Many Americans will be marking the arrival of April 15th by doing more than just dropping an envelope in the mail at their local post office: they will be protesting on a number of related topics, including tax reform, corporate bailouts, and excessive government spending. These protests have become known as tea parties, referring to the American colonists’ protest against “taxation without representation” at the Boston Tea Party.
I first became aware of the concept of a “tea party” a few years ago when I was a community coordinator for the FairTax tax reform movement. Someone in the organization had come up with the novel idea of mailing a single tea bag with a tax-protest-related slogan to their congressman as a way to bring the congressman’s attention to the issue. This became a very popular method of tax protest. According to the Dallas News, the idea of a tea party grabbed national attention when CNBC newscaster Rick Santelli made an off-the-cuff plea for change:
On Feb. 19, CNBC’s Rick Santelli was broadcasting from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, asking nearby traders if they wanted their tax dollars to pay other people’s mortgages, as required by the so-called Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan. Amid a chorus of discontent, Santelli rhetorically asked President Barack Obama, “Are you listening?” and invoked the notion of a “Chicago Tea Party” and the imagery of the Boston tea tax protests of 1773.
As the following news clip shows, the idea has caught on with people upset with the enormous amounts of their tax money being spent by the government, which has either been marked as “stimulus” or has been used to bail out large corporations. Many of these people feel that the spending of over $2 trillion in this fashion would only burden the country, and will make the current economic situation worse.
This also appears to be a type of backlash response from people who believe that President Obama’s actions in expanding the government are much more radical than what was promised during the President’s campaign for office. This sentiment was recently echoed by the governor of Texas as he backed a resolution which reasserted the sovereignty of the states over the federal government, and rebuked some attempts by the Obama administration to claim powers which are not specifically granted by the Constitution (the 10th amendment prohibits this).
The most interesting aspect of these protests is that they are almost completely grass-roots. Much of the organization has been done via social networking, especially Twitter. According to hashtags.org, which tracks statistics on Twitter hashtag usage, usage of the #teaparty tag spiked as April 15 approached, and is currently at number two out of all hashtags. A Google map mashup is tracking tea parties all over the U.S., and PajamasTv is hosting live tea party coverage.
It has been interesting to follow the discussion on Twitter, and it will be very interesting to see what happens as the day unfolds. I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Steve Puma is a technologist, sustainability consultant and strategist. He currently writes for 3p as well as on his personal blog, ThePumaBlog.com, about the intersection of sustainability, technology, innovation, and the future. Steve holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio School of Management and a BA in Computer Science from Rutgers University. You can contact Steve through email or LinkedIn, or follow him on twitter.