September 02, 2021
Why I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion
The nation faces an
unprecedented array of challenges and will inevitably encounter additional
crises in the future. Yet some in Congress have a strange belief there is an
infinite supply of money to deal with any current or future crisis, and that
spending trillions upon trillions will have no negative consequence for the
future. I disagree.
An overheating economy has
imposed a costly “inflation tax” on every middle- and working-class American.
At $28.7 trillion and growing, the nation’s debt has reached record levels.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve spent more than $5 trillion responding to the
coronavirus pandemic. Now Democratic congressional leaders propose to pass the
largest single spending bill in history with no regard to rising inflation,
crippling debt or the inevitability of future crises. Ignoring the fiscal
consequences of our policy choices will create a disastrous future for the next
generation of Americans.
Those who believe such concerns
are overstated should ask themselves: What do we do if the pandemic gets worse
under the next viral mutation? What do we do if there is a financial crisis
like the one that led to the Great Recession? What if we face a terrorist
attack or major international conflict? How will America respond to such crises
if we needlessly spend trillions of dollars today?
Instead of rushing to spend
trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress
should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation. A pause
is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the
pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or
not. While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed
now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political
deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions. I have always said if
I can’t explain it, I can’t vote for it, and I can’t explain why my Democratic
colleagues are rushing to spend $3.5 trillion.
Another reason to pause: We must
allow for a complete reporting and analysis of the implications a
multitrillion-dollar bill will have for this generation and the next. Such a
strategic pause will allow every member of Congress to use the transparent
committee process to debate: What should we fund, and what can we simply not
I, for one, won’t support a $3.5
trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without
greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects
inflation and debt have on existing government programs. This is even more
important now as the Social Security and Medicare Trustees have sounded the
alarm that these life-saving programs will be insolvent and benefits could
start to be reduced as soon as 2026 for Medicare and 2033, a year earlier than
previously projected, for Social Security.
Establishing an artificial $3.5
trillion spending number and then reverse-engineering the partisan social
priorities that should be funded isn’t how you make good policy. Undoubtedly
some will argue that bold social-policy action must be taken now. While I share
the belief that we should help those who need it the most, we must also be
honest about the present economic reality.
Inflation continues to rise and
is bleeding the value of Americans’ wages and income. More than 10.1 million
jobs remain open. Our economy, as the Biden administration has correctly
pointed out, has reached record levels of quarterly growth. This positive
economic reality makes clear that the purpose of the proposed $3.5 trillion in
new spending isn’t to solve urgent problems, but to re-envision America’s
social policies. While my fellow Democrats will disagree, I believe that
spending trillions more dollars not only ignores present economic reality, but
makes it certain that America will be fiscally weakened when it faces a future
recession or national emergency.
In 2017, my Republican friends
used the privileged legislative procedure of budget reconciliation to rush
through a partisan tax bill that added more than $1 trillion to the national
debt and put investors ahead of workers. Then, Democrats rightfully criticized
this budgetary tactic. Now, my Democratic friends want to use this same
budgetary tactic to push through sweeping legislation to make “historic
investments.” Respectfully, it was wrong when the Republicans did it, and it is
wrong now. If we want to invest in America, a goal I support, then let’s take
the time to get it right and determine what is absolutely necessary.
Many in Washington have
convinced themselves we can add trillions of dollars more to our nearly $29
trillion national debt with no repercussions. Regardless of political party,
elected leaders are sent to Washington to make tough decisions and not simply
go along to get along.
For those who will dismiss my
unwillingness to support a $3.5 trillion bill as political posturing, I hope
they heed the powerful words of Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, who called debt the biggest threat to national security.
His comments echoed the fear and concern I’ve heard from many economic experts
I’ve personally met with.
At a time of intense political and policy divisions, it would serve us
well to remember that members of Congress swear allegiance to this nation and
fidelity to its Constitution, not to a political party. By placing a strategic
pause on this budgetary proposal, by significantly reducing the size of any
possible reconciliation bill to only what America can afford and needs to
spend, we can and will build a better and stronger nation for all our families.
Senator Joe Manchin
Wall Street Journal