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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) makes a statement in the Senate TV Studio on Capitol Hill on November 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

West Virginians Are Still Fighting to Build Back Better, Despite What Manchin Says

Sen. Manchin doesn't have an issue spending federal money—he just seems to have an issue investing it in working families.

Kathy Ferguson

Earlier this month, Sen. Manchin said that the Build Back Better is "dead." He may want to check in with his constituents back home, because in West Virginia, the fight to build back better is very much alive—and it's alive across the country too.

The Build Back Better Act would reduce everyday costs and increase access to essential services, while taxing the wealthy and greedy corporations to pay for the bill.

In West Virginia, one in five children lives in poverty. The median household income is second lowest in the country. We rank among the lowest in the country with regard to education and health outcomes, and we lead in rates of opioid addiction and obesity.

West Virginians are hard working and proud. But we're struggling to feed our families, to put roofs over our heads and to find good paying jobs. And it's because for too long, wealthy corporations have taken advantage of West Virginia. Companies come into our state and become billionaires off our resources while contaminating our land and our air, tearing up our roads and not reinvesting in our economy in any significant way. They get rich, and we're left here to suffer with nothing to show for it. Even the jobs they create for us slowly kill us.

However, our future can still be one of opportunity. But first, those who have extracted so much from our home have to give back. We've powered this country with our resources and labor, and it's time for our country to invest back in working families across America. We need federal legislation to do that.

Congress needs to pass legislation to increase the supply of affordable childcare and affordable housing and create over 7,000 jobs each year in our state alone. It needs to help Americans get access to affordable medical care. It needs to decrease our reliance on the dying fossil fuel industry. And it needs to extend the Child Tax Credit so that the 36 million families who used that money on groceries and utilities this past year can continue to feed their children and keep the lights on.

The Build Back Better Act would reduce everyday costs and increase access to essential services, while taxing the wealthy and greedy corporations to pay for the bill. This would benefit West Virginians, and all working families, greatly.

But our senator, Sen. Joe Manchin, has opposed the bill. He repeats fear-mongering corporate talking points about inflation, even though economic experts—including 17 Nobel Laureates in economics—agree that investing in our communities through the bill would actually reduce inflation while boosting our economy.

And it's telling that Sen. Manchin didn't have this same concern about government spending when he voted for a Defense budget that was more than four times the size of the BBB Act. Sen. Manchin doesn't have an issue spending federal money—he just seems to have an issue investing it in working families.

But there's still hope. Sen. Manchin may have said that he won't support BBB as a full package, but there are many life-changing, popular proposals in the bill that can be passed as separate legislation, such as a slimmer package currently being worked on that includes $555 billion in climate provisions for clean energy and jobs with additional funding to support working families with universal pre-k and healthcare subsidies.

But these bills won't get passed without West Virginians, and Americans across the country, continuing to fight for them. We need to keep the pressure on Congress to lower prescription drug costs, invest in public education and create affordable housing. And we need to raise taxes on the wealthiest to pay for these investments—something Sen.Manchin has already indicated he's onboard with doing.

This Saturday, hundreds of West Virginians in five cities across the state are participating in "Neighbor to Neighbor" outreach. Together, we're talking to our neighbors so they understand what's at stake and why we must keep fighting to build back better. We're keeping the pressure on Sen. Manchin from his home state—and we need the rest of the country to keep fighting too. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Kathy Ferfuson

Kathy Ferguson

Kathy Ferguson is a community organizer with Our Future West Virginia. She is based in Institute, West Virginia. 


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