For generations, Republicans in Washington have relentlessly increased the national debt by giving tax breaks to the wealthy. The cumulative impact has been staggering. In the 1950s, corporations paid 6 percent of the cost of running our country; today that number has fallen at 1 percent. The 2017 Republican tax cuts were the ultimate blow: a $1.9 trillion giveaway to wealthy individuals and multinational corporations. And, as icing on the billionaire cake, decades of Republican attacks on the Internal Revenue Service have halved the risk of an audit for billionaires and corporate tax evaders.
Republicans don’t really care about the national debt. In fact, the first bill that House Republicans advanced it would increase budget deficits to protect the wealthy who cheat on taxes. And the new House rules say there’s no need to pay extra tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations. It seems that more debt is fine for Republicans in Congress, as long as it benefits the wealthy and well-connected.
But that is not enough. Republicans have pledged to vote on a MAGA tax plan to lower overall taxes for the wealthy and corporations, while raising overall rates for everyone else. Tea Republican 30 percent national sales tax it will increase the cost of everything families need, from groceries to diapers to gasoline, a huge blow to the stomach for families already living on a limited budget.
Even after raising taxes on millions of Americans, the Republican schemes would not reduce the national debt. But that’s not a surprise. The only unifying principle of the Republicans is government aid for their wealthy donors and economic pain for everyone else. In 2011, they got away with it. After nearly a decade of reckless Bush tax cuts, they fabricated another debt ceiling crisis, which they then used to push through a massive austerity program.
Those GOP budget cuts cost the American economy more than 7 million jobs, set our recovery back from the Great Recession by years, and helped set the stage for the election of Donald Trump in 2016. And just to clarify the point, Trump already blames the poor for the Republicans showing in midterms about people who don’t feel “full severity of pain our nation is going through”, and expressed his confidence that by 2024 it will be “much worse”. For Trump and MAGA Republicans, pain is the point.
To help Trump win again, McCarthy has declared that he will repeat the same play: he will refuse to raise the debt limit until Democrats agree to cruel cuts in programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Here’s the ultimate irony of today’s Republican scam: Without years of Republican handouts to the rich, there would be no debt ceiling hostages to take. If Republicans hadn’t spent nearly $2 trillion on Trump’s tax cuts and incited the rich to cheat tax by starving the IRS for a decade, America wouldn’t need to raise the debt ceiling this year. In fact, the current debt ceiling would have sustained federal spending well beyond the end of President Biden’s first term. Any current debt crisis must be blamed squarely on the Republicans who worked tirelessly to help the wealthiest Americans avoid paying taxes.
Serious talks about reducing the national debt should start here: repeal Trump’s 2017 tax giveaways to the wealthy. Let’s close that door before the next trillion dollars slips out.
Second, stitch up last-minute loopholes punched in the minimum 15 percent tax on tax-evading billion-dollar corporations and take an extra bite out of taxes on corporate share buybacks designed to boost CEO pay. That’s another $100 billion more.
Third, close tax havens for large multinational corporations. Europe is imposing a minimum 15 percent tax on global profits so companies can’t hide their profits abroad. The United States should join the other countries in following suit, raising another $600 billion.
Fourth, ask billionaires to pay taxes on their growing amounts of wealth. Biden’s tax on billionaires is a good place to start, raising more than $300 billion in revenue.
Finally, say no to ridiculous and unpopular Republican schemes to increase our national debt. Don’t wreck the IRS or make Trump-era tax cuts permanent or cancel all taxes on the rich and corporations while saddled American families with a 30 percent sales tax on everything from milk to car repairs.
Common sense changes in tax laws would strengthen our national balance sheet while reflecting our values. They are also a political no-brainer. The American people do not support plunging the economy into a manufactured crisis. They don’t support cutting vital programs so the rich can avoid paying their share. And they do not support brutal and lasting austerity to advance the political fortunes of Trump and the MAGA Republicans.
Democrats need to stiffen their spines and say enough is enough. All lawmakers should flatly refuse to cut a single dollar of support for working families and small businesses while billion-dollar corporations and the ultra-rich escape taxes. If Republicans really care about the national debt, they can do what generations of politicians have refused to do: finally accept that billionaires and giant corporations should pitch in like everyone else.
Elizabeth Warren is a United States Senator from Massachusetts.