Five Years Later, the Tea Party Still Doesn’t Understand Taxes or the Boston Tea Party

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It’s been five years since the official founding of the tea party movement. Weird, it seems like much, much longer, but there it is. Five years since tri-corner hats with dingle-dangle tea bags glued to the brim became the national symbol of incoherent, far-right outrage over the ascendancy of an African-American president tasked with lifting the nation out of a devastating Great Recession not of his own making.

The tea party emerged as an unofficial sequel to the angry mobs that formed outside various McCain/Palin rallies during the 2008 campaign, complete with viral video messages warning of emerging communism, “Hussein” sleeper-cells and Rev. Jeremiah Wright goddamn-America-hating. A general profile of each group showed considerable overlap: white, Christian, conservative, older Americans who were both shellshocked by the financial impact of the recession and that the obvious cultural shift taking place in politics, potentially leaving them behind. The president was no longer a twangy, southern good ol’ boy or a congenial, plain-spoken old man. This new president would be a northern intellectual — an African-American man with an “exotic” name and a suspicious background. A flaming cocktail for inciting white conservative fear.

Fast forward to the months following the 2009 inauguration.

Coinciding with congressional debate over the new president’s stimulus package, the movement proudly adopted as its namesake the Boston Tea Party, with “tea” carrying the bonus “taxed enough already” acronym. Both meanings contained within the name of the movement were hilariously ironical given how the stimulus would eventually contain, as a total dollar amount, the largest middle class tax cut in American history as well as the fact that the Boston Tea Party was a protest against a corporate tax cut.

We discussed this briefly yesterday, but it deserves a more detailed retelling considering how it’s been five years and the tea party still doesn’t grasp how it’s named itself after an act of sabotage that was in direct opposition to a corporate tax cut.

Rewind to 1773 and the passage of the Tea Act, the British law which ultimately sparked the famous Boston Tea Party.

The East India Company, the Walmart or McDonald’s of its era, was in serious financial trouble, and being so closely tied to the economy of Great Britain, it was, you know, too big to fail.

But rather than bailing out the corporation, King George and Lord North decided that if they just cut the export duty of the company to zero and allow it to sell directly to the colonies, the East India Company would be able to unload its tea to the colonists at a discount — boosting sales and rescuing the near-bankrupt mega-corporation. Plus, they reasoned, the colonists would embrace the British monarchy for the cheaper tea, and tensions between the empire and the colonies would be ameliorated, at least temporarily.

So in May, 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act. The long-form subtitle of the act read as follows:

“An act to allow a drawback of the duties of customs on the exportation of tea to any of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America; to increase the deposit on bohea tea to be sold at the East India Company’s sales; and to empower the commissioners of the treasury to grant licenses to the East India Company to export tea duty-free.”

Several months later, the East India Company attained the proper clearances and set off to various colonial sea ports with its duty-free tea.

To repeat, the rationale for the Tea Act was that lower taxes meant lower prices, which meant the East India Company could sell a hell of a lot more tea. Suffice to say, the smaller colonial tea distributors weren’t happy — not to mention smugglers like Samuel Adams’ close confidant John Hancock. Colonial retail prices would be severely undercut by the tax-free tea, potentially shoving the smaller importers, and smugglers like Hancock, out of the tea business. Your basic free market precursor to supply-side Reaganomics in action. In other words, the British government’s solution to the East India Company’s financial crisis was, in effect, a massive tax cut — a tax cut to zero.

Consequently, political activists and, most famously, the Sons of Liberty, proceeded to intimidate and raid — with orders to tar and feather the pilots — any East India tea ship landing at various ports from Philadelphia to Sandy Hook to, naturally, Boston. And later that year, on December 16, 1773, when the Dartmouth, Beaver and Eleanor were docked in Boston Harbor, the Sons carried out their famous protest, dumping hundreds of crates of tea into the water.

All because of a tax cut. Not only that, but the tea party Republicans, while comporting themselves as cheap knock-offs of the Sons of Liberty, have instead embraced the tax-cutting, supply-side policies of the British monarchy.


