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Tom (Yusha) Sager
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Of Taxation and Tea Parties

A number of public anti-tax gatherings billed as "Boston Tea Parties" occurred around the nation on Tax Day, April 15 (April 18, if you live in Rolla). Attendance at the Rolla event was variously estimated at 250 (College Town News publisher, Robert Fleming), 400 (Rolla Tea Party organizer, Pamela Grow), and 700 (Rolla Daily News (RDN) editor, Alan Gerstenecker).

I would tend to agree with Mr. Fleming's estimate, but far more important than numbers is substance.

According to organizer, Pamela Grow, the theme included "protesting violations of the U.S. Constitution [and] unconstitutional spending." Dr. Grow claims the event was "non-partisan;" however its partisan nature can easily be seen in that the four speakers she names in her letter to the RDN of 4/22/09 are: two Republican State Representatives (Dan Brown and Jason Smith), one former Republican State Rep and candidate for State Senate (Jack Jackson) and a former member of the Texas County Republican central committee (Bob Parker). Emcee Dave Weinbaum, who rarely misses a chance to bash the Democrats in his weekly column in the RDN, was a rather strange choice for emcee of a non-partisan event. I can't help wondering why these folks waited for the Democrats to take office, and never held a protest against violations of the Constitution and unconstitutional spending when the Republicans were in power.

These events were advertised as reinventions of the Boston Tea Party; but the organizers seemed to lack any deep understanding of this important event in our nation's history. The Boston Tea Party was held in opposition to the world's largest trans-national corporation of the time, the East India Company. The East India Company was the 18th century equivalent of Wal-mart, Halliburton and Blackwater all rolled into one. It received tax breaks and exclusive monopolies from the British Crown, including the Right to administer and police certain colonies and maintain mercenary armies. This gave them an unfair economic advantage. The East India Company's privileged position threatened the livelihood of colonial entrepreneurs, businesses and laborers. The Boston Tea Party constituted a direct action against the economically privileged East India Company (see The Real Boston Tea Party was an Anti-Corporate Revolt by Thom Hartmann, Hartmann also notes the pro-corporate nature of these modern day reinventions of the Boston Tea Party.

When, I first heard that the Boston Tea Party was coming to Rolla, I had visions of hordes of angry Rollaites battering down the vaults of Bank of America and throwing the bank's $52.5 billion of bailout money ( into the Little Piney, thereby leveling the playing field for the small local banks which are not on the federal dole.

Or perhaps, I thought, they might tear up AmerenUE's electricity or gas lines. Ameren has been attempting to buy and coerce our State Legislature into allowing them to charge the people in advance for the costs of building an expensive, dangerous nuclear power plant, thereby giving them an unfair advantage over small renewable electricity generation which receives no such advantage (see SB228,

Happily, Ameren's plans were thwarted in the State Senate without violence or destruction of property by a coalition of consumer and renewable energy advocacy organizations. Had the legislature been foolish enough to pass SB228, the voters would likely have overriden it at the next general election through initiative petition. Meanwhile Great Rivers Environmental Law Center (, the public service law center which saved Rolla's Buehler Park from destruction, is opposing Ameren's plans before the Public Service Commision and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

I wonder how many attendees of the tea party participated in this successful effort? They will likely have another chance next year. Ameren is certain to try again.

Or perhaps, I thought, they might tear down the new Walgreens building. The City of Rolla spent (at least) $445,000 on infrastructure improvements for Walgreens, thereby giving them an unfair advantage over locally owned pharmacies,

But, no. None of the above happened. There was a lot of talk; but unlike the real Boston Tea Party, no direct action.

Those of you, who prefer action to talk, might instead have participated in the weekly Friday Noon vigils at the Rolla Post Office to end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and support our troops by bringing them home. These vigils have been going on for over two years. The military in FY-2009 will swallow up over 50% of federal outlays or over $1.4 trillion (YES, THAT'S TRILLION) ( Ending the wars would go a long way toward reducing the average citizen's tax burden. And these wars are unconstitutional since Congress has never declared them.

Or you could join Rolla City Council member, Donna Hawley, in her fight against Rolla Municipal Utility (RMU)'s policy of secrecy and back door taxation, and against the ENRON-like energy pool, MoPEP, to which RMU belongs ( Donna and her friends have scored several successes including: a rollback of our residential electric rates by one cent per Kwh, successfully gathering enough signatures for a petition audit, and forcing RMU General Manager, Dan Watkins, into retirement. She could do a lot more with YOUR help.

Indeed, Rollaites have scored a number of local successes against unfair taxation, law-breaking officials and out of control spending: from the 1997 defeat of a City Charter that would have opened the door to a City Income Tax, to the successful struggle against the City's Tax Increment Financing scheme at the corner of Hwys 63 and 72 which would have thrown citizens out of their homes and given their land to a St. Louis developer, to the 11 year battle to prevent the City from selling Buehler Park, in which, through their attorneys at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center (, Rollaites won a landmark decision that users of public property have standing in Missouri's courts to sue to maintain that use, and that Buehler Park ( is dedicated parkland and cannot be legally sold.

It is, indeed, strange that the leaders of these successful efforts were not invited to speak at an event that purports to be a protest against "violations of the U.S. Constitution [and] unconstitutional spending." Maybe, it is because they don't subscribe hook, line and sinker to a regressive discredited neo-conservative ideology which in eight years raised our national debt from $5.7 to $10 trillion (, embroiled us in two unnecessary and expensive foreign wars, and failed to prevent the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center.

In short, there are lots of better ways to work to lower our tax burden and force officials to obey the law then going to phony Boston Tea Parties. I think the Rolla Tea Party resembled the Mad Tea-Party in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland far more than the Boston Tea Party. You be the judge. Did it look like THIS:, or like THIS:

If we are going to be successful in our efforts against unfair taxation, out of control spending, and violations of law by the high and mighty, we must recognize, as our forefathers at the Boston Tea Party did, that the root cause of our oppression is the unholy alliance between government and corporate interests.