The Tea Party: Merchants of Hate or Simply Misguided?

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"As a student of history and a longtime resident of Boston, I am very troubled by the so-called “Tea Party” movement’s current (mis)appropriation of the term.

 The original protest on Dec. 16, 1773, by British American colonists was the culmination of longstanding grievances against the British government under the battle cry of “no taxation without representation.” According to the British Constitution, only Parliament could levy taxes, and since colonists were prohibited from voting for members of Parliament or sending their own representatives to serve in Parliament, they considered the series of taxes, including the tea tax, a violation of their rights as citizens of the British realm.

 The current movement contains no well-developed political philosophy other than hatred of what they consider “Big Government,” which it views as the cause of the nation’s troubles. [...]

The Tea Partiers with their Republican allies have very deftly used the rhetoric of fear verging on paranoia to exploit people’s anxieties about their economic well-being and, quite ironically, even to vote against their own economic interests. [...]

While I would hope the vast majority of current Tea Party members would not personally condone oppressive actions, a number of followers have engaged in racist, homophobic, ableist and misogynistic name calling and other acts of violence. [...]

I actually agree with Tea Party followers’ contention that great economic disparities exist and are widening in this country, though not for the reasons they assert.

So-called “Big Government” is not the cause of the problem. The relatively unregulated and unfettered Wall Street, banking and “free market” systems constitute the actual threats.

United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as raising “awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart,” says that by 2004, the top 10 percent of the population owned 71 percent of accumulated wealth in the country.

Subdivided even further, the top 1 percent owned 31 percent of the country’s wealth. The wealthiest 1 percent owns approximately 45 percent of all stocks and mutual funds. In addition, the very rich pay less in taxes now than at any point in recent history. [...]"

Read the full op-ed by Warren Blumenfeld in The Ames Tribune.

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