Boiled down, it appears as though the tea party movement is in favor of tax cuts, while embracing an historical event that was violently opposed to tax cuts. In the interim, the tea party has vocally objected to the notion that something like 47 percent of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes. Who is the 47 percent? Forbes broke it down:

–17 percent includes students, people with disabilities or illnesses, the long-term unemployed, and other people with very low taxable incomes. Also included would be people like our soldiers in foreign wars who are exempted from paying income taxes while they are on active duty in a war zone.

–22 percent of people who did not pay federal income taxes in 2009 are people aged 65 or older who have modest incomes (and do not have earnings).

–61 percent are working people who pay payroll taxes but are not paying income taxes.

It’s important to highlight that these 47 percent do, in fact, pay state, local, sales and other taxes. So the tea party appears to be in favor of higher taxes for families, seniors and disabled Americans, while also being in favor of lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations, the latter being the exact opposite of the Sons of Liberty. You’d think the tea party, which has apparently been “taxed enough already,” would support the idea that nearly half of us don’t pay federal income taxes. But they don’t. Weirdly.

Obviously the tea party’s organizers failed to read about history before inappropriately horking the “tea party” moniker, and, indeed, they’re more than a little confused about taxes, both modern and historical — the issue upon which the entire movement is based.

Whoops again.

Anyway, happy fifth anniversary, you magnificent bastards. Hopefully in honor of this occasion, someone will give you the gift that keeps on giving: some high school level history and economics books.


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  • ron lahr

    It is nice to get the history lessons, I guess, but you all as well as Bob Cesca need to get a life. Seriously I believe the Tea Party is just a symbolic name at best to raise attention to what is going on in the county since Obama was elected. I am not against taxes if they are not wasted on crap that I am against, but I guess that has been going on since the beginning of taxation. I believe the Tea Party is against the growing debt ($17 trillion and still growing) and the size and overreach of government (still growing). When will it stop or slow down? At least they are voicing their displeasure about it, better than standing on the side lines and letting it happen. If you have no problem with this president breaking this county and making us a third world country fine, thats your choice. However there are people who do not like the way the country is going and they do not like the way the legislatures appear to be doing nothing to stop it either. Seems like all they want to work on is getting re-elected for their 20 or 30th time. Tea Party people are especially against the Establishment legislators in both parties who have helped get us where we are today. Do I agree with everything they stand for, probably not, but probably agree with them on more things than I do with the President or any legislator.
    At least someone is expressing their disappointment in our blotted government.

  • mrbrink

    Feel that Obama-fatigue setting in yet? It’s hate-exhaustion. That’s vintage 1999 fatigue they’re serving. Only the best rotten grapes went in to this newer vintage, and the aroma of burning cross really gives the bouquet a smokey, full-bodied taste of shit in your mouth.

    You have to be tough enough for the long haul with these nutjobs.

    • Bob Cesca

      Oh yes.

  • formerlywhatithink

    This picture is all the definitive proof I need that teabaggers are ignorant as hell (and hilariously, at first, clueless about slang).

    • Sams Mom

      This is priceless. Thank you for posting this insanely funny pic.

  • D_C_Wilson

    The Tea Party also doesn’t understand economics, the Constitution, history, logic, ethics, . . .

  • Dennis

    I think you all miss the point… which is that government interference always produces “unintended consequences” eh? The British government was giving the East India Company an ADVANTAGE by lowering their taxes! This is not the job of any government. And I see that you conveniently forgot that in order to make up the revenue they passed the Townsend Act in 1767 which levied NEW TAXES, including one on tea, in the colonies. The colonists protested this ability of the British government to do this. Hence, the party…

    • missliberties

      It’s not the job of any business to interfere in government.

      Or it’s not the job of any government to interfere in business.

      Sure. The unitended consequences of Britians monopoly on export tea was that it was Great for business, i.e.: the East India Co.

      So which comes first the chicken or the egg? There are unintended consequences everywhere, some predictable, some unforeseen. That is a super weak excuse.

      At some point the exploited serfs will rise up and who will be on their side? Business or government.

