During a press conference on Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized Sen. Joe Manchin on his use of the term “entitlement society” in referring to the cost of an infrastructure bill and President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. Sanders also sought details on what Manchin wants in the legislation.
BERNIE SANDERS: Now, Senator Manchin as I understand it talked about today about not wanting to see our country become an entitlement society. Well, I am not exactly sure what he means by that.
Does that mean that we end the $300 direct payments for working class parents which have cut childhood poverty in this country as a result of the American Rescue Plan in half? Is protecting working families and cutting childhood poverty an entitlement? Does Senator Manchin think we should once again have one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth?
At a time when millions of seniors in Vermont, in West Virginia, all across this country have teeth in their mouths that are rotting, when they can't afford hearing aids in order to communicate with their grandchildren, and when they can't afford a pair of glasses in order to read a newspaper, does Senator Manchin really believe that seniors are not entitled to digest their food and that they're not entitled to hear and see properly? Is that really too much to ask in the richest country on Earth, that elderly people have teeth in their mouth and can see and can hear?
Does Senator Manchin should not believe that we have to end the absurdity of the United States paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, sometimes 10 times more for a particular drug than is paid in Canada or other countries around the world? Does Senator Manchin believed that we should be the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave and that working mothers should not be able to stay home with a child who is sick? Are workers not entitled to be able to do that?
Does Senator Manchin believe that working-class parents in West Virginia and Vermont should not have to pay-- does he believe that they should have to pay 25% or 30% of their incomes on childcare? All over this country, working class families are paying 25% or 30% of their incomes on childcare so that they could go out and do their jobs. Are the children of this country not entitled to high-quality child care and pre-K education?
Does Senator Manchin not believe that working families in this country are entitled, entitled to affordable housing, and that we should not have some 600,000 people in America, including many veterans, sleeping out on the streets?
Does Senator Manchin not believe that at a time when we have a major labor shortage in many parts of this country because our young people lack the skills they need that they are not entitled to at least two years of free community college so they can get the training in order to go out and get the good-paying jobs that are there?
And perhaps most importantly, does Senator Manchin not believe what the scientists are telling us, that we face an existential threat regarding climate change and that it is absolutely imperative that we move boldly to cut carbon emissions? Scientists have told us we're on a red alert. Some of you know the-- a number of scientists received the Nobel Prize for their work on climate change. Does Senator Manchin not believe that our children and grandchildren are entitled to live in a country and a world that is healthy and is habitable?
Senator Manchin has been extremely critical of the $3 and 1/2 trillion proposal that many of us support, in fact, 9 out of 11 members of the Budget Committee support. But the time is long overdue for him to tell us with specificity, not generalities-- we're beyond generalities-- with specificity what he wants and what he does not want and to explain that to the people of West Virginia and America. I look forward to working with Senator Manchin and everyone else in the Senate to pass a strong reconciliation bill as well as a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Thank you.