Gary Horton | Coal, Not Child Care, in America’s Xmas Stockings

Gary Horton
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Wow, COVID, two years in. And just when it seemed we were finally getting on top of the situation. Denmark, Finland, Italy – a host of others, all just were called out by the Centers for Disease Control as Level 4 dangerous for travel. The way these things go, and they do go by a set pattern, our turn at the COVID-spike plate looks like a week or two after Christmas. Hold on to your travel plans and get your booster shot. 

If you’re still a COVID denier or jab-shy, now might be a good time to take the leap of scientific faith and roll up your sleeve. It only hurts a bit. And especially, please – if you’re older or up there in weight or have heart / lung / kidney issues – it’s a good insurance policy. Give yourself and loved ones a truly meaningful Christmas gift of a quick jab in your arm to ensure you’ll stick around a few more years. Your lungs, and a COVID-weary nurse, may well thank you for it. 

There’s a lot of news getting packed into this Christmas season. Foremost of the sad sort of news is about holiday killjoy, Joe Manchin. Old “Dig Giant Holes in the Ground” Joe, whose family owns a large coal mining industry business in West Virginia, just unexpectedly kiboshed Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill. Now, rather than building back post-COVID better, we won’t be building much of anything – at least not with important national leadership and funding.  

Key in the bill were substantial sums for building clean-energy wind and solar power throughout the U.S. Clean energy, a direct competitor to Manchin’s state’s declining dirty coal industry, just got a gut punch, which will dampen the U.S. clean energy movement for decades and will further increase our reliance on digging dirty stuff out of the ground and burning it many more years to come. Kiss off America leading the world in clean power technology. Instead, we’re further committing to backward carbon burning and becoming a world clean energy laggard. 

Burning crap. Can you imagine, in the Year of Our Lord 2021, in an era where we have watch phones on our wrists and super computers in our pockets – where heart valves are installed without cutting your chest and rockets land on their butts three at a time – that in this era we’re further coming to burning carbon crap for energy and transport? Burning rocks for power? A 1700s technology taking preference over clean solar as national policy? 

Manchin would have us driving coal-powered cars if he could. Why stop there? Let’s cut down the rain forests and build wood-burning cars. Remember when we burned lead in our gas and the skies over L.A. were thick as pea soup with pollution? Well, we stopped doing that and we substantially cleaned up our local air. Now, with the advent of electric cars, we can finish the job of air pollution. But there’s still the matter of HOW we get the electricity into the cars. 

Manchin won’t imperil his conflict-of-interest coal industry. Just burn crap instead. Blow burnt crap into the air we breathe and into the atmosphere that protects Earth from overheating. Continuing burning crap for power and motion is just stupid when we have better technology nowadays. Manchin is a dinosaur. And, thanks to him, the rest of us may end up like the dinosaurs did, too. America needed a national mandate on clean energy construction and this backward guy from a backward state just made progressive energy planning extinct. Merry Christmas to carbon. Americans got coal in their stockings… 

Manchin also shot down the child care credit embedded in the BBB bill. We all know that COVID has wreaked havoc on working-class families, especially with both parents working. How to home-school your kid when schools are closed but you need to work? How to keep to jobs and move kids around when both parents are working their butts off to make ends meet?  

Child care today is ridiculously expensive – usually close to or over $20,000 per kid per year in private day care. This, perhaps as much or more than anything else is a key disincentive for lower wage-earning moms to work. Staying home is cheaper than paying day care for a kid or two. So Manchin just killed the opportunity we had to raise employment and lower welfare. Most industrialized countries already include pre-K child care in their educational programs. Not us… Manchin just burned affordable child care, too. 

Friends, the Grinch has a new name, and it’s Joe Manchin, the “Burn Stuff King” of 2021. 

But, other than COVID and Manchin’s depressingly backward thinking, there’s a lot of good to celebrate this holiday season. We have less war. Employment is way up. Jobs are plentiful. Wages are up, faster than inflation. The stock market is at record highs. Your home equity has soared. Interest rates remain at record lows. Gas is tipping lower. Homelessness, while so very far from fixed, is now front and center on every politician’s reelection minds. We have vaccines against a plague and they’re substantially effective. And Amazon delivered most of your packages before Christmas… 

So, for this season, Joe Grinch can go suck a smokestack. Have a very Merry Christmas and let’s all celebrate all the good that yet abounds all around. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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