Fanatical MAGA Republicans hold the country hostage over debt limit
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks about Twitter, April 28, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Once shunned as a political pariah for her extremist rhetoric, the Georgia lawmaker who spent her first term in Congress stripped of institutional power by Democrats is being celebrated by Republicans and welcomed into the GOP fold. | Jacquelyn Martin

On January 19, the U.S. government reached its debt limit. Without raising the debt ceiling, the government risks defaulting and shutting down functions and services, possibly triggering a domestic and global economic crisis.

Instead of raising the debt limit, which is nothing more than agreeing to pay bills already owed, the new GOP-MAGA fascist House majority is inching to create a political crisis by holding the country hostage. In exchange for raising the debt limit and reopening the government, they will demand a balanced federal budget in ten years, and draconian cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and repeal of the Affordable Care Act, something President Biden, and the Democrats will never agree to.

The fanatical GOP-MAGA House Majority’s first order of business was the passage of a phony populist bill, the “Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act.” The hastily drawn legislation repeals funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) adopted in the last Congress.

If this wasn’t loony enough, GOP-MAGA introduced another even more extreme bill – the Fair Tax Act, which would abolish the IRS, eliminate income, payroll, and estate and gift taxes and impose a 30% national sales tax on all goods and services, which the states would administer.

The GOP knows these bills will never become law. Senate Democrats will let them die, and President Biden vowed a veto if it ever reached his desk. “National sales tax, that’s a great idea,” Biden said sarcastically. “It would raise taxes on the middle class by taxing thousands of everyday items from groceries to gas while cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.”

The GOP-MAGA dysfunction and radical agenda have resulted in a 64% unfavorable rating (26% favorability) in the latest polls, matching polling following the January 6 insurrection.

Repealing IRS funding and eliminating income taxes is meant to provide a populist cover for the GOP and MAGA fascists, their billionaire backers, and allied movement’s quest to capture absolute governmental power and the presidency in 2024. The GOP and radical MAGA movement want to undemocratically and violently, if necessary, impose minority rule on the majority.

The MAGA movement and its billionaire backers envision a class, racial, and patriarchal hierarchy and theocratic order that turns back decades of progress on democratic rights and expansion of social benefit programs. Their goal is unfettered capitalism without restraints on profitmaking and wealth accumulation and eliminating social benefits, constitutional democracy, and democratic rights.

And the GOP and MAGA fascists aim to use the state’s power, including the courts and security apparatus, to guarantee their permanent rule through voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering, elimination of citizen-initiated referendums, suppression of organized labor and other democratic movements. The GOP-MAGA movement is imposing this autocratic model in states where they have entrenched power.

Obsession with gaining power

The obsession with gaining power, infighting, rivalry among MAGA radicals, political polarization, obstruction, chaos, and enshrining their permanent rule are hallmarks of fascism. People become alienated, and confidence in government is undermined – fertile grounds for the entrance of a “strong man” to impose order and “restore America to its glory days.”

The MAGA-GOP and their billionaire backers have long vilified the IRS and called for eliminating it. They demagogically claim to be the party of lower taxes for working people and small businesses. But inevitably, the GOP unabashedly cuts taxes on the very wealthy and corporations and then demagogically uses resulting deficits to cut social benefit programs.

The GOP began actively slashing corporate taxes under Reagan and IRS funding under Newt Gingrich and the GOP Congress in 1994. The words of Grover Norquist guide them: “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Today, the GOP is blatantly lying about funding for the IRS in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). They claim, without basis, that it goes to hiring 87,000 IRS agents to invade the private lives of ordinary Americans. What’s worse than an IRS agent knocking on your front door while you’re eating breakfast?

In fact, the popular IRA, passed by the Democratic Congress and signed by President Biden in 2022, bolsters the severely underfunded IRS to clear a backlog of unprocessed returns, overhaul technology, and improve customer service, including services to working-class taxpayers needing help.

But the IRA also directs substantial funding to collect unpaid taxes by super-wealthy people and corporations. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the bill will generate $204 billion in revenues through 2031. Congress also passed a 15% minimum corporate tax as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The act is a step toward clawing back from the wreckage caused by Trump and the GOP Congress from the 2017 GOP tax cut to corporations, a massive boondoggle for the rich. The CBO estimated in 2018 the legislation would increase deficits by about $1.9 trillion over 11 years. Repealing IRS funding will add another $114 billion to the deficit over ten years.

The rich get away with not paying taxes because the IRS enforcement division was deliberately defunded and disabled by past GOP Congresses and presidents. Between 2010 and 2018, funding fell by 24%, leading to the loss of 17,000 employees.

“Funding cuts have cost the IRS much of its most experienced staff: the number of Revenue Agents fell by 35 percent between 2010 and 2018, to the lowest number since 1954,” testified Chye-Ching Huang, Director of the Economic Policy Institute, before Congress.

In 2021, the IRS reported that the federal government was losing $1 trillion in unpaid taxes annually, mainly by the wealthy and corporations. The top 5% of rich people avoided paying $307 billion in taxes, and the top 1% alone avoided paying $163 billion.

Voters have rejected the GOP in three straight elections, and Democrats have won the majority vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. The GOP-MAGA extreme right and fascists know their agenda is unpopular with most American voters and can only achieve it through undemocratic means. Only a mobilized anti-MAGA majority stands in the way of this nightmare scenario. There are signs that the majority is beginning to turn back the right-wing assault, but more on that in coming Peoples World articles.


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.