The U.S. likes to think of itself (if a nation can even do that) as fair and just (if we leave out its treatment of minority citizens and the marginalized), but the idea that the likes of Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, is in charge of any of our national programs gives the lie to that one.

He is the premier Democrat who votes as if he were a Reagan Republican and there is no chance that he will change his stripes. He and his companion Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, have been in the lead of the effort to reduce Biden's Build Back Better bill from about $6 trillion to $3.5 trillion, and then to veritable rags of less than $2 trillion. In their wake, they leave citizens on the edge of economic security, as well as women and children, to once again fend for themselves. Republicans love these two and are cheering them on from the sidelines.

It isn't as if Manchin has not let himself be seen for what he is, but the people of West Virginia have put him in office and are not likely to turn him out to his coalfield pasture for retirement. He's living the life that he always dreamed of and has left his constituents to fend for themselves. He has a yacht that he keeps in a slip on the Potomac, where he can entertain his bipartisan cohort, just to show that he can get along with anyone, as long as they are rich and grasping, as he is.

A report on Common Dreams on Dec. 13 quoted an ethics expert from Public Citizen that Manchin is “raking in substantial profits from the coal industry while exerting major influence over climate policy,” while he serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. This, said Craig Holman of Public Citizen, is a “very blatant conflict of interest.” He added, “Manchin is not only very wealthy, but most of his assets and wealth are invested in a single industry, coal...what Manchin is doing is not illegal. The conflict of interest code for Congress is just too weak.”

Not to pick on Manchin too much, but he is riding on a wave of corruption that is ubiquitous in the Congress. If every member of each house were inspected and dissected to the same degree, it would be obvious to most voters that Washington is a cesspool of corruption. The senators and representatives do business every day in that manner. It's routine and, to a great degree, expected. And, it isn't just that they are negotiating pork for their districts and their people, they are thinking primarily of their own welfare. It seems to be working for them.

Circumstances of a close election made Manchin and Sinema much more powerful than they ever would have been (or ever will be), because they made up the plurality that would give Democrats the majority in the U.S. Senate. Without their votes, the Democrats would not be able to pass even the anemic infrastructure bill that would bring relief to millions of working men and women, the poor, and the children. Manchin is famous for declaring that he demanded a cut in much of the BBB bill, because he did not want the country to become an “entitlement society,” as if health care for all and educational opportunity for all are “entitlements.” And that goes for decent housing and the elimination of food deserts in many, if not most, American cities.

In the meantime, entitlements go forward without a slowdown for fossil fuel companies and most of Corporate America. They obviously don't consider their depletion allowances as entitlements and they don't consider the money that flows into their open hands from corporate tax breaks as entitlements. As it goes, the rich (like Manchin) are the epitome of entitlements. Or, as the buffoonish previous president would say, “Taking advantage of all of the tax breaks we're given makes me very smart.”

The 1 percent and Corporate America sailed through the past few years of a pandemic not only enjoying themselves, but making billions more in the process. The people had to make do without money for food, housing and, even, without a job that they could depend on for a small income. As it goes with Manchin, the rich in the U.S. Senate keep raking in the dough. It's the same in the House of Representatives. Sinema has just started her march to riches, as she'll take money from either major party, or no party, or any corporation, just for her campaign coffers, of course.

Are these two really Democrats? Is the Democratic Party really made up of Democrats? The party veered to the right during the Clinton Administration and it has never looked back. The party of working people needed the money from the same sources as the Republicans, and they have been raking it in ever since, from all the same sources. The party of working people became just another party of the rich and Manchin is just another soldier among the troops that make up that party. He escapes being criticized or maligned because, after all, he's one of them.

Perhaps, working women and men will someday decide that they need a party of their own. We know it's been tried before and has not succeeded, but there is that possibility and, when enough of the workers and their disparate organizations get together, they will see that they represent a formidable force in politics and in the nation, in general. There needs to be a revolution (a political revolution, if you agree with Senator Bernie Sanders), but it never should be one that comes from the barrel of an AK-47 or AR-15 or Kalashnikov. These angry people with guns never should be allowed to be in charge of anything, let alone a nation of free people. The wise people who drafted the U.S. Constitution provided for a way to make change, even major change, without violence, but people have to learn to use it and have faith in it.

Anyway, since it is the holiday season, we should concentrate, at least somewhat, on what can bring us peace to our world and to the nations of the planet. Along those lines, just a little sign of hope from a small newsletter which I edit, for working people and people everywhere, the Solidarity Notes:


It's that time of year, when it is hoped by so many that peace can be achieved between individuals and groups and nations. At least, it's a time for thinking about peace, the peace that begins within people and within communities and nations.

We hope you are thinking about peace and that you're doing something about it. It's not enough to say, “It would be nice to live in a time of peace.” Rather, even small gestures toward peace are steps in the right direction. Maybe, we can't envision our efforts as having much of an effect on world peace, but it's worth a try. We may not see the results of our efforts right away, but each act toward peace is both meaningful and effective.

Throughout the year in these pages, there are reports of groups that are working for peace and justice. Without justice, there can be no peace, so work for both, all year.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanzaa, Happy New Year! However you celebrate the season, we hope you have reason to be joyful and happy. At least, for a season. At any rate, try to have at least one good laugh each day, sing a song...and organize!

Happy Holidays!

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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