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Opinion | Joe Manchin Doesn’t Like What Joe Biden Is Doing

Or, as Roosevelt himself declared in a 1932 speech not long before he was elected president, “Even Jefferson realized that the exercise of the property rights might interfere with the rights of the individual that the government, without whose assistance the property rights could not exist, must intervene, not to destroy individualism, but to protect it.”

The market, in other words, was made for man, not man for the market, and after a generation spent running away from this insight — which also helped animate Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” — Democrats are finally coming back to the idea that people are entitled to a basic standard of living, regardless of whether they work or not.

Manchin stands against this development. And he is not, of course, alone. Since Biden entered office, not a single Republican — not a “moderate” and not a “populist” — has shown any interest in actually passing policies that might give Americans some freedom from the pressures of the market. Even initial pandemic relief, passed under President Donald Trump, was forced to overcome Republican opposition to anything that might free workers from total market dependence.

“The moment we go back to work, we cannot create an incentive for people to say, ‘I don’t need to go back to work because I can do better someplace else,’” Senator Rick Scott of Florida notoriously said, in opposition to a plan to expand unemployment assistance.

Compared with the recent past, Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill is a major shift from austerity and retrenchment. But relative to the challenges at hand, it is, at best, a modest change in pace. It is, as Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has said, “a compromise.”

And yet this halting attempt to build a somewhat stronger safety net is too much for Manchin — and the forces of capital he represents — to countenance.

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