a healthcare public option or reining in the Supreme Court?  Obviously pretty much zero.

And the Democrats need to get at least some of these things done -- in twenty months.  That's the time from now until the 2022 midterm election.  If we don't have some major accomplishments to point to by then, our voters will not be motivated to turn out, and the Republicans will likely get a majority in the House and perhaps the Senate too (despite a favorable map for us that year), causing total paralysis.  Nobody outside DC gives a crap about the "hallowed traditions of the Senate".  They care what the government does to help solve their problems.  "We got X, Y, and Z done" will get our voters to the polls to save our majority.  "We couldn't get anything done because the Republicans filibustered it all" will not.

So if Manchin and Sinema prevent the abolition of the filibuster, they will probably stymie most of the party's agenda and very possibly hand the government back to a Republican party which is getting more and more Trumpified and unhinged as time passes.

However, upcoming legislation offers an opportunity to address this problem.

As Republican state governments double down on efforts to suppress the Democratic-leaning vote (especially the black vote), Congressional Democrats are planning federal legislation to protect voting rights nationally.  There's not a chance in Hell that ten Republicans will support this.  Vote suppression is their party's only hope for holding dominance in marginal states, and for keeping the share of federal power it now has, in the face of inexorable demographic change.

So if the filibuster remains, Congress will be powerless to stop state-level Republicans from continuing to destroy the voting rights that the civil-rights movement fought so hard for, and won at such terrible cost, just two generations ago.  It's as simple and as straightforward as that.

Any argument that it might be OK to keep the filibuster is a dagger in the back of black America.  That's the message that must be hammered home, screamed from the rooftops, put front and center, relentlessly, as soon as the covid-19 relief bill is done.  It must be the only message, the only framing of the filibuster issue.

And then, if Manchin and Sinema are Democrats at all, they'll come around on scrapping the filibuster.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Oh, I agree with you. Especially because the problems faced by poorer people in America come mostly from the fact that we live in a materialistic, consumerist, capitalist society. The distribution you mention makes sense overall, but wouldn't it create some kind of a caste system? Each state having its own minimum wage could be a good idea, but again, choices.
To tell you the truth, I think the filibuster should go. It favors the Repugs disproportionately and they will always use it to stay in power and keep promoting voter suppression. Two birds. One stone.


24 February, 2021 03:47  
Blogger bluzdude said...

I think the predominant feeling is "Any benefit I'm a part of is necessary, any that I'm not is wasteful spending."

The problem we have is that the Republicans also know that we need a couple of wins in the next two years, so they'll stop at nothing to see that it doesn't happen. The lack of support for the overwhelmingly popular COVID relief bill demonstrates how even the "reasonable" Republicans are towing the party line. Hence the need for filibuster reform.

24 February, 2021 05:35  
Blogger Mary said...

Agree with you 100%

24 February, 2021 06:49  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Absolutely correct!

Different regions of the country are experiencing different economic consequences from COVID. What needs to be done for, say, West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky differs from what's happening in Silicon Valley, for example.

President Biden needs to pass as many of his policies as he can with this current legislature because come 2022, Democrats may very well lose the House and Senate, and Biden will be in the same position as President Obama was for most of his presidency!

24 February, 2021 07:30  
Blogger CAS said...

I absolutely agree that the filibuster has to go. Thanks for making the necessity to do so crystal clear.

I also agree that we shouldn't be giving stimulus checks to everyone. When they did the last check, under Trump, I ended up receiving a check made out to my father who died in 2018. The payee is actually made out to my father, followed by "(Deceased)". I've saved it for posterity since it also has Trump's signature on it. Remember how the checks were held up for a few days so that they could bear his name?

I hadn't heard the suggestion to adjust the minimum wage according to the local economy. That makes a lot of sense and probably means the difference between life and death for many small businesses located in rural areas across the country--especially at this moment when so many have already closed or are on their last breath due to the pandemic.

24 February, 2021 08:15  
Blogger Mike said...

I agree with you on all of this. Especially the fillibuster, but more importantly getting as much done before the midterms as possible.

24 February, 2021 10:31  
Anonymous Annie said...

The fact that one Senator from a small state has so much power says everything about how screwed up our system is. The Democrats are talking about bringing back earmarks—with transparency and guidelines—and I think that’s a great idea. Though Manchin can probably get whatever he wants without them. I’m very frustrated about the filibuster—and you’re right that continued support of it should be a mark of shame. Regrettably, there’s not much of that in evidence among those who can make a difference.

25 February, 2021 20:00  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: Actually, many states already have different minimum wages. The federal minimum wage is a "floor", but individual states can set higher minimums, and many do. A higher federal minimum would set the "floor" higher. I don't see how recognizing the fact that the cost of living in California is higher than in West Virginia would create any more of a caste system than we already have.

Bluzdude: Unfortunately that seems to be true. The fact that Senate Republicans are so united against a bill which a majority of their own voters support, which Wall Street and big business mostly support, and which includes the higher stimulus payments that Trump himself called for, seems to show that their sole priority is to block the Democrats from getting anything done. Leaving the filibuster in place would be madness.

Mary: Thanks.

Shaw: I'm hoping that if we can get enough done, we won't lose the House and Senate. In fact, DC and Puerto Rico statehood need to be more of a priority, to dilute somewhat the minority-rule-promoting bias of the Senate (and the Electoral College).

Carol: Thanks. That check error was weird and must have been disturbing. I suppose they will make mistakes when they're sending out millions of them in a rush. Targeting relief would be more complicated, but there must be some way of enabling people to sign up for help and provide documentation of being laid off. A really large payment would be a strong incentive.

Mike: They do seem to be moving fast, thank goodness.

Annie: That would be another advantage of DC and Puerto Rico statehood. With a slightly bigger Senate majority, Manchin wouldn't have an effective veto on the whole country.

26 February, 2021 00:49  
Anonymous wjbill said...

there will always be an opposite to West Virginia. Does the wage go to $24/hr if you live in NY? Does Joe M really know what it's like on the ground in West Virginia? ~$2K per month does not really buy you what it used to.

02 March, 2021 10:27  

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