      • Dennis

        The fact still remains that the cause of the Tea Party was the colonists dislike of government interference (i.e. using taxation to manipulate behavior and influence outcomes) when they were thousands of miles away and had no business in their lives. Whether you agree with it or not is another story.

        • D_C_Wilson

          And those same colonialists weren’t too fond of unbridled corporate power either. That’s why once they were in charge,they passed limiting corporations so that they could only last for 20-30 years and were limited to only one commodity. They would be aghast at today’s multinationals.

          • Dennis

            I agree. Business and their power has too much influence as well. Actually it seems that the government and business is joined at the hip these days. That’s why we need a way to limit corporate influence on politics. Campaign Finance Reform maybe? It would be nice if congressmen served the country out of duty instead of for money. But money does corrupt. I just feel that government is just as guilty as mulinationals for the current problems.

        • mrbrink

          That’s not actually a factual statement.

          Article 1, sec. 8 would not exist if that were true in any way. Neither would the American government, for that matter.

          But going back a little further, it was the perceived violation of the ‘Rights of Englishmen’ and the continued violation of the ‘traditional rights of English subjects’ of the colonies which led to the declaration of independence from British rule. It wasn’t ‘dislike of government interference’ from afar– it was the abuses, not the least of which was the Tea Act– a corporate monopoly– and the lack of parliamentary redress, you see. They should have covered all this by the 8th grade.

          “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” are not the words of government haters above using the power of government to ‘manipulate behavior and influence outcomes,’ just so we’re clear on this.

          • Dennis

            Certainly you can’t dispute the fact that at the time, the British government was granting “preferential tax treatment” to the East India Company. The government still uses the tax code to manipulate people all the time. Look at smoking for instance. They raise taxes to discourage behavior and kill off businesses they don’t like. That is the real abuse! Abuse of the power of taxation. Taxes should be for funding the limited duties of the federal government. I’m sure you’re correct on the rights violations you mention, but I believe that abuse of the taxation powers is just as grevious an assault on rights as anything.

          • mrbrink

            Everything you’ve written is currently in dispute. Taxing and spending wasn’t a new concept in the colonies, and it wasn’t new when Article 1, sec. 8 was drafted and ratified– the very foundation upon which all rights are recognized and defended.

            No taxation= no funding of government= no military or courts, and no promoting and providing for the general welfare.

            By establishing The United States of America, the colonialists granted their federal government the powers of taxation, but just as importantly, power over the regulation of commerce and trade.

            ‘Preferential tax treatment’ is a gross understatement, especially in this instance, but the colonialists, British subjects without redress at the time(unlike you), didn’t revolt because of “preferential tax treatment.”

            That’s like arguing the Civil War was fought over states’ rights.

            As it stands, corporations are the new monarchies. And sadly, today’s Tea Party has been told to jump back in the water to return every last granule of dumped tea on the orders of East India and today’s King George(s). They’re the unwitting loyal subjects of corporate monarchy and active abolitionists of government redress.

          • Dennis

            My only point is that government is part of the problem as well as businesses. The government is not an innocent bystander as many here would seem to want to believe. “Evil” corporations are not to blame for all of the economic problems. As a matter of fact businesses and politicians are probably so much in collusion now that is irrepairable.

          • mrbrink

            You get the government you elect.

            This is what is wrong with America.

          • Dennis

            You’re right!

            And now that people have found out that they can vote for a party that will give them everything for nothing…the great experiment will soon come to an end.
            “Somebody (Ben Franklin maybe?) once noted, that Democracy is akin to “two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner.” That is to say, that in a democratic society, it is the will of the masses which ultimately prevails. And, since the “have-nots” will invariably outnumber the “haves”, you can bet that “have-nots” will eventually elect to eat the “haves” for breakfast.” The have-nots already outnumber the haves so there is no turning back. Debt of 17 trillion and counting…

          • Dennis

            I don’t think they are disputing “no taxes” wherever you seem to come up with that over and over and over again. The government has to have funding for the issues that you mention, such as courts (enforcing laws) and the military. Providing for the general welfare is probably where the most debate and dispute lies. The Tea Party, and conservatives in general feel that the government uses the general welfare clause to grow larger and larger. Seems to me the Tea Party is disputing “over-taxation” and the government misuse of the funds. The government is by far the most inefficient entity in the world. (All you need to do is serve in the miltary where a $3.00 screwdriver costs $50.00). I think the states would do a much better job in nearly every case, which seems to me to be the way the founders intended it to be.

