Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) justified his reluctance to support President Biden’s Build Back Better plan by pointing out that the U.S. has already spent more money combating the COVID-19 pandemic than it did fighting World War II in today’s dollars.
“We’ve spent one point nine trillion,” Manchin said. “Let me just explain, there have been over five-and-a-half trillion dollars go out the door since last March. Democrats and Republicans worked all last year. OK? Do you understand that World War Two and the Marshall Plan rebuilding Europe … [in] today’s dollars was only four point seven trillion.”
“We saved the world” with $4.7 trillion, Manchin added, but “you’re going to spend another two or three?”
“I don’t know why we’re saying that has to be done right now,” the senator added. “I have no idea, no idea what has to be done right now.”
Congress has already passed legislation totaling $5.9 trillion to address the COVID-19 epidemic. In addition, in inflation-adjusted terms, the United States spent approximately $4.1 trillion on World War II and $114 billion on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe following the war.
Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have expressed opposition to Biden’s Build Back Better program, including a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill with Republican backing and a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that would pass the Senate if every Democrat voted in favor.
In a stinging statement earlier this week, Manchin accused progressive Democrats of holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill “hostage.” He added that he would not back the massive spending plan they seek without thoroughly examining how its policies will affect the U.S. economy.
On the other hand, Manchin said that he and Biden had agreed to spend $1.75 trillion.
“People are concerned about inflation, they’re concerned about the debt,” he said, speaking about his constituents in West Virginia who struggle with higher food and gas prices. However, he said Congress should find out “what the real cost is. We’re using ten years of revenue to basically supply one or two or five or six years of services, and that’s not the true cost.”
Team Biden has emphasized that the package will cost “zero” since revenue-raising initiatives will be included to offset the costs. Yet Republicans have warned that more federal spending will make inflation worse, reported FOXBusiness.
“Inflation is rising at its fastest pace in three decades, and it’s gnawing away at Americans’ wages, savings, and aspirations,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the ranking member of the Joint Economic Committee.
“It’s making it harder for families to afford gas and groceries and make ends meet,” he added. “In our research released today, the Joint Economic Committee found that these rising prices for everyday goods are being turbocharged by Congress spending money it simply doesn’t have. If we don’t stop this runaway train, inflation could get worse.”
The Joint Economic Committee is a bipartisan committee that investigates economic issues and makes recommendations for improvement.
Rising prices are partly due to the slow rate with which the U.S. economy is restarting, compounded by supply chain disruptions due to a scarcity of commodities and personnel. As a result, cost-push inflation has emerged, in which businesses are forced to pass on higher prices to consumers.
According to Jackie Benson, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee Republicans, such inflation is likely temporary.
The most concerning risk, she argues, is demand-pull inflation, which could arise due to government stimulus, distributing cash to consumers, causing demand to outstrip supply.
“Unfortunately, if extraordinary spending levels continue, monetary tapering or even tightening may not have its intended effect,” Benson said. “Congress should therefore consider the inflationary risks of continuing its recent pattern of ballooning government spending,” she added.