This story from NPR, comparing the modern-day tea partiers to their colonial forebears, was enough to make me laugh. And then bury my head in my hands. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Actually, the comparison itself – from historian Joe Thorndike – is pretty fair:
Thorndike, who is also director of the Tax History Project at the nonprofit group Tax Analysts, says many people seem to think the Boston Tea Party was a protest about high taxes. But it wasn’t; he says it was about that famous phrase in fourth-grade history books: “No taxation without representation.”
It was the idea of being taxed by a government that they didn’t have any say in.
“What the original Tea Party was trying to drive home was that the British did not have a right to impose a tax on the Colonies, because the Colonies did not have representation in Parliament,” Thorndike says. “That’s a very different sort of message than saying, ‘This tax is just too damn high for us.’ I think the Tea Party today — at least it strikes me — is more about just taxes being too high.”
So far, so good. Because, after all, all the folks coming to those massive modest Tea Party demonstrations do get to vote for their elected representatives, right?
Better still, Thorndike touches on the larger issue of the Boston Tea Party: the protectionism towards – which he rightly refers to as a bailout of – the British East India Trading Company:
England was looking to prop up the British East India Company. So it gave a tax break that enabled the company to undercut Colonial tea merchants, which threatened to put a lot of them out of business.
“They wanted to help bail out this company, which was struggling under a big debt load, if that sounds familiar,” Thorndike says, adding that this is similar to what has motivated the modern-day Tea Party movement.
I touched on this element of the Original Boston Tea Party here, nearly a year ago. at the time, I said:
…find me a group that’s focused on eliminating corporate America’s disproportionate influence on policy in this country, and I’ll be right there with them.
The modern Tea Partiers, practically wearing NASCAR-style uniforms with Chamber of Commerce and Club for Growth logos on them, don’t qualify.
But my favorite moment was when NPR’s Chris Arnold, interviewing Christen Varley, President of the Boston Tea Party movement, points out that taxes have gone down in the past year. For almost everybody.
When it comes to taxes, the Obama administration has actually cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans through a federal income tax credit.
But Varley says she doesn’t believe that — no matter what the government says. And regardless, she says she’s worried about what’s to come with the rising deficit.
Facts be damned!
Can we trade the Tea Partiers to Second Life for a movement to be named later? Virtual reality has a better handle on logic and consistency than these folks.
Andrew Sullivan called the original tea parties “tea-tantrums.” One year later, that’s still spot on.