West Virginia is desperate for help — and Joe Manchin owes them better: Paul Krugman
MSNBC/screen grab

In the New York Times, Paul Krugman pointed to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) for continuing to vote against the state's interest that elected him.

Writing in his Monday column, Krugman, said he wanted to focus on Manchin, in large part because "Kyrsten Sinema — does anyone know what's going on with her?"

Of all senators, Manchin has the unique opportunity to score everything he possibly could want or need for his state, but Krugman said that he's refusing to step up for one of the poorest states in the country.

"Manchin appears ready to veto policies that would be in the interests of his own constituents," said Krugman of Manchin's vote. "Let's talk about what considerations should sway a politician serving the people of West Virginia."

He noted the climate change issues and that West Virginia may not be experiencing some of the worst that coastal states like Florida and Louisiana experience or the fires that the west have, but they have their own share of issues.

"West Virginia turns out to be extremely vulnerable to flooding," explained Krugman. "In part because of the damage done by past coal mining. Still, doesn't West Virginia's economy depend on continued use of coal, whatever the environmental effects? The answer is that coal is far less important to the state than it used to be, and its significance is doomed to dwindle no matter what we do about climate change."

West Virginia used to run on coal, about 40 years ago when Manchin first began his political career. At that time, "coal miners were 16 percent of the state's total labor income," wrote Krugman After ten years, that was cut by more than half to 7 percent, and now it's almost entirely gone, taking many communities along with it.

Coal isn't done because of decisions that the government has made, but the free market decided it was an overly expensive source of energy. For those desperate for new jobs or looking to bounce from the coal world to an entirely different kind of employment, Biden's plan would pay for the training for all of those miners, not only saving their employment but the future of their family's financial stability. Manchin could be behind that effort. Instead, he's fighting against it.

"So, West Virginia has a lot to lose and little to gain if the Biden climate plan goes down," explained Krugman.

Krugman then noted that Manchin is trying to cut child tax credits for millions of families by basing it off of work requirements. As Raw Story pointed out this neglects to accommodate families where parents have died from COVID, been jailed, overdosed or had their kids taken away and placed with grandparents or other family members. It also doesn't help Manchin to be making the demands from the deck of his yacht.

"There are many negative things to be said about this piece of stinginess," wrote Krugman, noting that basing money for children on their parent finding work. "One way to think about it is that it's an attempt to force adults into work by holding their children hostage. Is that where we want to be as a country? Also, adding conditions to aid creates hassles and complexity — and the children who need this aid the most come from precisely the families least able to navigate this complexity."

West Virginia also has a population that is "less likely to be employed" than the rest of the country. It isn't because somehow Manchin's people are lazy, he explained, it's that West Virginia is losing job opportunities more than many other states. Which makes the need for transportation projects outlined in Build Back Better even greater.

He went on to walk through all of the ways that West Virginia desperately needs Manchin, or anyone, willing to step up and help them. Manchin has years before he'll need to run for reelection and by the time he would have to explain his vote to voters, his state would already be benefiting from the funding.

Krugman closed by confessing that not all cynical comments about politicians are correct, but he would hope that Manchin does actually care about the interest of his state and its people.

Read the full column at the New York Times.