A 2016 flood in WV that killed 26 people. Those communities are still recovering.

January 22, 2022

Delegate Danielle Walker of West Virginia

Oped by Delegate Danielle Walker, Charleston, WV

When Senator Manchin broke his word  saying he would not vote for the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), he betrayed everyone who voted for him. His action will hurt millions of children and their families. Communities across our state will suffer without BBBA which would save working families $7,400 a year on average in WV, where the median income is $25,000 a year.

We face multiple interconnected existential crises that threaten our shared humanity, national security and planet because of human caused climate change. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said we must cut the carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels in half by 2030 to avoid increasing devastation. Our future is reliant on passage of BBBA, as it combines concrete actions to mitigate against climate change, rebuilds our economy and advances environmental justice—while paving the way for good-paying union jobs. 

Before Manchin pivoted his reasons why he refuses to vote, his primary objection was the extension of Child Tax Credit that has lifted millions of children out of poverty. It has been the single most productive program for children, and their families in recent US history. The BBBA would continue the program.

Another other issue Manchin had was with electric vehicle tax incentives, which would cut fossil fuel pollution in communities that have suffered environmental degradation due to systemic racism and low income. The two issues go hand in hand. In order to begin to lift children out of poverty, and make environmental justice a reality we need the BBBA.

The BBBA’s Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) builds on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s program that gave dignity back to hundreds of thousands during the Depression. CCC can help right the injustices of the past by giving good paying jobs to those hardest hit by environmental racism. It will train hundreds of thousands to build healthy and safe communities that are resilient to storms and floods, expand access to renewable energy, weatherize buildings and install electric vehicle charging stations. BBBA connects the dots between inequity, environment, and the economy to ensure no one is left behind on the path to a greener, more sustainable future.

The BBBA is the hopeful promise of a more inclusive America, one where one’s zip code doesn’t predetermine your future.

Manchin cited rising consumer prices, the federal debt and the omicron as reasons he could not vote for the BBBA investment package. Prices are on the rise largely because supply chains haven’t recovered yet from the pandemic which highlighted that we rely on overseas goods, and the oil cartel held back its supply. President Biden released oil from the strategic oil reserve to ease those price spikes, and he is reworking the supply chain. As for the debt, during the Trump administration the corporate tax cut did nothing to help the economy it only lined the coffers of the 1 percent, proving that the theory of trickledown economics is dead. That measure did raise the deficit. The Penn Wharton Budget Institute issued a report said BBBA will have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term, and, in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures.

Investing in people to improve their lives and livelihoods is very different. As Franklin D. Roosevelt proved with the New Deal it grows the economy. BBBA will help us grow a clean energy economy—adding millions of jobs and bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. It would support more than 556,000 manufacturing jobs and more than 312,000 construction jobs annually. Jobs WV needs.

We’re completely reliant on electricity. Everything comes to a halt when the power goes off, lives and livelihoods are put at risk and the economy suffers. The United States experienced 22 climate caused disasters that exceeded a record $1 billion each in damages in 2020. When supply lines are disrupted, costs increase and consumers and businesses suffer. The Infrastructure Law passed last fall, modernizes the grid. BBBA ensures multiple clean energy sources will feed into it to reach 100 percent clean electricity by 2035. These actions will stop power outages that cost the US economy up to $70 billion annually, according to the Department of Energy. With a diverse portfolio of renewable energy sources feeding into the grid our nation and economy will be more secure and in the process millions of union jobs will be created.

The costs of inaction will escalate daily as children suffer needlessly in poverty, breathing in toxins supplied by fossil fuel air pollution. We must seize this tremendous opportunity before it’s too late and pass the BBBA.

Tell Senator Joe Manchin he must renew his vow and vote for BBBA.