In advance of next month’s General Election, The Register-Herald invited all candidates on the ballot for U.S. Senator, U.S. House of Representatives, Governor, State Supreme Court, Attorney General and Agriculture Commissioner to appear before our editorial board. We are featuring those interviews through the end of this week. Today’s candidate is incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin running for U.S. Senate.
America’s debt has now exceeded $16 trillion and yet Congress has been unwilling to tackle this. Just how serious is the debt? Are we on the edge of bankruptcy? What is it going to take to end the bipartisan bickering and get the country on the road to recovery?
MANCHIN: Let’s look at the debt. We know it’s for real. I brought Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson to Charleston. You were there. I think it was a very enlightening and educational forum. It was done in a way that everyone could understand it. So it is for real. Whatever pet concerns you might have, and we all have a special interest, whether it be educational, whether it be Headstart, whether it be seniors issues, whether it be the military, and whether it’s education, whether it’s veterans, everything you might hold dear and believe that government has a responsibility — infrastructure, roads, water and sewer — everything is in jeopardy. When they explained, as you recall, we only have enough cash flow to pay for three things, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, our social needs. Everything else we do is with borrowed money. Everything. So everything else I just mentioned to you we borrowed money to pay for it. The greatest analogy is, we signed a treaty in 1979 to defend Taiwan against mainland China. The only problem is, if we have to fulfill that promise, we have to borrow money from China to defend Taiwan against China. And that shows you how ludicrous it is to get ourselves in this position. So, yes, I did not vote for this continuing resolution. This is the 13th continuing resolution since I’ve been there. It basically gives Congress the ability to spend money, a cap for this period of time, since we don’t have a budget and haven’t passed a budget in three and a half years. I cannot comprehend. I’ve not been in this environment. Some governors have a constitutional mandate to balance the budget and you’ve got to make it work. The first thing you ask is your revenues. You look at what revenues you anticipate having and you try to keep your expenditures within that parameter. We’ve been accumulating trillion dollar deficits every year. This will be the fourth year in a row. And I’ve told people, if you want to blame the Republicans, there’s plenty of blame. If you want to say George Bush, basically, we declared war twice and never paid for it. We cut taxes twice without the consideration that we needed the revenue. So, the last balanced budget was under Clinton and we went $8 trillion in debt in an eight-year period. Fine. Lot of blame there. The Democrats took it and haven’t made it better. We’ve gone $5 trillion in a four-year period of time. So you follow me? They’re saying, we needed to do this because we had to stop us from falling in a deep depression. The bottom line is, you’re not going to fix it by blaming the Republicans, nor blaming the Democrats. You’re going to fix it by rising to the occasion as an American, saying, listen, this is our challenge and it’s going to hit Dec. 31 of this year. December 31 of this year the Bush tax credits go off. That’s $3.8 trillion. You have sequestration, which kicks in. That means guaranteed cutbacks, discretionary, non-discretionary. That’s $1.2 billion. You’re at $5 billion and going there. That’s the swing that will happen and they say we can’t take the swing all at one time. That would be the reason for us to basically come to a grand bargain. The grand bill needs to be the Bowles-Simpson template — cut expenses, have a fair revenue package that has taxes that are fair and then basically reform entitlements. You can’t do it with one. You can’t do it with two. It’s going to take a broad approach. Yes, it’s for real. And I’m concerned.
We go back Nov. 13 and all they do is extend it. And if they extend, and I have been a stickler on this, I would not vote for this last continuing resolution, which we just voted on that brought us home, because they extended that to April 1, six months. I said if you’re serious about fixing the problem, extend that continuing resolution until to the end of the year. That will keep us here and make us work to come to an agreement, because the consequences are so grave. If they just completely continue to move it out, I think the markets will suffer greatly and we’ll all be hurt. So I’m fighting it. I’m trying to bring people together. We have about 40 senators — 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans — that are working together, willing to sign. We need 60. And that’s the problem. We’ll see how this election plays out and I hope whoever is the new president, the first thing they say on election night, whoever that may be, whether it’s President Obama, or whether it’s a new president, Romney, that they say, “Tomorrow, we say, Day One, we fix the finances of this country and that’s No. 1 and foremost.” Because we can’t do anything else if you can’t pay for it. So, I’m serious about it. It is for real. I’m concerned. But I’m optimistic that we’ll fix it.