Last night, the Senate Democrats finalized an agreement on a $740 billion piece of legislation that addresses climate change, corporate taxes, healthcare, drug prices and more. US Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona’s conservative Democrat, held out till the end. After some bargaining, she said last night that she’s ready to “move forward.”
The Inflation Reduction Act is only part of an agenda Joe Biden had outlined early in his administration. (The president had hoped for a couple of trillion dollars’ worth of new investments.) Headlines this morning, however, are treating it as if it were the whole shebang. CNN said it puts “Biden’s agenda on the cusp of Senate approval.”
Maybe that’s why US Senator Ted Cruz slandered it.
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The Republican from Texas told Fox this morning that the bill would expand the Internal Revenue Service in order to descend on America “like a swarm of locusts,” he said. Cruz went on: “These IRS agents aren’t there to go after billionaires. They’re there to go after you, to go after your small business … The Democrats’ idea is if they audit the hell out of every American, think of all the money they can raise.”
Fact is, the bill does expand the IRS. Another fact is, the IRS has been badly depleted thanks to Republicans like Ted Cruz who know very well that an enervated IRS gives multinational firms and the very obscenely rich leeway to hide wealth and otherwise dodge levies. The Inflation Reduction Act remedies this. It also reduces inflation by clawing back taxes owed, especially by the very obscenely rich.
Cruz’s anti-tax rhetoric should be familiar. The Republicans (as well as some Democrats) have stood against every proposed tax hike for over 20 years. The last Republican president to sign a tax increase into law was George HW Bush. Since 1994, the GOP has treated the federal government’s constitutional authority to tax as if it were theft – as if taxes were morally wrong as well as politically illegitimate.
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Anti-tax rhetoric used to cover up for racist white people, especially in the south, refusing to pay for programs benefitting Black people. But over time, it evolved to become something more sinister.
The GOP’s rhetoric became pro-sedition.
That comes naturally to Cruz.
Like many others, Cruz was in contact with Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, before the former president’s bid to take over the US government. Trump pressured Republican senators to vote against accepting Joe Biden’s victory. Cruz readily complied. He voted that night to overturn the election. He later voted to acquit Trump.
The present is a product of the past, though.
And Ted Cruz is a product of Newt Gingrich.
In a review of The Destructionistsa new book about the history of the Republicans, by Post columnist Dana Milbank, Christopher Buckley summed up the record of the former House speaker:
It was Newt who pushed the Ur-rightwing nutjob conspiracy that Clinton aide Vince Foster was murdered. That big little lie metastasized a quarter-century later into ‘Stop the Steal.’
It was Newt who defended right-wing militias after Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 people in Oklahoma City.
And it was Newt who, while leading a hot steaming mess of a personal life, fiercely agitated to oust Bill Clinton for playing hide-the-cigar with a 20-something intern.
Gingrich brought sedition into the Republican Party.
From that point until today, taxes from the Republican point of view were no longer constructive investments in nation-building. They were wrong. They were robbery. They were politically illegitimate.
They were the basis for a revolt.
Not a democratic revolt.
Gingrich escalated the Republicans’ militant rhetoric by including “the new, decidedly insurrectionist interpretation of the Second Amendment,” wrote James R. Skillen last year, “namely that the founders had written the amendment precisely so that individual citizens would have guns to use against government tyrants.”
With that, Gingrich established the party’s paramilitary wing.
It was paranoid. It was armed. It was violent.
It was perfect. Skillen wrote:
While Gingrich, [Texas Congressman] Dick Armey, and other leaders did claim that the time for insurrection had come, they *expanded the GOP coalition to include militias,* whose members were literally preparing for war with the federal government.
The militias remained at the party’s margins only because *mainstream Republicans did not yet* share their dark conspiracy theories, including the belief that communists had taken control of the federal government or that the military was preparing internment camps for American citizens.
Burning a country
Donald Trump was elected in a backlash against the country’s first Black president. That backlash didn’t come from nowhere. Its funding, its organization and its rhetoric were all firmly planted.
Gingrich had brought sedition into the Republican Party. He had wrapped insurrection in the flag and the US Constitution. He had made respectable the starving of the government of revenue, as if it were just another valid point of view. He had demanded freedom!
He had made it possible for Ted Cruz to look us in the face and say 87,000 IRS agents are going to descend “like a swarm of locusts.”
By 2010, the GOP was ready to foment, as Buckley said, “a racial backlash against Barack Obama, turning ‘itself into the party of white grievance. All that was left for Trump to do was to light a match.’”
But it didn’t just burn a Black president.
It burned a country.
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