Earlier this month, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia helped deliver consumers a victory when he informed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that he was opposed to voting for any legislative bill that would include costly energy and climate provisions until after the August recess.
Weary of exacerbating inflation, Senator Manchin requested that his Democrat colleague wait and see what the July inflation numbers look like first before considering a more expansive spending package. Manchin did, however, express an openness to voting in favor of a smaller bill that would extend Affordable Care Act subsidies and allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.
Even so, Manchin’s steadfast opposition to passing a larger spending bill, that would include environmental wish list items like money for renewable tax credits and increasing storage capacity, should come as a significant relief to consumers and their pocketbooks.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation is now at a 41-year high. The Consumer Price Index reached 9.1% at the end of June, with American real wage growth falling to their lowest point since the 1970s. In just the last 12 months alone, the hourly earnings of workers have declined 3.6%. And while core prices, which exclude food and energy, increased at a lower rate of 5.9%, price increases are still well above annual targets.
These troubling figures reveal the financial pinch many Americans currently find themselves in and the steep prices they must pay for basic goods and services.
In numerous surveys, Americans have expressed deep dissatisfaction with the status quo, routinely listing inflation as their top priority. For instance, in a May poll published by the Pew Research Center, 93% of Americans reported that inflation was either “a very big problem” or “a moderately big problem.” In contrast, climate change, a significant component of the legislative package that Senator Manchin has stated he would not support, was only listed as sixth in order of priority.
Americans have also made it abundantly clear who they believe is responsible for inflation. In a recent Public Opinion Strategies poll called the “True Cost National Online Survey,” 73% of Americans reported that increased government spending was a major driver of high prices. Most noteworthy, 88 percent of Americans stated that making it easier to “produce and develop American energy” was an effective strategy for reducing inflation.
Manchin appears to be sensitive to these concerns and has repeatedly warned his colleagues about the potential negative effects associated with increased spending. Likewise, he has been consistently opposed to legislation that would use billions of taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to switch to green energy when most of these companies are already busy transitioning.
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Manchin knows better than most what is required for the U.S. to achieve energy independence. Therefore, he is uniquely qualified to speak to the danger posed by climate provisions included in the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better package. Spending $300 billion on new green energy initiatives is simply irresponsible during a time when inflation remains high and research suggests that prior government spending may have contributed to the problem. Senator Manchin should stand his ground and continue to say no the powerful collection of lobbyists and special interests who care little for the concerns of American consumers. These groups will stop at nothing to achieve their legislative agenda even if it means providing a windfall of subsidies to companies that do not need them. It makes little difference whether this agenda is enacted now or two months from now. The effects of spending such large amounts of money will inevitably create winners and losers and fan the flames of inflation. Rather than focusing on spending more, Senator Manchin and others in Congress should focus on spending less by tightening the federal purse strings and cutting government waste.