Build Back Better Now DOA: Next Phase in US Economic and Political Crisis Begins

Months ago this writer predicted that Senator Manchin would never support Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ Bill and was simply engaging in ‘bad faith bargaining’ to string the Democrats along. Manchin’s goal was to get the Democrat leadership–Biden, Pelosi, Durbin, Shumer et. al.–to reduce their proposals, which they conveniently did, on repeated occasions.

But Manchin’s real objective has always been to shit can the bill, in order to prevent the necessity of raising taxes on corporations and investors in order to pay for it. To borrow a phrase: “It’s the Tax Cuts, Stupid!”.

The taxes involved in the Build Back Better bill were just a small part of Trump’s $4.5 trillion 2018 tax cuts. The Build Back Better bill’s funding involved partially raising Trump’s corporate taxes. But even that was too much for the thousands of corporate lobbyists who descended on Washington in recent months; their single objective has been to ensure corporate interests in the Senate–within the Democrat party as well as the Republican–don’t pass the Build Back Better bill in any form, since paying for it involved to a significant extent clawing back some of Trump’s $4.5T tax cuts for corporations and investors. Their lobbying effort has proved quite successful.

From the start, Manchin (and Sinema as back up) have been the point of the corporate spear of interests determined to block the Build Back Better bill. To try to lure Manchin into some deal, the original Build Back Better $3.5 trillion bill was reduced to $1.75 trillion by Democrat leaders this past July. Manchin then played Biden, Sanders and the rest, constantly suggesting he might agree to something amounting to that total–but putting no proposal of his own on the bargaining table at any time. That tactic, of implying he might agree, then not, is classic bad faith bargaining: that is, refuse to agree to anything your opponent proposes, suggest you might agree to something less if they put it forth in writing, but then rejecting it and refusing to make even an alternative offer. That’s classic ‘bad faith bargaining’. If that were the practice in union-labor negotiations, the union would have declared an ‘unfair labor practice’ based on bad faith bargaining, and gone out on strike.

But Biden and naive Congressional Democrats kept falling for Manchin’s bad faith bargaining trick. Democrat Senate colleagues of Manchin kept saying ‘don’t piss off Joe Manchin’ or he’ll never agree to anything’. But Joe never had any intention of agreeing to even something. That was made totally clear this past weekend when he said “NO”, he couldn’t agree to the bill in any form, as well as the way he delivered his coup de grace tot he bill: His answer to shit can the bill was given on Fox News without even notifying Biden and the White House he intended to appear on Fox and do so. When the White House desperately tried to contact him right after his announcement, he refused to take calls from them.

Historically, Manchin’s response was analogous to the Japanese not providing a declaration of war to the US before bombing Pearl Harbor. It was not only bad faith; it was treachery.

In other words, Joe Biden (the other president Joe) has been ‘Pearl Harbored’ by de facto prez Joe Manchin.

The response of Democrat leaders to Manchin’s announcement killing the bill has been typically timid. Senator Sanders replied they should put the bill to a vote in the Senate to show West Virginians where Manchin stands. As if it was not already clear to everyone! Dick Durbin’s reply was ‘let’s all go home for Xmas’ and we’ll all feel better when we return and maybe can get something done’. Such timidity reveals traditional Democrat political pusillanimity and a desperate ‘too clever’ spin that the bill isn’t quite dead. Somehow the Zombie legislation can be resurrected. But Build Back Better is not only DOA, but buried.

The charade of negotiations within the Democrat Party over the Build Back Better bill since this past July have thus come to an end, as this writer has been predicting they eventually would for months.

So what’s next? Some Democrats will try to keep the charade going. They’ll recommend the various provisions of the now DOA Build Back Better be broken out and voted on separately. All this will mean is that Manchin and the corporate interests behind him–the lobbyists and corporate supporters in the ranks of the Democrat party in the Senate–will simply have more chances to vote NO on separate provisions. The farce of trying to pass a real social spending stimulus bill will continue–with similar results.

It should be clear that Manchin represents the wing of the party–the corporate wing–that wants to prevent any further spending on social programs for the tens of millions of Americans now desperate increasingly to make ends meet. A growing faction within the Democrats in Congress see the collapse of Build Back Better as an opportunity to turn the Democrat party toward the right. They argue that by embracing Sanders’ and other proposals of the progressive wing in Congress in 2021 the leaders of the party have driven it off course. A turn to the right is thus required.

The failure to pass the Build Back Better bill represents a milestone both economically and politically and the beginning of a new phase in legislation–and in the growing economic and political crisis in America as well.

Politically, it means the Democrats are ‘toast’ in the 2022 midterm elections. It will be nearly impossible to turn around public voter sentiment by next November, which shows in many recent polls and surveys  growing disappointment, even disgust, with the Democrats failure to get needed programs passed. Biden ran on a promise he could ‘get things done’ by uniting Democrats and Republicans to pass necessary legislation to ensure economic recovery. In fact, he now has proven he can’t even unite his own party to do so.