          • Dennis

            And since you love Article 1 Section 8 so much, it does say “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be UNIFORM throughout the United States” does it not? Uniform doesn’t mean grant it to one entity and not the other. Even back then you can see that they were aware of, and tried to prevent “preferential” tax treatment. They were fully aware of how government could misuse the powers of taxation.
            Otherwise they would have written: all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be “preferential” throughout the United States.
            P.S. Of course everything I’m saying is in dispute….same as you and everyone else. Otherwise we’d all agree and this forum would be pretty useless.

          • mrbrink

            The Tea Party is arguing in favor of more concentrated wealth and further income inequality, which means less stake for the disenfranchised and less political power to wage an effective campaign against tax policy that overwhelmingly already favors the ultra wealthy and corporations. We’re not actually broke, contrary to what the Tea Party says. We’re the greatest wealth producing nation in history with much to protect. Taxes haven’t hurt record corporate profits. Record corporate profits, on the other hand, and the politics of ignorance and greed are hurting America. There’s more than enough wealth to go around. This is why the failure of ‘supply-side’ economics is no longer in dispute.

          • Dennis

            I guess I’m too much an economist. It is NOT the job of businesses to provide people with anything other than wages. And the wages are proportional to your skills. Income inequality, whatever that is, occurs because some people have nothing to offer in the way of skills or a unique product that commands a higher income. People now are demanding higher wages for working at McDonalds for crying out loud! McDonalds was never meant to be a CAREER job. It is a starter job. If you want better income, get better skills, an education, or start a business that will be the next IBM or Apple. If you want to depend on the government for a living and be disenfranchised (whatever that is) …more power to you! I think I’ll depend on myself, thank you.

          • mrbrink

            Thing is, you don’t depend on yourself. You depend on government being there to regulate commerce and trade– product safety, etc.– to promote a market that isn’t monopoly-based and wage-depressing so people can actually afford the junk you’re selling. People demanding better wages for the service they provide is only unreasonable to those promoting unbridled greed which has been sucking all the wealth income out of the mouths of children since Reagan. If it’s not the job of businesses to provide living wages to their workers while they run off with record profits, then they only prove the fallacy of supply-side, and by ignorance and greed empower the government to intervene on behalf of the aggrieved. This is why government must be stopped, according to Tea Party imbeciles. They want government to turn a blind eye while people are being exploited and left for dead at the hands of free-market zealots. Because if a tree falls in the forest, it can never make a sound if there’s nothing there to hear it.

            Tea Party philosophy can be better described as hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil so evil can prevail.

          • Dennis

            I’ve never been exploited and left for dead. I’m actually doing quite well. Regulating trade and commerce, enforcing contracts, and providing an environment that allows people and businesses to survive is the job of government. Price controls and things like the minimum wage are not. If you want to create jobs and have businesses return to the US you need to create an environment where they can do business. Otherwise they will go somewhere else, since the job of a business is to make profits…NOT provide a living wage (and who determines that, you?)

          • mrbrink

            You’ve never been exploited and left for dead? Thanks to healthcare regulations, you’re guaranteed that won’t ever happen in your life. It could have, and likely would have, but now you can sleep a little easier. Thanks, government.

            And the government, through revolving door lobbyists and special interests eating away at your uniform tax code, flouting a progressive tax code, have created a nice little environment for themselves in America. Sure, they can dump all kinds of poison into our lakes and rivers and hide the profits offshore, just for starters.

            Nothing is stopping record corporate profits and the resulting record income inequality in this country. Businesses aren’t suffering– workers with their over-worked/underpaid productivity are making them very wealthy for pennies on the dollar.

