Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Tea Party Movement

There were many reasons for the American Revolution. If you asked the general public you would probably get one answer. The colonists didn’t want to pay taxes. Benjamin Franklin set out the permanent reality of death and taxes. So what else was new? Governments have always wanted to levy taxes, and nobody wanted to pay them. The tax code always seems eminently unfair; tax allocations don’t benefit us personally.

Who should we pay taxes to? King George III of England? His Parliament? Don’t tax us, was the clear message; we’re not represented at all in your government. It is illegal for you to levy taxes on us.

The British wanted to bail out its monopolistic East India Tea Company by
taxing the tea exports to the colonies. Tea was an important commodity. The opposition was furious.

Citizens of Boston were a very rebellious lot anyway. Soon well-known rebels such as Sam Adams were heavily involved. The Bostonians didn’t drink the tea; they destroyed it, dumping the whole cargo in Boston Bay.

The British went berserk. Commerce in Boston was suspended. The East India Company had to be compensated for all its lost money. The “Boston Tea Party” quickly became 100% political; it took on a life of its own. It stood for government taxation out of control, loss of colonial liberty, freedom was chipped away. And of course, the issue of representing the colonies in the tax process was not fairly resolved at all.

The Revolutionary War broke out two years later in 1775.

In the last few years, the words “tea party” have become buzzwords all over this country for strong opposition to perceived government spendthrift habits, too many taxes, bailouts of banks and industry. History repeats itself. Isn’t a bailout what Britain planned for the East India Company?

By now, the “tea party’ groups have so many issues, it’s pretty hard to change them all. Take government overspending – it’s always done that. Single big issues, such as health, education, immigration, may be far more successful to change. Changes in our own notorious tax code have had success. Consider that the famous Proposition 13 here in California on property taxes, a one-man movement by Howard Jarvis, is still on the books.

Will the “tea party” revolt last? It’s hard to know. New political movements have a difficult time. Right now, conservative Republicans claim ownership. They are the party of small politics. Isn’t that what the tea party is all about?

The recent tea party convention and its steep cost were well-covered in the press. Here are some newspaper article headlines as examples (titles / dates are from the print editions):

Unity is not their cup of tea: “Tea party” activists are far from a disciplined army. But Scott Brown may be a turning point. (LA Times, 1/25/2010)

“Tea party” convention a forum for woes, worries (LA Times, 2/6/2010)

The Tea Parties Are No “Great Awakening” (Wall Street Journal, 2/17/2010)

Tea party rhetoric steals the stage of GOP conference: Speakers tout liberty, the Founding Fathers, and the sovereignty of the Constitution. (LA Times, 2/20/2010)

Schwarzenegger critiques GOP: he calls members of his party hypocrites for opposing Obama’s economic stimulus and also derides the “tea party” movement. (LA Times, 2/22/2010)

Tea-Party Drive Steeped in Political Novices: Movement Attracts First-Time Activists Mad About Debt, Expanding Government; Incumbents in Both Parties Face Risks (Wall Street Journal, 2/20/2010 - 2/21/2010)

The “tea party” dance: Will the movement sink or save the conservatives? (LA Times, 2/21/2010)

Conservatives draw up a new “Contract”: Manifestoes hark back to the Republicans’ victorious 1994 midterm campaign. (LA Times, 2/22/2010)

No rainout for tea partyers: Northgate rally marks movement’s first year; some reluctant to stand up in left-leaning Seattle (Seattle Times, 2/28/2010)

Tea Party Holds Risks for GOP (Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2010)

Of all the concepts of our American Revolution, I feel that the Boston Tea Party has the most appeal. It is a marvelous story on our road to Revolution.

Frustration is a necessary part of how we view our government. Will Rogers understood it perfectly when he quipped to be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for. –Renata Breisacher Mulry

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