The History of Today’s “Tea Party”
This article is titled “Tea Partying: When Protest Movements Defend the Interests of the Ultra-Rich” by David Cay Johnston. It opens with: “Four years ago, the modern tea party seemed to emerge from nowhere, leaving journalists bewildered and the public with few reference points to understand seemingly spontaneous rallies by middle-class people seeking lower tax rates.”
Before 2009, when someone said “demonstration” or “protest,” you’d think of workers going on strike, or thousands of people protesting against war or injustice. Then suddenly we had thousands of middle class demonstrators “spontaneously” protesting against health insurance reform and raising taxes on the wealthiest one percent. WTF???
After the smoke cleared, it was obvious that these Astroturf “demonstrations” were funded and orchestrated by fossil fuel tycoons, Wall Street and the health insurance industry, to name a few. The average Joe Citizen wasn’t exactly lying awake at night worrying about the tax burden of the one percent or the agony of an HMO executive who won't be able to turn patients away because of a pre-existing condition. What to do? Put a folksy “We The People” spin on it, and then find a bunch of useful idiots to stage “spontaneous” “demonstrations.” And the next thing you know, thousands of “protestors” are out there shouting about “Death Panels!” and “Taxed Enough Already.”
When rightwing politicians regurgitate “The American People” for the umpteen billionth time, the only “people” they’re referring to are their campaign contributors.
This article quotes heavily from Isaac William Martin‘s book, “Rich People’s Movements: Grassroots Campaigns to Untax the One Percent.” Martin says:
“Social movements that explicitly defend the interests of the rich and the almost-rich have been a recurring feature of American politics. Such movements shook the American polity before the Obama era, before the Reagan era and before Barry Goldwater ran for president — before, even, the New Deal.”
In 1913, when the federal income tax was first established (via the Sixteenth Amendment), the prototype of the Teabagger was born. Isaac William Martin writes:
“Corporate boardrooms were rife with ‘rich men who were scared of progressive taxation, but did not know how to fight it.’”
These scared rich men were rescued by J.A. Arnold — the first of the rightwing rabblerousers; a community organizer for millionaires who were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it any more. J.A. Arnold got his start fighting and organizing on behalf of railroad tycoons, who were starting to face a backlash from exploited workers.
After that he joined forces with the banking cartel in order to fight those commie Texas land banks that were helping small farmers. Next he started organizing Tax Clubs which “like the tea party, seemed to emerge from nowhere.” [from the linked article]
These Tax Clubs were made up mostly of bankers who tried to adopt the language and mannerisms of farmers and workers so they could connect with the unwashed masses. And this was where “Trickle Down” was born — i.e. lower taxes will encourage productive investments which will benefit all of us.
Anyway, it’s a long article that’s full of relevant information. The author closes with:
“Martin’s book is useful in understanding a forgotten history that preceded the seemingly sudden assaults on consumers, unions and workers by legislatures and governors in Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin and other states where extremists are currently in power.”