            The wealthy already control the business environment to their benefit and it’s an unnatural, undemocratic effort. Your controlled environment where business can’t flourish is a myth.

          • Dennis

            If they would have passed that Tax Act and it put you out of business…believe me you’d be pissed. You would probably be a tea-dumper too. As far as I’m concerned passing the Tea Act WAS an abuse of rights. As you state, there were other reasons but I think you would be pretty upset if the preferential treatment ruined your business because you could no longer compete. The “too big to fail” East India Company should have been allowed to fail, since it had become inefficient. The author states that “the tea party still doesn’t grasp how it’s named itself after an act of sabotage that was in direct opposition to a corporate tax cut” which is in error. It was a corporate tax cut for only ONE corporation which gave it an unfair advantage and the colonists had no recourse. An across the board cut for ALL businesses would have been a different story.

    • swift_4

      The argument that if government just left business alone then everything would be fine has been proven false yet again. This time, it nearly wrecked the world economy.

      The primary cause of the recent crash was banks and investment houses dealing in complex derivatives. Garbage assets were bundled together in complex packages. Credit agencies were coerced into giving them AAA ratings. Then they were sold back and forth at inflated prices.

      The derivatives market was completely, 100% unregulated. There were no rules for them partly because lawmakers didn’t want rules and partly because they were so complex they couldn’t easily be pinned down with rules.

      • Dennis

        Oh? I suppose the government relaxing requirements for mortgages so that “everyone” could have a home whether they could afford it or not, Clinton’s repeal of Glass-Steagle and the Federal Reserve Board had nothing to do with it? The government was the PRIMARY cause of the economic “bubble” and crash. All of the above made it possible to create the derivatives market and bundle sub-prime loans in with other assets so that they could not be properly assigned a credit rating. I’m not saying that business wasn’t in cahoots with government, but the government certainly wasn’t as pure as the driven snow in all this mess as you seem to want to believe.

        • swift_4

          You are arguing against yourself here. The repeal of Glass-Steagall (Clinton signed it, but it was three Republicans who wrote and sponsored it. But that’s a whole other argument) was a disaster. But that was a repeal of regulation (aka government interference). Relaxing requirements for mortgages was not a cause of the crash, but that is also less regulation (aka government interference).

          So tell me again. Do you want the banks to have a totally free market? Before the Great Depression, they did. And banks failed constantly, causing people to lose their wealth. After decades of whittling away at regulation, the banks finally got part of their business free of regulation again. It took them less than ten years to completely crash the economy again.

          Which is it? Government regulation, or a free market?

          • Dennis

            What does any of that have to do with taxes?

          • swift_4

            You broadened the argument to being against “government interference”. And I think you are deflecting. Are you in favor of a completely free market with no government interference?

          • Dennis

            I’m for free markets for the most part. Some government intervention helps, but in general, anytime you introduce something into the markets (especially if it attempts to control price) the market becomes less efficient. That’s simply economics 101. I only broadened the argument to make the point that the “evil” corporations are not alone in taking the blame for the state of the economy like many here seem to believe. Businesses and government are more in cahoots with each other than ever before and the outcome will not be good for the common man.

          • christomlin

            It was government regulation.
            In the 1990s banks were put under tremendous pressure to loosen up their lending standards so anyone could get a mortgage, however bad the risk.
            The problem with the derivatives market and the rise of those explosive mortgage backed securities wasn’t the derivatives or securities themselves per se but the utter recklessness, and therefore worthlessness, of so many of the mortgages.
            And they were worthless because the banks were FORCED to throw out their established lending standards in order to achieve some politically desirable demographic result in their granting of mortgages.
            If not for that lunacy, the entire derivatives market would probably still be intact today and the entire bubble… and crash…and recession would never have happened.

          • swift_4

            Wow. A blast from the past. I remember this conversation.

            Unfortunately, everything you said was a myth. It sounds good, but it’s a fiction. When the rich people got caught acting badly, they needed to deflect blame. So they aimed it at government and poor people.


