Political frustration evident in Manchin visit
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin faced a tough crowd of 50 citizens who packed the Morgan County Courthouse on Friday afternoon, February 17.
Many in the audience seemed frustrated with the lack of performance by Congress and by the federal government in general.
“You have got to be as frustrated as I am with what’s going on, or what’s not going on,” Manchin told the standing-room-only crowd.
“I am watching politics being played truly at the highest level. And it’s being played in jeopardy of our country and both sides are guilty. I am seeing Democrats and Republicans making decisions on what’s best for them or their political party when we should be making the decisions on what’s best for the country,” Manchin said.
Talking about the federal budget, Manchin complained that the White House had not sought his opinion and ideas.
“I come from a state where we balanced the budget for six years and had record surpluses. And we left with our house in order. You would think that they would reach out and someone would talk to you,” he said.
At one point, responding to criticism of the President, Manchin said: “President Obama is a good man with a good heart. I have been around a lot of people and I can tell you that."
Manchin said that coming from a state with a balanced budget, he would just like to sit down with the President and tell him what works and what doesn’t.
Manchin said the nation has the greatest debt in history and it is growing by $5 billion a day. The budget the White House just released adds another $6.7 trillion to the debt, he said.
“We will be over $25 trillion in debt. Your children and grandchildren can’t handle it,” Manchin said.
As far as revenue, Manchin said, “We have got to have a fair tax system. The wealthiest have got to pay their fair share. It’s got to be a system that works.”
He said he supports shutting down tax havens for corporations keep their money off shore and pay no taxes.
Jerry Berman asked about the Republican refusal to put tax revenue on the table.
“Tax revenue has to be on the table,” Manchin said.
Joe Mogus complimented Manchin’s staff for always being polite on the telephone and answering his emails and letters.
Mogus questioned the policy of “nation building.” Paraphrasing Ron Paul, he said, “Essentially we are building bridges in Afghanistan and hospitals in Iraq while we are closing schools and condemning bridges in this country.”
Manchin blamed the Bush Administration for getting us into two costly wars as well as both Presidents Clinton and Bush for revising the tax rates.
“There is blame all around, but we have got to get this back into the position we should. The amount of money we are spending is atrocious,” he said.
Manchin criticized the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but praised Obama for his conduct of the war on terror and getting Osama Bin Laden.
He said the straw that broke the camel’s back for him was when he was visiting Afghanistan and the Geological Survey identified a lot of precious resources such as gas, coal, copper and zinc in the country.
“And guess who was the only country that was able to be successful in bidding on the copper rights in Afghanistan?” Manchin asked rhetorically.
The answer was China.
“I said that’s enough. We got to get out of here,” Manchin said.
Mayor Susan Webster spoke up for small business owners.
“The worst thing that we have leaning on us is government constantly telling us what to do - regulating us, telling us who we have to insure, who we don’t have to insure. Anything you can do to help small business people, believe me, that is the only way that America is going to come back,” Webster said.
Manchin said government has failed to find the “sweet spot” between regulations and free enterprise.
The trick is to try and find a balance between what protections the government can give and the necessary liberty.
Manchin quoted Obama’s State of the Union Address as saying, “There are three million jobs in America today that we don’t have people with the skill sets to fill.”
“If we are going to extend unemployment benefits, why don’t you at least put a clause in it saying that you have to be retrained or re-educated? That’s pretty simple, but we couldn’t even get that into a bill,” Manchin said.
Russell Mokhiber pointed out that one of Manchin’s biggest campaign contributors is Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas drilling company. Mokhiber depicted Wetzel County as being ruined by gas fracking.
During a somewhat heated exchange, Mokhiber accused Manchin of bowing to the energy companies and asked why he won’t support a moratorium on fracking.
Manchin denied the accusation and said, “What we are talking about is basically the Marcellus Shale, which I believe could be a game changer for West Virginia. It has to be done, and done right. The State Legislature just passed laws in order to do it right.”
Manchin said he supports developing Marcellus Shale to generate gas and “create the jobs and revenue we need in this country.”
Frank Schrader asked why someone hasn’t introduced a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Manchin received a round of applause by saying he is sponsoring a balanced budget bill that says “No budget, no pay.”
Schrader asked why the government has to borrow
so heavily from Social Security. Manchin said he always votes against borrowing from the Social Security Fund, but it’s a losing battle.
“The country is so divided on issues. You’ve got 24/7 news media pushing people further to the left and further to the right. There is nobody coming to the middle to try to say ‘Is this really going to be good for our children and grandchildren?’”Manchin said.
Politicians on both sides are worried about what is going to happen in November 2012 when they should be worried about 2025, he said.
Asked what was holding up Circuit Judge Gina Groh’s appointment to a federal judgeship, Manchin said, “Gina should have been appointed a long time ago. She has an impeccable record.”
He blamed congressional Republicans for holding up everything that comes to a vote. He said he was confident she would eventually be appointed.
Jim Hoyt asked what the government can do to get more jobs in this country.
Manchin blamed some of the problem on national uncertainty. “There is no basic dependability that we can govern ourselves in the long term,” he said.
He felt businesses don’t know what the tax code is going to be or what regulations are going to be passed in the future, so businesses continue to sit on $3 trillion cash.
“If you would like to bring some jobs to Morgan County, we have plenty of tourists who are here spending money and more of them would like to come if we had rooms for them to stay,” said Jeanne Mozier.
She drew a loud round of applause by urging Manchin to “please call your friend Governor Tomblin and urge him to get moving on putting more rooms at Cacapon State Park,”
Manchin said the expansion at Cacapon State Park was “still in play.”
Bibi Hahn asked where the senator stood on campaign finance reform.
“I can tell you there are a lot of senators that wish that basically we didn’t have to have these expensive campaigns, but it is what it is today,” Manchin said.
When Hahn asked what could be done, Manchin replied that the first step is transparency. Then candidates would have to answer for their campaign financing and spending.