What Drives the Tea Party Movement?
The catalyst may have been "Rick's Rant", seen by millions of CNBC viewers on February 19, 2009. "Cuba used to have mansions and a relatively decent economy. They moved from the individual to the collective, and now they're driving '54 Chevies - the last great car to come out of Detroit." OK, that's an unfair dig at Detroit, but remember that the auto bailout and the $787 billion "stimulus" bill had just passed Congress and been signed into law by Barack Obama. ("Rick" is Rick Santelli, a CNBC on-air editor, and former VP of Institutional Futures and Options at Rand Financial Services, Inc. He had held similar positions at Drexel Burnham Lambert and Sanwa Futures, LLC.) 1
Rick then went on to denounce Keynesian economics, the Obama administration's pet theory deployed to defend bailouts, the $787 billion "stimulus", and the super-massive 2010 Federal Budget that the new administration was preparing.
"They're pretty much of the notion that you can buy your way into prosperity. And if the [Keynesian] multiplier that all of those Washington economists are selling us... that the government can spend a trillion dollars an hour because we'll get 1.5 trillion back..."
But it wasn't just an economic argument that Rick was making. He was talking about freedom, too.
..."If you read our Founding Fathers, people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson... what we're doing now in this country is making them roll over in their graves....Referring to traders on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, he said, "We're thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July." 2
That may have been the catalyst for the Tea Party Movement, but it was hardly the driving force.
Thomas Jefferson - with help from Ben Franklin and others - drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Using ink on parchment, it was Jefferson's custom to cross out his mistakes and write a new word in a separate space nearby. Until recently, scholars have been puzzled by the one exception to that rule, found on an early draft of the Declaration. Instead of crossing out his mistake, Jefferson obliterated a word and above it wrote the word "citizens." Thanks to new imaging technology, researchers have found a way to read the word that Jefferson wanted no one else to see. Can you guess what that word was?
The word was "subjects." Commenting on this discovery, Library of Congress preservation director Dianne van der Reyden said, "Really, it sends chills down the spine."3
Indeed! Think of the difference. American colonists had referred to themselves as "subjects" for more than a century, but Jefferson knew that that word would no longer do. After all, this was no feudal insurrection, demanding bread and beans of the aristocracy. It was an ideological revolution. In America, the concept of a government behaving as the "ruler" of its "subjects" was to be forever banned. "Citizens" are endowed with certain rights at birth, and under the American system, those rights were to be guaranteed and protected by the government.
In his rant, Rick Santelli was lamenting the fact that - like Jefferson in 1776 - we are living in a time when the government's power over private companies, private purses, and private lives is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Our rights are being infringed upon, not protected. That's why Rick's call for a Chicago tea party hit a nerve. He and the Chicago traders he was speaking for did not want to become "subjects". Though they didn't know about Jefferson's word change, Rick and his friends knew implicitly what the Declaration of Independence stood for - and it's that same knowledge that drives the Tea Party Movement today.
Until next week,
PATIENCE, DISCIPLINE, and CONFIDENCE in the FUTURE!mh
1 http://www.cnbc.com/id/15837966 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp-Jw-5Kx8k