          • christomlin

            Ah yes, the old “it wasn’t Fannie and Freddie” non sequitur.
            Government regulations do not exist in a vacuum and neither do markets. Throughout the ’90s the banks were under intense pressure to loosen up their lending standards.
            Anyone remember the ridiculous demonstrations, pickets and chanting, every time the HMDA data would be released showing that banks were (horrors!) refusing to lend to non-credit-worthy applicants
            They couldn’t win. Banks that did outreach in low income areas ended up rejecting even more applicants, and were pilloried for it.
            So, with a government gun to their heads, the banks loosened the standards.
            All of them.
            Not just for Fannie and Freddie, and not just for the lowest income borrowers but starting with the lowest income borrowers and working their way up through the entire landscape.
            The result was the plague of toxic loans.
            It wasn’t just “poor people.” Imprudent middle income and wealthier borrowers took advantage of the opportunity and dug themselves into disastrous holes too.
            It wasn’t “poor people.”
            It was, however, government screwing around with the market that set the whole house of cards up.

          • swift_4

            I cited evidence. Where’s yours? If what you say is true, cite evidence.

  • Barbara Striden

    The Tea Party didn’t exist until President Blacky McScarymuslim was sworn in. Of course they don’t actually know anything about tax policies in the Colonial Period. But they do know that when “their” America was established, Black Presidents weren’t supposed to be part of the picture. Not even half-black Presidents. I think the Black part is the problem.

  • ChrisAndersen

    The myth of the Boston Tea Party goes back much longer than the recent Tea Party movement. Indeed, I didn’t learn the truth of the matter myself until just a few years back (I have Thom Hartmann to thank for my education on this matter).

    It is an American myth that our country was founded on a protest against high taxes. But, just like the myth of George Washington and the cherry tree, it is still just a myth.

    • feloniousgrammar

      That one of the necessities of forming a government was the ability to tax seems to be hopelessly lost on conservatives. They evidently think that the founders were anti-government. It boggles.

  • Aaron Litz

    These are people who believe their computers work because God is putting the pictures on the screen for each of them personally, and Jesus is the reason planets stay in orbit around stars. Their credibility is zero.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Fact is, a lot of things get turned around to become the opposite of what they originally were. Minor example: “moot point” used to mean something important that had to be discussed and now it means something irrelevant. Bigger one: The original purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to enable the gov’t to put down armed revolt, and now most folks view it as something designed to enable citizens to oppose the gov’t.

    So the popular (mis-)conception of the Boston Tea Party is that it was a revolt against high taxes. Bothersome from an accuracy perspective, but not something you’re ever going to get a modern Tea Partier to care about.

    The important point isn’t that their historically inaccurate. It’s that the policies they are fighting for are causing the problems they’re complaining about.

    • Coyote12

      “The original purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to enable the gov’t to put down armed revolt” Not even close. The bill of rights is specifically about the states and the citizens rights against the Federal government being established via a Constitution. Not just the second amendment but all 10 amendments.
      The second amendment has 3 parts. One is a states right, one is the citizens right and the third locks the first two in place.
      “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” Is the states right to form a militia to defend itself against the larger Federal government itself. States are no different then countries and for our republic to work they have rights to redress the government through a use of arms. Checks and balances.
      the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, Is your right to defend and arm yourself specifically against the larger Federal Government as well.
      shall not be infringed. This means those first two parts are set in stone.
      It seems you are far more ignorant than the Tea Parties you stereotype.

      • ChrisAndersen

        “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”

        I agree that this clause establishes a State’s right to form its own militia, but I disagree that the reason for doing so was as a defense against the federal government. I believe it was more about the State’s concern that they be able to defend themselves locally if attacked (by, for example, native tribes or other external forces). Essentially the clause re-assures the states that they have a right to self-defense separate from the security provided by the national Army and Navy.

        “The right of the people” is a more problematic clause, since it is not clear that “the people” includes individuals. In other words, it may be a guarantee of the rights of “the people” as a whole, but is it necessarily a guarantee of the rights of “individuals”? It wasn’t until just a few years back that the Supreme Court even addressed this issue and they came down pretty firmly on “The People” also means “Individuals”. So this is essentially settled law, but only recently settled.

