Tea Parties, Tax Revolts and Real Change

James A. Leggette and Michael W. Funk
On April 15, hundreds of tax day tea parties are going to the held both throughout Mississippi and the country. These gatherings of thousands average citizens throughout the country is an effort to show the concern about the current direction of our country under the Obama Administration.  In particular, they are outraged over exploding government spending, bailouts, and deficits and ultimately increased governmental control of lives.

The current tea party movement was triggered in part by impassioned comments by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli on the latest bailout in February.  These sparks lit the wildfire which grew into the April 15 parties.  The United States has had a long history of grass roots movements protesting high taxes and other encroachments by government on fundamental liberties.  The most famous tea party was the Boston Tea Party in 1773 where the colonists destroyed loads of tea rather than pay the high taxes on the beverage of choice in that time, tea.  This protest eventually led to the British Parliament's repeal of the unpopular tax.    In 1978, Howard Jarvis, leader of movement that led to the passage of Proposition 13.   This measure was a statewide referendum ballot limiting property taxes in California.   This movement captured the imagination of the country with a defiant Jarvis appearing on the cover of Time with headline, "Tax Revolt."

Despite the enthusiasm it has generated, the Tax Day Tea Party movement has received little attention from the most mainstream media.  Paul Krugman's haughty dismissal today of the movement is the exception. In fact, most of the leaning commentators are viewing the parties as just sour grapes by disgruntled Republicans.   To dismiss this movement as being insignificant chest beating by right wing Neanderthals is ignoring the lessons of histroy.  The Boston Tea Party led to the repeal of the tea tax and ultimately culminated in the American Revolution.  Howard Jarvis' Proposition 13 tax revolt created a ground swell that led to the Reagan Revolution.  Rather than down play the Tea Party movement, its critics should remember that widespread grass roots movements of the 60s fueled the Civil Rights movement, the withdrawal from Viet man and variety of other reforms.

History also tells us that even if these groups never ever gain power, groups which have been dismissed as fringe often shape the course of policy.  For example in early part of the 20th century the Socialist party was barely a blip on the radar.  Yet, many of the reforms have been enacted and hardly seem fringe today.  Among these include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, progressive income taxes to name a few.

For the most part, our political leadership is largely taking a "wait and see" approach to the Tea Parties.  However, there are some elected officials speaking at these gatherings.  No doubt some political entrepreneur recognizing a constituency hungry for leadership will step in to fill that void.  As the old saying goes - there are my people, I must go with them because I am their leader.  The last conservative political entrepreneur to respond to such a grass roots movement and rise to lead "real change" was Ronald Reagan. 

James A. Leggette, Ph.D. is an Adjunct Professor of Economics at BelhavenCollege and a talk radio host at WMOX in Meridian.  His website is profjim.com.
On April 15, hundreds of tax day tea parties are going to the held both throughout Mississippi and the country. These gatherings of thousands average citizens throughout the country is an effort to show the concern about the current direction of our country under the Obama Administration.  In particular, they are outraged over exploding government spending, bailouts, and deficits and ultimately increased governmental control of lives.

The current tea party movement was triggered in part by impassioned comments by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli on the latest bailout in February.  These sparks lit the wildfire which grew into the April 15 parties.  The United States has had a long history of grass roots movements protesting high taxes and other encroachments by government on fundamental liberties.  The most famous tea party was the Boston Tea Party in 1773 where the colonists destroyed loads of tea rather than pay the high taxes on the beverage of choice in that time, tea.  This protest eventually led to the British Parliament's repeal of the unpopular tax.    In 1978, Howard Jarvis, leader of movement that led to the passage of Proposition 13.   This measure was a statewide referendum ballot limiting property taxes in California.   This movement captured the imagination of the country with a defiant Jarvis appearing on the cover of Time with headline, "Tax Revolt."

Despite the enthusiasm it has generated, the Tax Day Tea Party movement has received little attention from the most mainstream media.  Paul Krugman's haughty dismissal today of the movement is the exception. In fact, most of the leaning commentators are viewing the parties as just sour grapes by disgruntled Republicans.   To dismiss this movement as being insignificant chest beating by right wing Neanderthals is ignoring the lessons of histroy.  The Boston Tea Party led to the repeal of the tea tax and ultimately culminated in the American Revolution.  Howard Jarvis' Proposition 13 tax revolt created a ground swell that led to the Reagan Revolution.  Rather than down play the Tea Party movement, its critics should remember that widespread grass roots movements of the 60s fueled the Civil Rights movement, the withdrawal from Viet man and variety of other reforms.

History also tells us that even if these groups never ever gain power, groups which have been dismissed as fringe often shape the course of policy.  For example in early part of the 20th century the Socialist party was barely a blip on the radar.  Yet, many of the reforms have been enacted and hardly seem fringe today.  Among these include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, progressive income taxes to name a few.

For the most part, our political leadership is largely taking a "wait and see" approach to the Tea Parties.  However, there are some elected officials speaking at these gatherings.  No doubt some political entrepreneur recognizing a constituency hungry for leadership will step in to fill that void.  As the old saying goes - there are my people, I must go with them because I am their leader.  The last conservative political entrepreneur to respond to such a grass roots movement and rise to lead "real change" was Ronald Reagan. 

James A. Leggette, Ph.D. is an Adjunct Professor of Economics at BelhavenCollege and a talk radio host at WMOX in Meridian.  His website is profjim.com.