Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Joe Manchin's Christmas Ghosts

From Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post - Opinion: Joe Manchin is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

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The bill was not dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Certain legislators had loudly and repeatedly hesitated, but it was still being discussed and negotiated on the floor of Congress, with some even referring to it as their “signature legislative achievement.”

It was smaller, certainly, than it had been, but it was still most alive when Sen. Joe Manchin III came home to his boat, put on his nightcap and settled down to sleep in order that he might be well-rested when it came time to speak to Fox News.

At the office that day, Manchin had dealt with several importunate visitors, well-wishers who were hopeful for the future, if only the Build Back Better bill went through. “We’ve got to pass this bill if we want to have a chance of protecting the planet!” they urged.

Manchin huffed at them. “Are there no coal mines?” he asked, slamming the door.

Bob Cratchit came by to explain that he was really counting on the child tax credit to supply food for his family, especially Tiny Tim, and he asked for some paid sick leave as a Christmas gift.

Manchin sneered. “Are there no workhouses?”

Things looked dire for the bill. That was why it was no surprise when, that night beginning at the stroke of 1, three spirits appeared to try to change Manchin’s mind.

The first took him to the past, where he could see himself saying he would not vote for a larger bill because he was worried about inflation. This required very complicated budgeting that sunset elements of the bill in confusing ways — but the outcome was something he had said he could support!

“This isn’t very far past,” said Manchin. “Bah.”

“No, I agree! Just reminding you of what you yourself said earlier today!” the ghost said. “Let’s quickly stop by this moment when you said, ‘I’ve always been for child tax credits,’ too!”

The clock struck 2, and that spirit departed and was replaced by another. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” the spirit said. “I thought we might see how families are spending their credits.”

The spirit whisked him from house to house, where family after family was relieved to be able to buy school supplies, clothes and food, and was nervous to see the benefit on the verge of expiring. Child poverty had been cut by 30 percent.

“Humbug,” Manchin said.

“I also have a survey,” the spirit said, sounding a little less hopeful, “conducted by the Census Bureau showing people overwhelmingly purchasing necessities, not drugs or alcohol or anything like that.”

Manchin shrugged. “Self-reported,” he murmured.

“Uh,” said the spirit. “Well, next I was planning to show you legions of people who were sick and grateful to have paid leave —”

“I want to see the ones who are using their paid leave to go on hunting trips,” Manchin said, “which is certainly a real phenomenon and not an oddly specific thing to assume that people widely do with paid leave.”

“Senator,” the ghost said, “I’m not saying that has never happened, but certainly all the people I am finding just want to use their sick leave to be sick.”

Then the clock struck 3.

“Are you the Ghost of Christmas Future?” Manchin asked the spirit cloaked in smog.

The spirit did not say anything. It merely pointed. Manchin looked: The mercury was rising in his thermometer, and areas of the country faced increased severe weather. The coastlines were flooding.

Manchin took a long, contented inhale. “It looks like in this future we have not broken ourselves of our dependency on fossil fuels!” he said, but not in the way you would expect someone to say that sentence.

The spirit pointed frantically at the floodwaters devastating the lives of West Virginians. Manchin pretended not to see. The spirit pointed at a stone on which “Joe Manchin, Senator, West Virginia, 2010 ― 2024,” was engraved in thick letters.

“Ooh!” Manchin said. “I got to be senator a long time.” He smiled broadly, then started to wheeze. The air was quite poor. Then the clock struck again, and all was shrouded in darkness.

The next morning he awoke and threw open the curtains. He had never had such a good night’s sleep. “Boy!” Manchin cried to a passing youth. “What day is it?”

“Uh,” the boy said, “Dec. 19, why?”

Manchin threw some coal at him in thanks, then instantly regretted bestowing an object of such value on someone who so clearly would misuse it.

Bob Cratchit came by again. “Good morning, Mr. Manchin,” he said. “Have you given any thought to the bill?”

“I have!” Manchin cried. “And my thought is: No!” And with that, he stabbed the bill right through the heart. “Now, back to work for you! I am going on recess through the end of the year. God bless me, but not others!”

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