        I personally do not believe that the 2nd amendment was originally written to guarantee the right to individual ownership of all manner of firearms like it is interpreted today. But I also believe that law is not a settled matter until the courts weigh in and the courts have weighed in on this matter and therefore the law is fairly settled (even if I disagree on where it has settled).

  • Christopher Foxx

    You’d think the tea party, which has apparently been “taxed enough already,” would support the idea that nearly half of us don’t pay federal income taxes. But they don’t. Weirdly.

    Not weird at all. They are in favor of lower taxes for themselves, and higher taxes for everyone else.

    They hear someone is exempt from paying a tax and their response isn’t “How do I get that for myself?” It’s “How do I take that away from you (while getting it for myself)?”

    • Bob Cesca

      Of course I was being snarky with the “weird” thing. But yeah, great points, Foxx.

    • GrafZeppelin127

      Self-congratulation and resentment. We are Taxed Enough Already; why don’t you start taxing Them for a change?

      To be fair, liberals say things like this too. The difference being who “Them” is. That, and a more cogent understanding of how taxation actually works.

  • Robert Scalzi

    Excellent post – having grown up in Boston and teh surrounding communities and having this era of history pounded into our heads I find it infuriating how many of my fellow Americans have no clue when it comes to history – thus why I call the Tea Party folks – Tea Bastards – they have bastardized the true reasons for the actual tea party – I would love to see the rest of the left start referring to them as TEA BASTARDS – because that is what they are

  • GrafZeppelin127

    Three things missing about the “rise” of the glorious Truman-Show-in-reverse public improvisational-theatre production known as “The Tea Party™.”

    1. That it’s grounded in, and has from its very beginning been motivated by, self-congratulation and resentment. Widely credited with its birthing is Rick Santelli’s rant on CNBC, asking all the Good People Who Paid Their Mortgages And Did Everything Right if they wanted to “bail out” the “Losers” who didn’t. That’s been the driving force behind Tea Party™ politics, rally after rally, speech after speech, Fox News segment after Fox News segment: Us Good, Them Bad, Freedom!

    2. The “Taxed Enough Already” delusion comes from a 1970s-vintage stereotype of Democrats that Republicans are still running against — successfully — four decades on. Democrats Raise Taxes™. It’s what They Do. A Democrat is President, hence taxes will go up. The reality doesn’t matter. Democrat President = Tax Increase. It’s an article of faith for these people that can’t be dissuaded or debunked.

    3. It’s important to remember that many of these folks spent seven years marinating in propaganda that conditioned them to believe two things: (1) George W. Bush is the Greatest President Ever, a brilliant, masterful, heroic, Mount-Rushmore-Worthy, historically-great leader who is Absolutely Right About Everything and has Never Made a Mistake; and (2) Democrats are evil, dangerous, weak, America-hating terrorist sympathizers who will willingly hand over the country to al Qaeda the moment they win an election. Unable to deal with, or shield themselves from, the reality of both of those articles of faith turning out to be grotesquely and spectacularly wrong, they retreated further into a new and deeper paracosm. A psychotic break on a massive scale, that the country may never recover from.

    That last one is, I think, the most tragic. The so-called “Tea Party” and the right-wing media have done so much damage to our public discourse, to our public consciousness, by performing this elaborate, ongoing, well-coordinated, well-financed and incredibly lucrative 24-hour improv act for so long that a sizable portion of our population is literally living in a fantasy world. Worse, it’s a fantasy world whose inhabitants are constantly feeling persecuted, threatened, victimized, cornered and surrounded by unidentifiable, faceless enemies. It’s only a matter of time before the inhabitants of that paracosm start acting on their fears, hatreds and delusions.

    • MrDHalen

      That last sentence mixed in with weakening gun laws and more stand-your-ground laws, is a recipe for disaster.

      • infidel1000

        Yeah, not to mention a world full of nuclear weapons and fundamentalist and orthodox christians and muslims.

