The Republican debt ceiling hoax

For generations, Republicans in Washington have relentlessly increased the national debt by giving tax breaks to the wealthy. The cumulative impact is staggering. In the 1950s, corporations paid 6 percent of the cost of running our country; today that number has dropped to 1 percent. The 2017 Republican tax cuts were the latest blow, handing out $1.9 trillion to wealthy individuals and multinational corporations. And as icing on the billionaire cake, decades of Republican attacks on the Internal Revenue Service have halved audit risk for multimillionaires and corporate tax cheats.

Republicans don’t really care about the national debt. In fact, the first bill proposed by House Republicans would increase budget deficits to protect wealthy tax cheats. And new House rules say the extra tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations don’t have to be paid for. It seems that more debt is fine with Republicans in Congress as long as it benefits the rich and well-connected.

But that is not enough. Republicans have pledged to pass a MAGA tax plan to cut overall taxes on the wealthy and corporations while raising overall rates for everyone else. The Republicans’ 30 percent national sales tax would increase the cost of everything families need, from food to diapers to gas — a gut punch to families already living on a shoestring budget.

Even after raising taxes on millions of Americans, the Republican schemes will not reduce the national debt. But that’s no surprise. The one unifying principle of Republicans is government assistance for their wealthy donors and economic pain for everyone else. In 2011, they got their way. After nearly a decade of reckless Bush tax cuts, they created another debt ceiling crisis, which they then used to push through a massive austerity program.

These GOP budget cuts cost the U.S. economy more than 7 million jobs, delayed our recovery from the Great Recession by years, and helped set the stage for the election of Donald Trump in 2016. And just to drive home the point, Trump is already blaming the Republican poor, showing in the midterms that people are not feeling “the full weight of the pain that our nation is going through” — and expressing confidence that by 2024 it will be “much worse.” For Trump and the MAGA Republicans, pain is the bottom line.

To help Trump win again, McCarthy said he would play the same game again: He would refuse to raise the debt limit until Democrats agreed to harsh cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Here’s the greatest irony of today’s Republican hoax: Without years of Republican handouts to the rich, there would be no debt ceiling as a hostage. If Republicans hadn’t spent nearly $2 trillion on Trump’s tax cuts and encouraged wealthy tax cheats by starving the IRS for a decade, the United States wouldn’t have had to raise the debt ceiling this year. In fact, the current debt ceiling would have kept federal spending going well beyond the end of President Biden’s first term. Every debt crisis today must be laid squarely at the feet of Republicans who have worked tirelessly to help the wealthiest Americans avoid paying taxes.

Serious talk about reducing the national debt needs to start here: Repeal Trump’s tax handouts for the rich starting in 2017. Let’s close this door before the next $1 trillion slips away.

Second, patching up last-minute loopholes punched in the 15 percent minimum tax on billion-dollar tax-dodging corporations and further increases in taxes on corporate stock buybacks designed to boost CEO pay. That’s another $100 billion plus.

Third, close tax havens for large multinational corporations. Europe imposes a minimum 15 percent tax on worldwide profits so that companies cannot hide profits abroad. The United States should join other countries in following suit by raising another $600 billion.

Fourth, ask billionaires to pay taxes on their growing piles of wealth. Biden’s tax on billionaires is off to a good start, raising over $300 billion in revenue.

Finally, say no to ridiculous and unpopular Republican schemes to increase our national debt. Don’t gut the IRS or make permanent Trump-era tax cuts or eliminate all taxes on the rich and corporations while slapping American families with a 30 percent sales tax on everything from milk to auto repairs.

Common sense changes to the tax laws will strengthen our national balance sheet while reflecting our values. They are also politically mindless. The American people do not support plunging the economy into a manufactured crisis. They don’t support cuts to vital programs so the rich can avoid paying their share. And they do not support permanent brutal restrictions to improve the political fortunes of Trump and the MAGA Republicans.

Democrats need to stiffen their spines and say enough is enough. Every legislator must flatly refuse to cut even one dollar of support for hard-working families and small businesses while billionaire corporations and the ultra-wealthy avoid paying taxes. If Republicans really care about the national debt, they can do what generations of politicians have refused to do — finally agree that billionaires and giant corporations need to step in like everyone else.

Elizabeth Warren is a US Senator from Massachusetts.

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