By Jeff Mackler
After 15 raucous votes spanning almost two weeks, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy, R-California, was elected House Speaker on January 7. The vote was 216-212, a party-line vote with six Republicans voting present. From the beginning, former President Donald Trump pressured his 20 super-supporters, mostly in the Republicans’ “rightwing” Freedom Caucus, to back McCarthy. They refused until several behind-the-scenes deals, and a new “rules package” governing House operations, were negotiated.
Perish the thought! The Republican dissenters won the right to actually see future proposed legislation packages a number of days before they are put to a vote! Imagine that! Members of the U.S. Congress will now have the right to read and review the legislation they are voting on! Readers here might think that my words are exaggerated. Not so. Contrary to popular belief, the often multi-thousand page pre-packaged legislation traditionally put together by the House Speaker is often quickly rammed through without most House members having seen it or having time to read it. Regardless, they follow their leader.
This was the case in 2021 when Democratic Party House members re-elected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, despite the fact that a handful of Democrats meekly suggested that so-called progressives withhold their votes for Pelosi until President Biden agreed to not veto legislation providing free, universal healthcare, known as Medicare for All.
Liberal Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her like-minded Squad associates, along with the House “Progressive Caucus,” ditched that effort, although Ocasio-Cortez and others complained to the media, along with some Republicans, that they had not had time to read the legislation they were pressed to vote for. They voted for it anyway, as they voted for the war budget and all U.S. wars.
Among the rules that irked Congress’s traditional politicos was one that allowed a single Republican at any time in the future to jam up the “legislative process” by demanding yet another, and perhaps another and still another, new vote on who would or could be the Republican leader. They insisted that their elected leader be accountable at all times to their party, not to mention to the entire Congress. They insisted that instead of an unstated “party discipline” compelling them to vote for the leader’s legislation, any and all future legislation be democratically discussed, debated and voted on openly—impliedly in public view!
And further, their intransigence won them the right to limit the content of future legislation to a single subject as opposed to the present practice of inserting, usually secretly, unrelated special interest items drafted by the corporate elite or their lobbyists. The nation’s thousands of pages that constitute the Tax Code are a prime example of the superrich writing the laws that supposedly govern them.
Ruling elite, not Congress write critical legislation
In the normal course of House functioning, whether Democrats or Republicans hold a majority, the Speaker and his top advisers, in and out of government – almost always the real representatives of the U.S. ruling class – assemble the often multi-thousand pages of legislation that meet the needs of the billionaire and trillionaire corporate elite who really run the country.
None of this, of course, is meant to imply that the antics of the “rebellious” Republicans have either a democratic thrust or leftwing intention. Indeed, the first piece of legislation that they had planned for submission to the new Congress was a proposal to cut previously approved Democratic Party-initiated funding aimed at hiring more Internal Revenue Service staff, supposedly to collect more taxes from the rich. A posturing Biden and some of his Democrats, proclaiming “the rich really don’t pay taxes,” had advocated increasing IRS funding so that an adequately staffed IRS would supposedly do so. But the Republicans’ IRS bill was shunted aside when Biden’s Office of Management and Budget announced that rather than saving money by cutting the IRS budget, $114 billion would have to be added to the federal deficit, presumably, the amount that fewer IRS agents would not collect from the super rich. No matter! The rich still won’t pay much in taxes.
The Democrats’ last major tax bill was approved near unanimously because it gifted the ruling rich, outright, unprecedented $billions, indeed $trillions! No matter! The Democrats “paid” for the loss with printed Treasury bonds, used to cover the deficit in the federal budget brought on in part by gifting the rich what amounted to free money! Today the U.S. debt at $32 trillion exceeds the total annual Gross Domestic Product of the country. With the U.S. dollar today, and since the post-WWII era, the “coin of the realm,” the ruling rich feel no compulsion to exercise restraint. What they gift outright to the rich in tax breaks, military spending and the various 18 agencies of the National Security State that employs six million personnel with one or another level of national security clearance credentials, they pay for by revving up the government’s printing presses, or better, by pushing some online buttons to record their transactions.
Biden dons popular image
In decades past Biden’s service in the halls of congress included his mediating “differences” between his party’s Southern wing of racist segregationist bigots and its Northern wing of more “liberal” representatives of capitalist interests. In 2020 he donned a more popular image. Insisting, as we have noted, that “the rich really don’t pay taxes,” Biden’s handlers aimed at an instant transformation of this lifetime hack politician to a champion of working people, not to mention of Black freedom.