  • ruth crocker

    The colonists didn’t opposed taxes, they opposed taxation without representation. Still, tea party historians add a lot of color to that period – sarah palin who said paul revere was riding to warn the british not to take away our guns, and michele bachman who said the first battle of the revolutionary war took place in concord, new hampshire. meanwhile in massachusetts, where this all went down, people pay taxes without much complaint and have a very high standard of living.

    • Ned F

      When I was a kid, I saw a Disney movie, “Johnny Tremain”, I remembered a song from the film, but had to look up the film’s title( ). The refrain went something like “we are the sons, the Sons of Liberty.” Anyway, that was my first and original glimpse of the Boston Tea Party, and it was the mythical tax revolt. This is where a lot of the Tea Party folks live, in the myth, which is much more exciting and stirring than factual history. Monsanto is Johnny Appleseed, and Weyerhaeuser is Paul Bunyan and his (suspiciously named) Babe, the blue ox.

    • Sean Richardson

      taxation without representation was the constitutional argument they were able to put together, but the people were opposed to being taxed.

      • JozefAL

        For starters, know that the “Shift” button can be your friend.

        Secondly, there was no “constitutional argument” to be made or put together in the 1770s. The Constitution (and hence, its arguments) didn’t come along until the end of the 1780s–a full half-decade AFTER the peace treaty ending the American Revolution.

        Thirdly, when you post nonsense as you did in the final clause, be ready to back it up with legitimate sources. How do YOU know that “the people were opposed to being taxed,” aside from pulling it out of your ass? Show me the public opinion polls. Oh wait. They didn’t have those in the colonial era.

      • nathkatun7

        Do you even the years the Constitution was drafted and ratified?

      • Victor Laszlo

        You are of course completely correct, Sean! The first Americans were utterly opposed to taxation in ANY form! You can see that as plain as day in the Constitution itself! Article One, Section Eight, Clause One clearly states “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises”… oh… uh… um… Hey, look at the time! I gotta go! Nice talking with you!

        • dbtheonly


          The taxes you speak of are Tariff’s & Excises. Like on Whiskey (1792). An Income Tax comes around during the Civil War but later has to be established through Constitutional Amendment. 1913, if I remember.

          How’s Ilsa?

    • Bob Cesca

      I actually had a paragraph in the article about “taxation without representation,” but took it out for brevity’s sake. Glad you added it here. Dead on.

      • ChrisAndersen

        I recently finished Oxford’s History of America’s volume on the Revolution and it talks in depth about how the heart of the American complain was not the specific value of the taxes but the fact that they, as British citizens, should have some voice in the decision as to what taxes there should be. “No Taxation Without Representation” is a marketing slogan that only touches on the surface of this argument. It goes very deeply into the question of just what rights citizens have over their government. American colonists assumed that they had the same rights as those who lived on British soil. The British Parliament and the King acted otherwise.

        The rest is history.

        • dbtheonly

          You’ve read a good one.

    • j hentai

      the thing is though that although the american colonies were taxed without representation, so was england itself.

  • chris ellis


    • Bob Cesca

      Appreciate it!

  • dbtheonly

    Indeed. History has never been the RW’s long suit.

    • ChrisAndersen

      I actually don’t blame the RW on this matter. Until very recently I didn’t know the truth of what was behind the protest in Boston and bought completely into the myth that it was about high taxes. It is part of American mythology and many Democrats believe it as much as do Republicans.

      • dbtheonly

        You’re right, the Tea Party has entered American Folklore as something much different than the original intent; but I’m too much a coward to raise the tariff issue here.

        But well beyond that, the Tea Party seems to have lost the knowledge of the last ~150 years. Repeal the 17th Amendment?(!) Forgetting what happened with a Gold Standard currency. Opposing worker safety. Calling Social Security, “Welfare”. They’ve even suggested “Nullification”, which everyone might agree is a bad thing when dealing with the tariff, but might provoke another response when referencing the Fugitive Slave Law.

  • aceshigh

    Nicely done, Bob.

    • Bob Cesca



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