Oct 22, 2021
West Virginians were joined by economists and economic justice campaigners at a virtual press conference hosted by the Poor People's Campaign on Friday where they condemned Sen. Joe Manchin's refusal to back the Democratic Party's far-reaching Build Back Better Act, pointing out how people across his home state stand to benefit from the legislation--and suffer if the senator succeeds in tanking the proposal.
While President Joe Biden and the majority of Democrats in Congress--as well as voters across the country--aim to pass a $3.5 trillion 10-year investment including a long-term extension of the child tax credit that's sent hundreds of dollars per month to families with children, tuition-free community college, universal pre-kindergarten, and other social supports, Manchin has proposed a smaller package that the Poor People's Campaign said will offer a fraction of the help to West Virginians that's included in Biden's plan.
The Poor People's Campaign decried "the immorality of Manchin's proposal, which hurts the same people that the Biden plan helps."
According to Sarah D. Anderson, global economy director at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), who joined the press conference, the Build Back Better Act would create 17,290 jobs for West Virginians--nearly 10,000 more than Manchin's plan.
"Are we going to pursue an equitable path that will be good for children and the aged and others to give them economic security and a dignified life? Or are we going to continue to let so much of our country's vast resources flow into the pockets of people at the top?"
Under the president's proposal, paid family and medical leave would allow 88,000 people in West Virginia to take leave each year, and the child tax credit expansion would increase economic security for 346,000 children across West Virginia as well as lifting 23,000 children ut of poverty.
Manchin has proposed work requirements and a $60,000 income cap for the child tax credit expansion, as well as slashing the paid leave proposal from 12 weeks to just four.
"We are at a crossroads, we're at a fork in the road here in the United States," said Anderson. "As lawmakers are negotiating right now they are helping to decide, which path are we going to go on? Are we going to pursue an equitable path that will be good for children and the aged and others to give them economic security and a dignified life? Or are we going to continue to let so much of our country's vast resources flow into the pockets of people at the top?"
The "lives and livelihoods" of Manchin's own constituents "are really hanging in the balance as lawmakers continue to negotiate," she added.
Kaylen Marie Barker, a West Virginian who has experienced generational poverty despite having a master's degree, also spoke at the press conference about tuition-free community college, which the president said Thursday night had been dropped from the proposal after Manchin "and one other person" in the Senate said they would not support it.
"Investment in higher education like free community college would be invaluable to the people in West Virginia," said Barker. "We have nine community colleges across the state that would empower workers to provide better for their families and surrounding communities."
"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," she added. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."
The press conference was held ahead of a rally planned for Sunday at the West Virginia State Capitol, where Poor People's Campaign leaders and West Virginians will speak out in favor of the Build Back Better agenda.
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