Progressive political commentator Thom Hartmann has something to say about the real history of the Boston Tea Party. Using a first-hand account written by one of the participants, he shows that it was not against government regulation; it was not against the size of government. It was not even really at its core about government at all, except to the extent that a government supported a huge mega-corporation that had a stranglehold on America’s economy. As Thom Hartmann says, the Boston Tea Party was “A revolt against corporate power and corporate tax cuts.”
The heavy of the piece was not specifically the British government but the East India Company, which had a monopoly and was exploiting it. The East India Company was almost a nation unto itself, with tremendous influence over the British government and guilty of tremendous corruption and violence. The original Tea Party patriots were having none of this. They were not going to be ruined by corporate greed.
Obviously, these were not a bunch of conservatives, especially not a bunch of people like today’s conservatives, who embrace corporate power and willingly place themselves into thrall of these powerful conglomerates, today’s East India Companies, like GE (which paid no taxes). The status quo defends corporations, defends the right of corporations to evade taxation, and defends the rights of corporations to exploit the average citizen. The original Tea Party patriots rose up against this idea, and threw tea to the value of a million of today’s dollars into Boston Harbor. Not government tea, mind you, but corporate tea.
This lesson from history is more important than ever today given events in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and in my own Indiana, as the Tea Party, corporate-funded shills that they are, tries to take away not only the rights and livelihood of working-class Americans but on behalf of those corporations attacks the democracy those first patriotic Americans eventually fought to give us. The lessons of history, real history, not David Barton “santorum” we’re having pushed on us, demonstrate that the modern Tea Partiers are not upholders of the Revolution but Tories, looking to turn back the clock to those days when a large corporation could run roughshod over American rights.
The East India Company may be a part of history, but corporate greed and influence is not, and other large corporations have arisen to take its place, to exert the same sort of influence over government, and to feed themselves like vampires on the health of the body politic; off us, the American people. If there are people today who embody the spirit and patriotism of those original men, it is the workers and teachers in those states now under corporate attack, average men and women who like those original patriots refuse to have their rights trampled by tax-free corporations.
Long live the Revolution!