There is also a historical deja vu moment here. In 2009 the Democrats, in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency under Obama, passed insufficient legislation of $787 billion. Obama listened to his corporate advisors and low balled that recovery spending. The result was it failed to generate sufficient jobs and economic recovery. The economy lagged and stumbled for working class America for years thereafter. That failure to pass sufficient legislation to ensure recovery for all resulted in Democrats being trashed in the 2010 midterm elections. A decade of McConnell and Republican dominance followed, fueling the Trump rebellion from the right, his election in 2016, and the passage of the $4.5 trillion corporate-investor tax cuts. Democrats are all but doomed to experience a similar political debacle in 2022 midterms.

The historical analogy can be extended. FDR faced a similar choice in 1934. His initial legislation in 1933 focused on rescuing the banks and enabling businesses to raise prices as a way to grow business profits to jump start investment and job recovery. It failed. Business interests in summer 1934 demanded more business directed subsidies, tax cuts, and support.  FDR instead turned to programs known as the New Deal. The 1934 midterm elections resulted in more gains for Democrats in Congress, which ensured the passage of New Deal legislation starting 1935.  Obama chose the opposite of FDR: Obama turned to the right and corporate policies, instead of social programs benefiting households and consumption. The outcome was, unlike in 1934, Democrats were slaughtered in 2010 midterms.

Biden’s trajectory is now similar to Obama’s in 2010 than FDR’s in 1934. The conclusions should be clear: Democrat Party 2021 is not the party of your grandfathers’ in 1934. It’s not even the party of your fathers’ in 1966. It’s now a political animal firmly in control of corporate interests.

The phase of economic stimulus measures is now over, after not even a year effort. There will now be a hiatus of spending until the Republicans take over in January 2023. Then a typical Austerity Phase will begin.  In 2009 Obama engineered his $787 billion insufficient stimulus package; only to agree in August 2011 with McConnell and Republicans to ‘take back’ $1.5 trillion in social program spending. If Biden follows Obama’s trajectory, he’ll agree to some degree of austerity after 2022 with Republicans, justifying it with ‘it could be worse’.

The US has already entered the ante-room to austerity. Early Biden stimulus from the American Rescue Plan’s $1.9 trillion package (of which only $900B was projected to be spent in 2021-22) has dissipated. The extended unemployment benefits, the rental assistance, the emergency checks are all gone. Soon to expire are the child care credits, forbearance for student loans and mortgages, and other programs. All will have a severe negative impact on consumer spending. All this occurs at a moment when it appears the new Covid Omicron variant will have some degree of negative impact on economic activity again, and as rising, chronic inflation promises to whack household real spending in 2022 big time as well.

In short, economic consequences to the defeat of the Build Back Better bill will be the main economic story in 2022. Democrats are failing once again to provide sufficient economic stimulus to ensure a sustained economic recovery. Longer term, through 2024, the economy will experience brief, weak recoveries followed by short, shallow relapses of economic recovery–as it did post 2010 under Obama.

Bidenomics is now become just retread Obamanomics.

Politically, the consequences in 2022 will be similar to 2010 as well : Democrats will almost certainly be trashed in 2022 midterms–especially since Manchin, Sinema and others are also prepared to shit can any voting rights bills.

Democrats are showing once again they are incapable of resolving the crisis–economic and political–now confronting the country.

Sanders’ and their progressive wing’s so-called ‘Inside Strategy’ of reforming the party and returning it to its ‘new deal’ roots is now clearly a failed strategy as well. The progressive wing capitulated in the House in November and is now in total disarray. All Sanders can say is ‘let’s embarrass Manchin’ by putting the Zombie Build Back Better bill to a vote.

So which way the Democrats 2022-24? The way now points to a new debacle in 2022, concessions to McConnell the next two years, and a likely resurgence of the right 2022-24. In 2024 it’s like there will be a return of a more clever Trump-like candidate in a DeSantis or something–if not Trump himself as Democrats bungle their January 6 investigation and their Attorney General Garland continues to go slow on Trump.

In short, the political crisis of Democracy in America will continue to deepen, the US economy will stumble along at best, and concerned Americans will have to decide whether to throw their support again, a third time, to Democrats who have proven twice now incapable of resolving the twin crises of democracy decline and faltering economic recovery. The old saying of ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’, applies here.

Democrats have been given a majority control of the Presidency and Congress twice–in 2009 and 2020–and have failed twice to deliver anything but tepid, and ultimately insufficient, policies. The first in 2009 as tragedy; the second in 2020 as farce, as the saying goes. History now shows both parties–Republican and Democrat–are ultimately controlled by corporate interests. Perhaps a more accurate description today should be in America today we have now a single party, a Corporate Party of America, with two wings, Democrat and Republican.

Should voters choose to get fooled a third time is the question? Or should they perhaps seek a different, independent organizational alternative? If the latter, there’s no time to lose since Time is clearly running out.


Jack Rasmus is author of  ’The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy from Reagan to Trump, Clarity Press, January 2020. He blogs at and hosts the weekly radio show, Alternative Visions on the Progressive Radio Network on Fridays at 2pm est. His twitter handle is @drjackrasmus.