Manchin on Congress: ‘We Never Acknowledge We’ve Made a Mistake’

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who was elected to the Senate in 2010, said he is still struggling to learn the “new math” used in Washington that leads to deficits rather than balanced budgets.

“The first day I came to the Senate I said, ‘What’s our revenue?’ Well, I was told immediately we’re going to spend about $3.5 to $3.7 trillion and I said, ‘OK, how much money will we have?’ ‘Well, we’ve looked every way possible and we don’t think we can cut much out of the $3.5 or $3.7,’” Manchin, a former governor of West Virginia, said at a Brookings Institution event on governing from the middle.

“How much do you think we have to pay? ‘Oh, we have about $2.2 trillion to pay.’ I said, ‘We’re not high-end mathematicians at home but we can add and subtract. We figure you’re about $1.5 trillion short.’”

Manchin said balanced budgets apparently do not apply to the federal government.

“I haven’t figured out this new math in Washington. I’m trying,” he said. “Everyone’s confused about this new math. I’m having a hard time myself.”

In West Virginia, Manchin said people often asked him how he was able to balance the budget.

“I had to pick things. Everybody wanted all these things to be done. I said, ‘Fine, here’s what I’ve got to work with. Tell me which group you want to go tell that we can’t do that anymore,” he said. “We are now trying to bring that same approach to the Senate.”

Manchin announced plans to introduce legislation that would require Congress, the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office to include tax expenditures in budget materials.

“The same way discretionary spending is a line item in budget proposals today,” he said. “In Washington, I guess whenever we do something we think it was what needed to be done. We never acknowledge we made a mistake – it didn’t work. If that’s the case, then why do you need us to come back every year?”

Manchin, a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said he is in favor of raising the federal minimum wage but that it will not boost the middle class.

“I’m for raising the minimum wage. I think it should be indexed. I think a lot of things should be indexed once we get them back to where they should be but the minimum wage from this standpoint is not going to raise the middle class,” he said. “If minimum wage is what they think is the only way we can raise any type of quality life, we’re in trouble.”

Addressing entitlement reform, Manchin said, “we’re not rehabilitating anybody. The culture of America is we don’t seem to want to hold you responsible or accountable.”

“You know, we give you something, if it doesn’t work, we’ll give you twice as much,” he added.