Joe Thorndike’s Tea Party

Tomorrow is Tax Day.

Sorry for the buzzkill, but it’s as inevitable as death:  On April 15, our taxes are due.

The Tea Party movement is not real big on taxes, of course (unless they’re used to pay members’ Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, disability, unemployment claims, or any other program that benefits them but not anyone they don’t like).

Tea Partiers are using Tax Day to highlight their claim that today’s taxes are too high.  They’re holding a Massachusetts event that harkens back to the good old days — 1773 — when their forefathers tossed tea into Boston Harbor.

That protest won’t hold water, says former Westporter Joe Thorndike.

The 1984 Staples graduate — now director of the Tax History Project at the nonprofit group Tax Analysts — set the record straight earlier today, on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

“It’s so ridiculous,” he said.  “People dressing up and throwing crates of tea over the side of the ship — it’s like a nice little picture we can put in our head.”

The protest was really over “taxation without representation,” Thorndike said.

The original Tea Party argued that the British did not have a right to impose a tax on the Colonies, because the Colonies did not have representation in Parliament.

“That’s a very different sort of message than saying, ‘This tax is just too damn high for us,'” Thorndike added.

Last time I checked, every Tea Party member had the right to vote for his or her president, senator, congressman, governor and state representative.  People vote; the majority rules.

That’s why it’s called a “democracy.”

Throwing a Tea Party, Boston-style.

34 responses to “Joe Thorndike’s Tea Party

  1. Limosine Liberal

    My father paid 77% of his income to Uncle Sam, et al, under Eisenhower. I never heard him complain at all. Warren Buffet comments that he pays less income tax (15%) than his secretary (22%). So instead of gripping, the Tea Baggers ought to be glad they have an income to pay taxes on! Most of us are sick of their “reload” rhetoric and kid’s theatrics. Rage on Dan!

  2. I listened to this story on the way to work this morning. It was great. Unfortunately, Thorndike never mentioned he was a Staples Alumnus. Thanks for filling us in, Dan.

    I read prior to the 2008 campaign that Republicans win because they think their opponents are wrong while Democrats lose because they think their opponents are stupid.

    Win or lose, I think the democrats have it right.

  3. First of all we’re a Republic, not a Democracy.

    Second, why was dissent patriotic when the Democrats were the minority, but Republicans not afforded the same respect now that they’re the minority party?

    And Dan you obviously have no idea what the Tea Party movement is about so please view these clips of Pam Stout, President of the Idaho Tea Party, on Letterman.

    And as far as Joe’s comment, when you win you rule – so too bad; just remember that in November and don’t bitch!

  4. The Dude Abides

    I am not sure either party has it right. The GOP has become the party of “NO” and the Democrats are weak-kneed afraid of their own shadows (and apparently unaware of a majority in both houses). Both are bought and sold by corporate America via their lobbyists. While I see no positive agenda with the Tea Party at all, I do feel the time is ripe for a third party to emerge as a powerful force in America politics.
    It will be an interesting mid-term 2010 November elections. Thanks for a timely as well as personal piece.

    • What agenda or platforms would you like the third party to stand-for or adopt?

      It’s easy to mimic the lame stream media (LSM) and refer to the GOP as the party of ‘no’, however, that’s just what our Bill of Rights are, a list that tells us what the government can’t do. No is a very powerful word and it should be used more often.

      You probably don’t see a positive agenda with the T-Party because you have made up your mind based on what the LSM has told you. If you view the 3 clips I linked above and make your own judgment from someone who is a member (and President from Idaho no less) than perhaps you will be more objective.

      Basically, it stands for less government and more personal responsibility, as the Founder Fathers had envisioned. Does that sound like crazy talk?

      Dude, by the way I love the Big Lebowski, but I digress…you seem to be a man of open mindedness and knowledge – don’t be played for a fool by those that want you to follow them without question.

      Be informed and make your own decisions and judgments based on facts and the truth as opposed to those that would like to do the ‘thinking’ for you and lead you in their direction. This is long, but you get my drift.

  5. The Dude Abides

    Mr. Raho: Thank you for your sincere and perhaps slightly fatherly advice although, at times, slightly condescending. As a former journalist as well as an attorney for the Treasury Department, I can understand your position. To answer your question specifically, I would like to see the Tea Party’s positions on immigration, banking regulation,education and the environment. I don’t see that in any of such on their cites or rhetoric. Instead they just seem to spout anger e.g calling our President “Hitler.”
    Please, we don’t need that type of talk in an already polarized nation. I certainly agree that our federal government should be smaller and fiscally responsbile and citizens as well as corporations be privately responsbile. But when you have Wall Street going amok without regulation, segregation still prevalent in Mississippi, our educational system in the pits and the military industrial complex out of control, I don’t see a decentralization of a strong federal government happening any time soon. I welcome the Tea Party into the fray but would like to see a Progressive Third Party rather than what I perceive to be just a cult.

  6. John McCarthy

    I recommend today’s NYT article on the Tea Party movement. If this makes me a stooge for main street media, I’m OK with that.

    From the article:

    When talking about the Tea Party movement, the largest number of respondents said that the movement’s goal should be reducing the size of government, more than cutting the budget deficit or lowering taxes.

