Joe Manchin had some words of wisdom to impart to those attending the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston recently. “I’m very reluctant to go down the path of electric vehicles. I’m old enough to remember standing in line in 1974 trying to buy gas — I remember those days. I don’t want to have to be standing in line waiting for a battery for my vehicle, because we’re now dependent on a foreign supply chain, mostly China.”
He added that he has “a hard time understanding” why the federal government would invest in a network of electric car charging stations, as the Biden administration aims to do, according to a report by The Guardian. “I’ve read history and I remember Henry Ford inventing the Model T, but I sure as hell don’t remember the US government building filling stations. The market did that.” His remarks were greeted with wild applause from those in attendance, mostly oilmen who have made their fortunes by sucking on the government tit for every federal dollar and tax break they could scrounge.
The Guardian points out that Sanctimonious Joe has received more campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry than any other current member of the Senate. In his case, their investment of a few million dollars has resulted in billions, if not trillions, of dollars in profits. Nothing says free enterprise like buying votes in Congress, a stunning example of how to tilt the playing field as much as possible to favor your own interests will making things difficult if not impossible for your opponents.
Ed Kim, president of AutoPacific, an auto industry research firm, tells The Guardian, “Joe Manchin represents West Virginia which is dependent upon coal so I believe he has a vested interest in downplaying clean energy. Look at what’s happening right now. We are seeing fuel prices we haven’t seen in years because of geopolitical issues. Any measures we take to reduce our reliance on petroleum is good for our economy, our environment, and to ensure the country doesn’t come screeching to a halt.”
Writing in the Washington Post, Greg Sargent praised a 2016 book entitled American Amnesia — How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper — co-written by Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker.
“Government investment has been the foundation of the development of technologies throughout U.S. history,” Sargent writes. “As the great book American Amnesia recounts, much U.S. technological advancement in the 20th century ‘rested on public efforts to encourage and spread technological innovations through modern infrastructure.’ This includes the development of the automobile and its infrastructure.”
“The basic reality is that the modern roadway system, including the ubiquitous fuel station, was as much a creature of government as any major feature of our economy in the 20th century,” Hacker tells Sargent. “Road planners, both state and federal, mapped out major roadways, purchased or seized land, and, in many cases, set up the well-spaced fueling franchises necessary to ensure that people could get where they wanted to go speedily. Much of this was funded by gas taxes.”
“The spread of the filling station was anything but a free market development,” Hacker says, noting that without a “foundation of government investment and regulation,” the automobile would have been “all but worthless.” Government should subsidize development of electric vehicles precisely because the “market” probably cannot achieve this on its own at the outset, says Sargent. Government can help markets achieve a social imperative — speeding our transition off fossil fuels — just as it has throughout our history.
Ayn Rand Is Alive & Well & Living In Washington, DC
Ayn Rand, with her brand of tough guy self sufficiency, is what most reactionaries read at night before dropping off to sleep to remind themselves how God helps those who help themselves, as they help themselves to every federal dollar they can lay their hands on. Boy, howdy, do they ever! And all the time, they prattle on about how they are a product of their own success and how nobody helped them make their way in the world, they did it all themselves. It’s all about me, me, me. I did this all by myself and no one else helped me get where I am today!
It’s the heart and soul of the “government is evil” mantra that helped propel Ronald Reagan — a broken down B-movie hack — into the White House, followed years later by Donald Trump — a broken down reality TV hack. And yet, when a suggestion is made that perhaps members of Congress shouldn’t trade on insider information to make themselves rich, they all clump together, roll their eyes heavenward, and react as it they are offended that anyone would think they would profit personally from public service. Martha Stewart went to prison for doing it, but for politicians it is perfectly OK because they are far, far above the law.
The hypocrisy in Manchin’s approach is that if he is concerned about Chinese companies controlling America’s battery supply, he and his colleagues should be taking steps to encourage domestic battery production. He is fast enough to claim credit when a good old American company like Toyota invests a few million bucks in a battery factory in West “By God” Virginia to power “self-charging” hybrids that use last century technology. Where are his vaunted scruples then?
The truth of the matter is he is not a Democrat. He has no interest in socially progressive policies, having recently voted to terminate expanded tax deductions for child care and for school lunches. “We can’t afford it!” he wails, while taking calls from Exxon on his private line every time its lobbyists call. This is a man who wouldn’t know a moral principle if it bit him.
He made his position abundantly clear when he sat with the Republicans during the State of the Union speech rather than with the members of his own party. And keep in mind that the Democratic National Committee poured millions of dollars into his re-election campaign against a progressive Democratic opponent because it too is awash in fossil fuel money and chose to throw the American people overboard rather than risk losing a dollar of campaign contributions. So much for Democratic scruples as well.
The only reason Democrats haven’t throw Manchin out of the party is because that would hand control of the Senate to the Republicans and “Darth Vader” McConnell. History may very well be able to trace the date when the world lost the race to address climate change in any meaningful way to the date Manchin was re-elected. People who have no soul and no conscience think they are winners because Ayn Rand told them so. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are leeches and social pariahs and deserve every ounce of opprobrium coming their way for deliberately turning their backs on humanity.