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Why Joe Manchin’s complaints about 'entitlement' are completely hypocritical

The West Virginia Democrat enjoys the benefits of corporate welfare programs while maligning “entitlement” proposals in the Build Back Better plan.


Sen. Joe Manchin, the centrist Democrat from West Virginia, has been a stickler over the price of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan during his party’s monthslong negotiations over what should be included in the bill.

As if the tangible impacts of Manchin’s penny-pinching weren’t enough of a blow to the country, he’s also used the spotlight he’s been given to peddle old-timey cliches about “entitlement” and fiscal responsibility that sound like they’ve been borrowed from a Heritage Foundation pamphlet.

Manchin, a key holdout whose vote is crucial to the bill passing, has deployed his outsize power to strip and water down progressive plans to fight climate change, expand health coverage and invest in social programs like paid family leave. And he wants us to know it’s about his principles. 

Last month, Manchin told reporters he “cannot accept our economy, or basically our society, moving towards an entitlement mentality” and called for Democrats’ social welfare proposals to only benefit those in desperate need.

Photo illustration: Image of Joe Manchin speaking and an image of dollar bills.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has come down hard on some social program proposals in his party's Build Back Better plan.MSNBC / Getty Images

Manchin’s concerns about a rising sense of entitlement are hypocritical, and he’d have a better chance of selling his vision for America if his state was in better shape.

West Virginia has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, its most populous county is facing a horrifying HIV outbreak and its infrastructure continues to be battered by the climate crisis. To Manchin, constituents who expect sweeping government fixes to these maladies are asking for too much.

It’s ironic, since Manchin and his family have deep financial ties to the coal industry in West Virginia, a dying industry that’s heavily subsidized by the federal government. He has at least $1 million in holdings in his son's coal brokerage firm, and he’s raised more than $400,000 from oil and gas lobbyists over the last few months alone.

The Manchin family enjoys a lavish lifestyle thanks to industries propped up by the nation’s taxpayers, yet he lectures Americans about the value of hard work. They’re enjoying the fruits of corporate welfare programs — and Manchin certainly feels entitled to those programs given how hard he’s fighting for them over climate-conscious alternatives — but he apparently believes that sense of entitlement should be his alone. 

Give us a break.

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