In short order, however, Biden’s promised legislation to compel the rich to pay was disappeared in the name of “compromises” needed to unify his own party. That “unity” once again lined the pockets of the rich. The same with Biden’s rant last year against fossil fuel “war profiteers,” whose profits had doubled since the onset of the Ukraine War. Here too, Biden’s “war profiteering” denunciations were disappeared, as he recently demanded an additional $45 billion for the never restrained military-industrial complex.
Similarly, some 80 percent of Biden’s touted $800 billion Paycheck Protection Program was revealed to have gone to the top 20 percent, not the broad working class. Biden’s promise to grant essentially non-repayable loans to “small” corporations that retained their workers during the Covid-19 pandemic turned out to be yet another corporate rip off, with employers – including major corporate chains –pocketing the government’s bailouts and largely firing their workers.
The same with Biden’s touted 2022 infrastructure program, gutted of any serious measures to thwart climate catastrophe, while allocating trillions of dollars to private corporations to supposedly rebuild and repair highways, bridges and tunnels. The UN’s November, 2022 COP27 meeting, held under the auspices of the Egyptian dictatorship that came to power in 2013 with U.S. backing, indeed registered the terrible fact that the U.S. and all the other major fossil fuel polluters, their pious pledges notwithstanding, had significantly increased their deadly fossil fuel production.
Why the rich don’t pay taxes
Neither Biden, nor Trump before him – nor most all of the elected politicians, Democrats or Republicans – write the nation’s tax codes or otherwise truly oversee the government’s $trillions in financial allocation. These assignments are exclusively in the purview of the capitalist elite’s appointed specialists, who are routinely assigned to oversee and scrutinize, in their bosses’ interests, every relevant word contained in the 4,000 odd pages that make up the $5.7 trillion annual U.S. budget.
If Biden is right that the rich really don’t pay significant sums in taxes, that leaves the vast majority, the nation’s working people, who do pay – and today, with unfettered price-gouging corporations raising prices on virtually everything, we pay more than ever!
Sixty-seven percent of the U.S. budget’s “discretionary spending” goes directly to the military to facilitate U.S. imperialism’s remaining the chief cop of the world – to maintain the 1,100 U.S. military bases in 110 nations around the world and to finance U.S. imperialism’s never-ending wars of intervention and conquest, drone wars, “special operation” wars, secret CIA assassination wars and all the rest. This annual $875+ billion to the military-industrial complex is separate and apart from allocations to the CIA and other militarized agencies. All told, an estimated $1.2 trillion is admittedly spent annually on the U.S. war machine. Separate and apart from this admitted sum are “special” war expenditures like much of the current $100 billion that to date has gone to U.S. weapons manufactured for the U.S.-instigated war in Ukraine. That war centers on U.S. imperialism’s multi-trillion-dollar gambit to substitute expensive U.S.-fracked liquefied natural gas for Russian fossil fuels. Until the Ukraine War Russia was the main energy supplier to Germany, France and much of Western Europe. Today’s Ukraine War is in its essence yet another U.S. oil war, a war that the U.S. brazenly pursued by its likely obliteration of Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline!
War spending has always been a bi-partisan affair, wherein Congress’s “elected” whorehouse of petty millionaires are bought, one way or another, by the corporate elite’s multi-billionaires and $trillionaire corporations, who, again, really run the country.
The momentary goof that the “rebellious” Republicans forced on the new House Speaker McCarthy reduced the projected 2023 federal budget to 2022 levels. While this had the inadvertent effect of reducing “defense spending” by $75 billion, there is little doubt that this “mistake” will be corrected somewhere down the line, by hook or by crook.
The fraud of American democracy
With the Republicans now in control of the House and the Democrats of the Senate, the usual bi-partisan, wrangling is expected to intensify, but rarely if ever in favor of working people. As we go to press this is the case over the mandated requirement to win a House majority to once again exceed the established U.S. debt limit, currently at some $32 trillion.
Today’s hyperbole regarding the terrible consequences of a U.S. default, that is, a technical incapacity to pay its bills, including debts, is nothing less than the periodic petty maneuvers orchestrated among and between capitalism’s bit players who, we are daily encouraged to believe, really run the country. American “democracy,” as increasing revealed by the current Congressional machinations, but nevertheless touted by its corporate-controlled media, is indeed, in Shakespeare ‘s words, “… a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
But the idiots who are “elected” in the billionaire-controlled elections will not disappear voluntarily from the earth. They must be replaced by the massive power of the vast working class majority and their allies struggling for a better world. The construction today of a deeply-rooted mass revolutionary party capable of unifying the coming struggles is the prerequisite to challenging capitalist rule. Join us!