As American’s all know, April 15th is tax day. Unless you have filed for an extension, Wednesday is the last day you can submit your tax payments to the federal government without penalty. What you might not know is that it is the same day for the tax day Tea Party.
Back in February, Rick Santelli went into a frenzy during a live broadcast on CNBC. He called for a Chicago Tea Party in July because of economic policies coming out of Washington over the past year during both the Bush and Obama Administrations. It didn’t take five months for the tea party to occur, but rather just two weeks. Tens of thousands of individuals gathered together around the country to participate in “tea” parties to protest the governments’ actions. This Wednesday, the second national tea party will take place, with participation estimates projected to be well into the hundreds of thousands. I have to ask, “Are these parties worth the time and effort?”
Let us step back in time for a moment and revisit the famous Boston Tea Party. For years the British Colonies and the British Government were at odds over the principle of taxation without representation. Taxation was a power of the Parliament, and the colonists complained that they should not be taxed since they did not vote for parliament members. Numerous Acts that taxed the colonies or increased the costs of goods exported to the colonies were drafted, implemented, and sometimes repealed over the years. One of these Acts was the Townshend Revenue Act.
The Townshend Revenue Act of 1767 was a direct tax on goods exported to the colonies that was drafted to offset the revenue losses from the Indemnity Act of 1767, an act that decreased the duties placed upon the East Indian Company that imported tea to Britain. The Townshend Revenue Act stirred a lot of emotions in the colonies since they felt that this opened the door for future taxes without representation. In 1773, the Parliament tired to hide the Townshend taxes in the new Tea Act (passed to replace the Indemnity Act that expired in 1772), but the colonists found out about the deception.
Colonists, including Whig Leader Samuel Adams, launched protests around the colonies resulting in many shipments of tea into the colonies to be sent back to Britain. The importers in Boston and the Governor of Massachusetts were the only holdouts, and refused to allow the cargo ships to leave the port until the Captain’s paid duty on the goods. On December 16th, colonists boarded the ships and dumped all the tea overboard, resulting in what is now known as the Boston Tea Party.
The tea parties of 2009 are not about current taxation, but over government policy and spending that is bound to result in higher taxes and debt in the future. Online groups are working hard on this grassroots movement to get as many people out on Wednesday at cities all across the nation to for a highly symbolic protest in the hopes to sway the government’s fiscal policies. I give these participants and organizers a lot of credit for acting on what they believe, however, I question if this will make any real impact.
The colonist that boarded the ships in 1773 understood that they could face criminal charges for destruction of property, let alone participating in a defiant act against the government. The participants this Wednesday are free from reprisal (unless they break any local laws) for gathering together and voicing their concerns. Additionally, while there will be speeches made against the direction government fiscal policies are headed, these “tea parties” will have more of a party feel rather than a protest. One just needs to look back at the video coverage of the February tea parties showing participants smiling while tearing open tiny tea bags.
The media will be sure to cover the events, though the message might be lost on those who are not involved with the protests. On Capitol Hill, the message might not even be received. For while these protestors gather together to voice their frustration with the government, the government consists of politicians that were voted into office by the very same protestors and their neighbors. The politicians understand that their jobs depend on their ability to meet the demands and the emotions of their constituents, and voting in favor of spending bills that the protestors are against could lead to them losing in the next election. However, most of these politicians have at least one year until their next election, and that might be their saving grace.
If the general public views the tea parties of 2009 more as social gathering and less as a serious cry for change, the politicians might be able to sidestep any negative blowback for their support of increased spending. The timing of grassroots movements is important, and if the steam behind the tea party protests dies this year, there will not be enough momentum to cause politicians to change their position. Also, failure to provoke change in members of the general public who are not paying attention to the movement will lead to the politicians that are increasing government spending to be reelected in 2010. The result will be the cycle of increased government spending to continue, and Rick Santelli’s rant on the Chicago Board Options Exchange and all the effort tea party organizers will be for nothing. Can you afford nothing?
Chicago Ray – “Steve Vaus We Must Take America Back and Tomorrow is a good start”
Politics and Critical Thinking – “Edmund Burke and a Progressive went to a Tea Party”
A Soldier’s Perspective – “Concerned Americans Taking Action”
Think Progress – “FreedomWorks Orchestrates ‘Grassroots’ Movements To Serve Dick Armey’s Corporate Clients”
The QandO Online Magazine – “Tea Parties Are About Future Taxes, Not Present Ones (update)”