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… READ MORE(h/t Attorney Shawn Sukumar)