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Joe Manchin's Denigration of "Entitlements" is Nothing New

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has been coy about what he wants from the Democratic “reconciliation” bill meant to pass as much of the president’s agenda into law as possible. Other than a number — he wants to shrink the Biden’s administration’s Build Back Better proposal from $3.5 trillion to $1.5 trillion — Manchin has not said much about which policies he would keep and which he would cut.

Manchin does, however, have one red line.

“I’m just not, so you know, I cannot accept our economy or basically our society moving toward an entitlement mentality,” Manchin said last week. “I’m more of a rewarding, because I can help those who are going to need help if those who can help themselves do so.”


As with so much of our national political discourse, this isn’t a new idea. In “Free Enterprise: An American History,” the historian Lawrence B. Glickman shows how proponents of “free enterprise” and laissez-faire capitalism used the language of entitlement and dependency to condemn the economic guarantees of the New Deal.

“For the first time in my lifetime, we have a president who is willing to mislead the people on fundamental questions of finance,” Senator Robert Taft of Ohio declared in a 1936 speech to the Women’s National Republican Club, “who is willing openly to attack the very basis of the system of American democracy, who is willing to let the people believe that their problems can be solved and their lives made easier by taking money away from other people or manipulating the currency, who is willing to encourage them to believe that the government owes them a living whether they work or not.”

Or, as Senator Strom Thurmond put it in 1949: “Nothing could be more un-American and more devastating to a strong and virile nation than to encourage its citizens to expect government to provide security from cradle to grave.”

This “hiving of the country into productive makers and unproductive takers,” Glickman notes, “formed the basis of the traditional American belief in ‘producerism,’ the idea that people who made and grew things deserved pride of place in the republic.”

Read entire article at New York Times