Who Hijacked Our Country

Thursday, September 26, 2013

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.”


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8 Comments:

Blogger Life As I Know It Now said...

I've been watching CSPAN lately and sure enough those republicans are always talking about their constituents as if they are those folks next door to you and me but that ain't who they're fighting for--their constituents are the 1%!

September 26, 2013 at 8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that they have gone from Grass Roots to fully financed, I wonder if the bottom ranks realize their leaders are getting paid?


Erik

September 26, 2013 at 11:50 PM  
Blogger davidcay said...

Thanks for the kind words on my piece in The American Prospect, but to be clear the reason "this article quotes heavily from Isaac William Martin‘s book, “Rich People’s Movements: Grassroots Campaigns to Untax the One Percent” is that it is a book review.

Not so long ago the Sunday NYTimes book review ran 100 pages or more and metro dailies either had Sunday book review sections or at pages in their arts and cultural coverage devoted to book reviews. Look how thin the NYT review is now. In many metro dailies you will hunt without success for even one book review on Sunday.

Book reviews, like actual book reading, have declined so much that it is now common to not even draw the distinction between the generic term "articles" and book reviews.

September 27, 2013 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Life: GOP operatives are geniuses at putting up a "just regular folks" "the American People" smokescreen, while using every sleight-of-hand technique imaginable to make the 1% even wealthier and more powerful.

Erik: I don't think these Tea Party groups ever were grass roots; that was just the front they were putting up. And my guess is, the people at the lower ranks are too dumb to ask or to care about the answer.

David Cay: Thanks for stopping by, and for the clarification. Good point about declining and disappearing book reviews.

September 27, 2013 at 1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow you got a comment from Johnston himself, I have all of his books

Erik

September 27, 2013 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: That's really cool. I love when this happens. The same thing happened about 4 or 5 years ago when I did a post about "A People's History of the United States." Howard Zinn left a comment.

September 27, 2013 at 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, next thing we know, Prince William will personally participate in the next unannounced exercise over our fair city! Royalty sighting!!!

We get so much info from other sources now. I spent most of my life reading NYT Book Reviews and it's been five years since I've even thought about it. Book reviews, and that one format, were such a part of our culture. Everything now, seems to be a "review"....one example is how people enjoy "commenting" about the media, while it's reviewing itself. Most people are content interacting with TV shows that are about TV shows.

Tom, your blogs, both, and others like it, the discussion, essential for us to defeat those that hijacked our city, country, and planet.

Neo con heads exploding today. I'm not surprised Obama pulled it off.

September 27, 2013 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Anonymous: Thanks. I like it when Neocon heads explode.

September 28, 2013 at 11:04 AM  

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