Political crises of US capitalist rulers’ two parties deepen heading to 2024

By Terry Evans
February 13, 2023

Disarray and sharp conflicts between and within the Democratic and Republican parties continue over the reorganization of committees in the House, the scandal over classified documents held by Joseph Biden, Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and debates over the U.S. government’s debts exceeding the limit set by Congress.

Driving these clashes is the inability of either party to steer a self-confident course for the defense of the ruling capitalist families, much less to pretend they have any way to reverse the deteriorating conditions today’s economic crisis is forcing on working people.

President Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted since classified papers turned up in his Penn Biden office in Washington, D.C., and in his home and garage. The discovery threw a wrench into Democrats’ plans to use similar documents found in a highly publicized FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida estate to pillory him, part of their efforts to bar him from running for president in 2024.

Suddenly there’s doubts in the minds of Democratic kingmakers whether Biden should be their 2024 presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Republican Kevin McCarthy, fresh from a bruising, strung-out battle within his own party before becoming House Speaker, is now taking steps to bar some Democrats from being seated on House committees. This reflects how each of the bosses’ parties — Democrats and Republicans alike — are scheming to use their tiny majorities in the Senate or House as a weapon against the other.

Biden claims Republicans are threatening to use the fact that the debt has hit its Congress-set ceiling to push for default on government payments to bondholders and to slash government programs millions of workers rely on. But actually the Republican caucus is currently unable to overcome its own divisions and has yet to make any proposals.

The deficit in the government’s budget has mushroomed under both Democratic and Republican administrations from $16 trillion 10 years ago to $31.42 trillion today. Every administration has borrowed or printed money to pay for the U.S. rulers’ massive military arsenal, bases that circle the globe and their wars; to fund a massive, intrusive federal bureaucracy, the FBI and other cop agencies; and to maintain Social Security and Medicare programs that were won by workers in past struggles.

Both parties fear deepening struggles by working people for things we need — higher wages, cost-of-living protection against the scourge of inflation, more effective health care, retirement pay we can live on, livable work schedules and more.

Most Republican lawmakers say it’s time to stop raising the government debt ceiling, and instead slash programs like Medicare. McCarthy says such cuts must be agreed on before he will let Democrats lift the debt ceiling. On its website, Biden’s Treasury Department says moves to block lifting the ceiling would be “catastrophic.”

This borrowing siphons billions to wealthy bondholders here and to capitalist competitors abroad. The Japanese government is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury bonds, at $1.08 trillion. Beijing is second, owning $870 billion. They both seek to keep the value of the dollar higher than their currencies to keep exports to the U.S. competitive and profitable.

‘Chained together in their decline’

The continuous increase in the U.S. government debt signals the growing weakness of U.S. imperialism.

“Despite intensifying competition for profits on the world market, the rival national ruling classes are chained together in their decline,” a 1988 Socialist Workers Party resolution printed in New International no. 10 says, “with the U.S. capitalist rulers at their head.”

They are all pushed “to increase the rate of exploitation of the toilers at home and abroad. In advancing these common goals, there is no replacement within the imperialist alliance for Washington’s military power, U.S. economic weight, or the dollar as international reserve currency.”

Last month Rep. Tom McClintock introduced a bill to make explicit what both parties intend anyway — whatever happens with squabbles over the budget, they will ensure the wealthy bondholders get paid in full and on time.

Unlike most Republicans, Trump opposes cuts to Social Security and Medicare, making this part of his campaign for the party’s 2024 nomination. He hopes this will help position his party as “the party of the working class.” But the class character of any party is determined by which class it serves, not who votes for it. Both Democrats and Republicans loyally serve the U.S. imperialist rulers. Neither can nor will be bent to serve the interests of those the rulers exploit.

In addition to an unending assault by the Democrats, Trump will face challenges in his own party as well. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former Trump administration officials Nikki Haley and Michael Pompeo are lining up to challenge him for the nomination.

Broader political questions than the handling of classified documents or the debt ceiling lie underneath the mounting clashes between the bosses’ parties. Cracks in the imperialist world order put together by the U.S. rulers at the end of World War II are widening. Moscow’s war in Ukraine and the worldwide slowdown in production and trade are exacerbating antagonisms between Washington, Beijing and Moscow, as well as tensions between Washington, Paris and Berlin.

In this world, the Socialist Workers Party gets a hearing for its program and working-class line of march forward. The SWP explains that working people have to break from the Democratic and Republican parties.

“Workers need our own party, a labor party based on our unions to unite all working people and others exploited and oppressed by capital to advance the interests we share against the bosses and their parties,” Joanne Kuniansky, SWP candidate for New Jersey Senate, said Jan. 31.