Republican politicians and reactionary media outlets have joined the ultrarightist Tea Party types in an all-out attack on the Internal Revenue Service and, by extension, on the Barack Obama administration. Instead of meeting this unwarranted and unsubstantiated attack head-on the way it deserves, the Democrats have caved in, forcing the IRS to apologize to the rich ultrarightists.
This is a lesson that should not be lost on the working class and oppressed communities here in the U.S., which need to smash the rightist offensive: The Democrats cannot be counted on in that struggle.
What is involved, in brief, is that many groups that are ideologically and in many cases organizationally linked to the Tea Party bigots have applied for tax-exempt status under the 501(c)(4) provision of the tax code. Acceptance of the application allows tax deductions for contributions to these groups. According to the tax rule, the group exempted from taxation must be primarily focused on social welfare. It “must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.”
Groups connected to the Tea Party are just the opposite. They do everything they can to break down and eliminate social welfare. For example, they attack Social Security and Medicare, not to mention programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid. They try to break unions.
The Tea Party came into national prominence through its attacks — from the right — on the Obama administration’s medical care program in 2009-2010. With major financial support from the pro-fascist billionaire Koch brothers and other superrich funders, the Tea Party and its allied groups campaigned against Democrats and even some Republicans that these groups saw as too “liberal.”
These superrich reactionaries want tax deductions now, while they lobby and electioneer to eliminate all their taxes. They don’t even want to pay a share for the state power that protects their private property.
It was thus perfectly reasonable, sensible and efficient that the IRS body tasked with investigating the legitimacy of the 501(c)(4) applications would select those with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names for investigation. These groups that hate “social welfare” are likely to be phonies under the tax rules.
As part of the government apparatus, the IRS was doing its legal job. In this case it was trying to prevent a small group of very wealthy people from abusing a tax break — abusing it in order to promote ultrarightist policies and lobby in Congress.
We should note here that it is not only the smaller Tea-Party-type organizations that get away without paying taxes for open political interference, but also mammoth groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which raises more than half a billion dollars and pushes every national election to the right with its reactionary propaganda.
While this latest conflict is among competing ruling-class factions, it has an impact on the working class. Neither the Tea Party nor Republicans nor Democrats represent workers’ interests, but it is in working-class interests to smash the ultraright offensive. The lesson here is that instead of taking the rightists head on, the Obama administration and the Democratic Party in general have abandoned the IRS employees and left them hanging in the wind. The Democrats have also retreated from conflicts with the military hierarchy over Afghanistan, and have reneged on election promises to increase the rights of workers to unionize.
Workers and oppressed communities need to organize independently of the Democratic Party. They can place no trust in the Democrats’ top officials and representatives to carry on the struggle against the right wing and the superrich. That must be done at the workplace, in the community and in the streets.