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Joe Manchin: Bailouts for Me, But Not for Thee

Joe Manchin is threatening to kill the reconciliation bill for promoting an "entitlement mentality," almost exactly 13 years after he pushed for a Wall Street bailout. It would be nice if bankers ever had to show a little "personal responsibility."

Senator Joe Manchin in Washington, DC, 2021. (Patrick Semansky / Getty Images)

On Thursday, coal baron-turned-senator Joe Manchin threatened to kill his party’s climate, health care, and anti-poverty legislation, telling reporters: “I cannot accept our economy, or basically our society, moving towards an entitlement mentality.”

Manchin’s declaration comes almost exactly thirteen years after he played a pivotal role pushing for a massive Wall Street bailout that funneled hundreds of billions of dollars of public money to the banks whose financial crisis destroyed the global economy and ravaged West Virginia with mass foreclosures.

The bailed-out banks quickly paid themselves huge government-subsidized bonuses and later bankrolled Manchin’s political campaigns.

“Congress Needs to Act Now”

On October 1, 2008, Manchin used his position as West Virginia governor to intervene in the contentious debate over the federal government’s response to the financial crisis, coauthoring a letter to senators demanding that Congress immediately hand over the cash to bank executives.

“There is a time for partisanship and there is a time for getting things done,” Manchin and Texas governor Rick Perry wrote at the time. “No one likes the hand they’ve been dealt, and now is not the time to assign blame.”

They continued: “Americans across the country and in every demographic are feeling the pinch. If Congress does not act soon, the situation will grow appreciably worse. It’s time for leadership. Congress needs to act now.”

“Governors, Business Lobbyists Up Pressure for Bailout Bill,” read the headline of the Associated Press story about the letter, which helped create momentum to pass the measure in the Senate that same day.

As the bailout enriched Wall Street executives, the Center for Responsible Lending reported that regulators’ failure to curb abuses in subprime mortgage lending would result in more than fifteen thousand West Virginia foreclosures and nearly $350 million of lost home equity in the state.

A few years after the bailout happened, Manchin’s wife was named to the board of a mortgage bank.

Donors from Goldman Sachs — the bank which received $10 billion from the Manchin-backed bailout — would go on to collectively become one of Manchin’s biggest career campaign donors, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets.

Manchin’s Other Bailouts

Manchin’s inveighing against an “entitlement mentality” also comes as he’s demanded the preservation of special tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, which is among the biggest financial contributors to his election bids.

And when he was the governor of West Virginia, the state’s Public Service Commission bailed out the power plant that buys waste coal from Manchin’s family coal brokerage, Enersystems.

Manchin put his Enersystems stake into a blind trust as governor and put the company under the control of his son. On Wednesday, Manchin cited the blind trust arrangement in a testy exchange with Bloomberg News reporter Ari Natter, who asked if Enersystems poses a conflict of interest for him as he’s negotiating Democrats’ economic and climate agenda package.

“I’ve been in a blind trust for 20 years, I have no idea what they’re doing,” Manchin said. When the reporter said Manchin’s still getting “dividends” from the company, he replied: “You got a problem?”

Manchin and his wife each reported having Enersystems holdings worth between $1-5 million last year, generating $1.1 million in combined income, according to their financial disclosure forms.