On October 25th, the Republican Party finally elected a new Speaker of the House of Representatives after weeks of internal wrangling. The new Speaker is Mike Johnson, who has been a member of Congress since 2016. And he is now second in line to the presidency. But who is Mike Johnson? And what can we expect from him?
His first act as Speaker of the House was to introduce a resolution supporting Israel’s so-called “right to defend itself” — in other words, its right to bombard and besiege the Palestinian people. The resolution received nearly unanimous support from both Democrats and Republicans. He has followed up with a proposal to finance $14.8 billion in military aid to Israel paired with an equal cut from the IRS budget, which is designed to inhibit the government’s ability to collect unpaid taxes from the super-wealthy. So, as far as his unwavering support for Israel and its genocidal occupation of the Palestinian people — Mike Johnson is indistinguishable from the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans, and in lockstep with the Biden administration and its support of Israel’s siege on Gaza.
But whenever Johnson opens his mouth on other issues, he reveals himself to be a political reactionary in the purest sense of the word. He has spoken about his desire for the U.S. to return to “18th-century values.” These values included the enslavement of Black people, restricting the right to vote to property-owning white males, and the legal right of men to control the lives of their wives, sisters, and daughters. As the first step to enforcing his passion for the values of the 18th century, Mike Johnson proposed to ban abortions everywhere in the United States.
Labor law in the United States is still rooted in the 18th century when workers had no rights under the law. If today we have some rights as workers, it’s because we have fought hard for them over the centuries. Before becoming Speaker, Johnson proposed changes in the law to give bosses the right to reduce paid time off to straight-time pay instead of the higher overtime pay rate. Additionally, he would give the boss the legal right to pay individual workers who aren’t union members more than those who are union members doing the same job.
18th-century governments didn’t provide pensions or health insurance. Speaker Johnson doesn’t propose to go there all at once. In the short term, he’s satisfied with raising the minimum age for Medicare and Social Security eligibility from 65 to 69. Under Johnson’s plan, Social Security benefits would fall further behind inflation, and co-pays for health care would increase substantially.
Speaker Johnson came to power according to laws that Democrats as well as Republicans support. In reality, both parties defend the same system, and they support the same murderous military policies abroad, along with similar policies to attack working people here at home.