Lately, angry citizens in cities all over the country have been holding protests against the stimulus package and using tax dollars to bail out people who took on mortgages they found they couldn't afford. In St. Louis, protesters tossed tea in the Mississippi River, according to AHN. Now, they are planning a National Tax Day Tea Party.
When I first heard of these anti-stimulus tea parties, they seemed rather silly. However, I'm giving it a second thought after studying up on the original Boston Tea Party this week for a podcast we're preparing on the East India Company (one of my favorite subjects).
Today, people are dissing the stimulus tea parties, saying that the modern issue has nothing to do with "taxation without representation." But if you remember from our original podcast on the Boston Tea Party, the historic event didn't exactly have to do with that either. England had recently removed most of the contested taxes and dramatically cut the tea tax -- and this TAX CUT contributed to the protest, according to Empire by Niall Ferguson.
England cut the tea tax in order to sweeten the pill they were trying to force down the colonists' throats of buying tea from the East India Company -- the official, state-sponsored monopoly. This tax cut screwed up the system that merchants had going for them. Also, colonists were upset that the British were trying to dump their surplus of tea on them. And, they were getting out anger that had been bubbling up for a while: Until a decade before, the colonists had gotten comfortable with being left alone by the British.
To opponents, the stimulus is a lot like the British acts that led to the Revolutionary War. In both cases, the government is dumping the mistakes of some (bad mortgages or a surplus of tea) on others. And, both are protests of the general principle of government meddling with citizens who'd rather be left alone.