Even with special days like Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day, February, the shortest month of the year, has been too long and too shivering. Hopefully, Feb. 19 was a day that warmed your heart.
What is special about Feb. 19? It is my husband’s birthday. I hope that day is important to you as well because Feb. 19, 2009, was the day that the idea for Resurrecting the Tea Party came to life. Rick Santelli, an on-air editor for CNBC, shouted from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for another Tea Party.
That caused me to review the details surrounding the original Tea Party. The colonists were experiencing heavy taxation and regulations by the British. Ten years earlier the British signed the Treaty of Paris that ended their victorious Seven Years War but left Britain with tremendous debt. (The North American theater of the war was known as the French and Indians War.)
Prime Minister George Grenville thought the colonists needed to help pay for the expenses the British incurred on the American continent, and burdensome taxation began. One of the most reviled taxes was the Stamp Tax, a direct tax that required all printed material (even playing cards) be taxed. The Sons of Liberty organized a successful boycott, and that tax was repealed.
Next came the Townshend Act, a tax on imports. Parliament reasoned if the colonists objected to a direct tax, then they might not object to an indirect tax.
Wrong! That was also met with resistance and another boycott. British merchants relied heavily on the colonial market so Parliament eliminated the duties on all imports except tea, a product for which the colonists had become very fond.
Then came the Tea Act of 1773. It was designed to help the previously productive British East India Co. to survive. Through trickery and manipulation, Parliament granted the East India Co. what amounted to a monopoly of the tea trade in America. (Could Parliament have thought it was too big to fail?)
Even though The Tea Act lowered the price of tea, the colonists reacted angrily because American importers of tea were cut out of business. Colonial merchants became worried that Parliament could also give other companies monopolies over various kinds of trade in the colonies.
Tensions flared. Finally a group of Bostonians disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three tea ships anchored in Boston Harbor and dumped tea crates overboard while townspeople watched. The tea was worth more than 15,000 pounds, now $150,000.
Parliamentary leaders were furious and passed the Coercive Acts to punish Massachusetts. The strategy behind the acts was to isolate what the British saw as radical Massachusetts Patriots from the more moderate Americans in the other colonies.
These acts, called the “Intolerable Acts” by the colonists, generated sympathy for Massachusetts. Prior to the “tea episode,” competition was more prevalent than cooperation among the colonial governments.
The punitive effect of the Coercive/Intolerable Acts backfired. The colonists felt, if they acquiesced to British taxation and heavy handedness, there would be no end to British intervention into their lives.
The scenario surrounding Rick Santelli’s outburst was somewhat similar to the circumstances that spawned the original Tea Party. He was enraged by government plans to refinance “underwater mortgages” — mortgages whose values were less than the balance owed.
President Obama had just signed a $275 billion federal government bailout, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly called the Stimulus Act. Santelli called for the traders to gather and dump all those mortgage derivatives into the Chicago River.
Ten months later, after Santelli’s “rant heard around the world” in December 2009, Sen. Harry Reid, through trickery and parliamentary procedure manipulation, pushed the health care law through Congress. This was contrary to most Americans’ wishes.
Just as Parliament did years ago, President Obama and the Democrat leadership of the Senate are still ignoring the will of the people. Our government is excessively spending money it does not have and has already accumulated debt that our children and grandchildren will have to repay. How much do we value our freedoms? Is it OK for our government to make personal decisions for us because “they know best?” Have our status quo lives moved us into passivity?
Hopefully Rick Santelli’s outburst will make Feb. 19 a significant day in your life. If we value our liberties, we Democrats, Republicans, and independents must work together. Let’s become unified to prevent the government from reaching into our lives and making decisions that belong to the individual.
WILLEE COOPER is a former teacher and military spouse. A Hopkinsville resident, she is past president of the Kentucky Federation of Republican Women. Her column runs twice a month. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.