Joe Manchin wants to put lazy grandparents back to work.
Before he will commit to voting for Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, Manchin wants an income cap of $60,000 and a “firm” work requirement applied to an extension of the Child Tax Credit. That Child Tax Credit, usually claimed on taxes each year, was changed as part of the Covid Relief plan for families. First passed in 1998, the Child Tax Credit primarily helped upper income families. The expansion during Covid allowed for more middle and lower income families to access that credit, and instead of having to wait until tax season to claim it, families began receiving checks of up to $300 per child. It’s been a huge success and helped out millions of families, literally raising millions of children out of poverty.
But Senator Manchin, whose net worth is valued at $8.5 million and who represents one of the most impoverished states in the nation, wants to reign in government spending that he thinks will only make people lazy. Thus, he’s been battling for weeks now about this very issue and held up President Biden’s Build Back Better Act. No more handouts, Manchin says, which is ironic given that his yacht in the Chesapeake Bay was bought with monies made from his “son’s” energy company which gets government handouts.
On the surface, if you are just reading the headlines or the 140-character tweet, Manchin’s demands might sound reasonable. Why not encourage folks to work? Isn’t there a “Help Wanted” sign on nearly every storefront window about town?
But when you really sit down and sort through what Manchin’s doing here, it’s downright troubling. West Virginia is one of the states hardest hit during the opioid crisis. I don’t know about you but I have friends who are raising their grandchildren because those kids lost parents to the opioid crisis. There are over 7,000 kids in foster care in West Virginia, and a large percentage of them are there because the Sackler Family, another obscenely wealthy family like Manchin’s, pushed opioids upon the good people of West Virginia.
West Virginia has one of the largest percentages of grandparents raising grandchildren. Only South Dakota scores a higher percentage. Over 54% of grandparents in West Virginia are raising their grandchildren. Most of these grandparents are retired. That means they are living on a fixed income, and in West Virginia, they most likely fall below that $60,000 threshold Manchin set.
But how are these grandparents supposed to qualify for this Child Tax Credit if they aren’t employed or looking for work?
Manchin is targeting these grandparents. He is making no allowances for them. Does he really expect them to take a greeter position at WalMart or cashier at the local grocery? Does he have any idea what child care cost these days? Two days of preschool will run the average family around $700 a month. Full-time daycare will cost the family $1,000 or more. So does Joe expect Granny Mable to take a job making $7.25 an hour, to prove she is firm in her commitment to work, even as she tries to care for the three kiddos left behind after her daughter died from a drug overdose?
Does Joe Manchin think it is lazy of Granny Mable to not look for a job even though she is 67 years old and her Social Security only pays her $600 a month after she pays Medicare $148? Does Manchin think it’s shameful that Granny Mable doesn’t do better by those three kids orphaned by the Sackler family’s money-making drug scheme? The same sort of drug scheme his daughter came up with when she raised the price of the Epipen by 600% thus earning her tens of millions in a one-year bonus? Does Manchin think it’s okay that the Sackler family shipped in 81 million opioid pills to the rural town of Huntington, West Virginia? Or that the Sacklers have escaped prosecution for the deaths of tens of millions of Americans?
Joe Manchin has been in Congress for decades, during which time very little progress has been made in West Virginia. About the only thing they rank high in is the number of opioid deaths, the number of children in foster care, and the number of grandparents left trying to raise up grandchildren.
But lest we think Manchin heartless, we should be encouraged. He did vote to set up a federal task force to help grandparents raising grandchildren. In other words, he voted to help establish another government program.
Manchin is morally opposed to giving handouts to people who are unwilling to work for it, unless, of course, they are members of Congress, or already rich like his son and his daughter.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain (Mercer University Press), One Book One Common Read for West Virginia.