    And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

    But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

    Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

    Others could not explain the contradiction.

    “That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

  7. John McCarthy

    Main Stream Media, not Main Street.

  8. Dan, thanks for the post.

    When push comes to shove, I’m an historian not an activist. My issue with the modern Tea Party isn’t with their agenda (although I don’t support most of it) but with their tendency to play fast and loose with the history.

    The Tea Party has been a political football for the better part of two centuries. Everyone wants a piece of it (as I write at But it’s still important to remember what it meant to the participants.

    Nice to find out that I haven’t been completely forgotten in Westport — been a long time since I’ve spent much time there. Miss it.

  9. Sensible One

    Morning Dude,

    Democrats “weak-kneed and afraid”????? Sorry, that’s the last thing the Democrats are. Think Nancy Pelosi!! She’s like the proverbial bull in the china shop.

    However, I do agree that our government is too large and not fiscally responsible, which is of more importance to me than arguing about each parties point of view. Government is a huge machine which does not move quickly or efficiently. (Except for our new health care legislation – that little debacle made my head spin) I’m still trying to figure out how all of the people who can’t afford health insurance now, are going to find the money that they will be required to pay for the new health care later, because the mandate is that we all must have it.
    Do the powers that be really think that a mother who can’t afford to feed her children a quality meal at home is really going to forgo the dollar meal at McDonald’s, but pay for that new health insurance policy and still live a healthy lifestyle? But that’s a whole other discussion.

    My leanings are more conservative than liberal. I don’t understand why there is this current bent to provide everything for everybody. As we all have recently witnessed, many people live beyond their means and have incurred huge debts. Why should that be something I have to deal with?
    There will always be people in society who don’t do the right thing in life, whether it be the scam artists, deadbeat parents, women who have far too many children and can’t provide for them on one level and then you can graduate to the next – people who rent apartments and then decide not to pay – takes the landlord months to evict them, and all that time they are living for free. Then we can up the ante to the Bernie Madoffs! They all know time is on their side – just look at the justice system – talk about slow!

    But to go full circle, perhaps a third party would be an interesting alternative – we certainly need something!!

  10. Did anyone read that article last week that said that 42 percent of the population doesn’t pay federal taxes? Something is wrong with that. My house is less than 2,000 square feet. I take my garbage to the dump. I have no garage. My husband and I work hard to make ends meet, yet our tax bill (local, state and federal combined) is approaching 50 percent of our annual household income. Our senators and congressmen need to be reminded that the definition of “rich” is different in Fairfield County than it is in Boise.

  11. The Dude Abides

    Sensible One: You do make sense! I was for the public option and universal health care for everyone in this country. The cost would have been just about what we have spent in Iraq. So, I see the current bill as a watered down product of Democrats who could not unify or lead. I think the President’s and the Speaker’s efforts were admirable if not heroic to gain passage of any bill. But I think the majority of represenatives are/were more concerned about being reelected and placating their corporate backers then actually leading this country in a more compassionate and meaningful direction. Sorry, but money needs to be taken out of politics. As to the party of “NO”, the GOP, there is significant evidence that they unified against health reform in an attempt to gain control of both houses in the November 2010 elections. Certainly no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln. So perhaps we need a Ross Perot and a third party that can gain 18% of the vote in order to upset the applecart of money laundering. Mayor Bloomberg are you listening?

  12. The Tax Man Cometh

    Shocked: It is frightening the number of tax evaders in this country. The IRS can be nasty but if you aren’t on their radar, you can hide especially if you only deal in cash. A flat tax on income has been talked about but that does little on this issue. The Tea Party actually has suggested a national sales tax which I think would be great but the accounting lobby has/will kill those efforts. Just think: The drug king would have to pay tax on his Mercedes and there would be no significance to April 15th! You buy something, a percentage goes to the city, state and federal government in one swoop of microchip. As to spending your hard earned dollars, let’s start with no more wars and the military budget. We have 50,000 troops still in Germany for God’s sake.

  13. Sensible One


    Don’t get me started on Iraq! I participate in the Adopt-A-Soldier program out of Ft. Stewart, Ga. I have adopted two soldiers both stationed over there. Life there, is horrific at the moment (think 100 degrees in the morning and getting steadily hotter all day long, and sand storms) and I’m still not sure if what we are doing is worth it. I think that we should do a much better job of taking care of our soldiers once they come home. My soldiers have very dangerous jobs (bomb defusal) and when they are on the road, it will be days at a times until I hear from them. Am always relieved for their emails.

    The money does need to be taken out of politics, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. Washington is not interested in changing the way they do business.

    Bloomberg, an intelligent choice – I have always liked him – an excellent businessman – and has done a good job in New York.

    p.s. Can’t stand Nancy Pelosi!

  14. The Dude Abides

    S1: Congrats on your adoption. My mother started Project Hope here in Westport during the Vietnam War conflict and sent “care” packages to every Westporter serving overseas every month. I think we were 42 at highest count. Thanks to this blog, I have found a Marine in Iraq as well and my neighbor’s bridge club (sorry, a tad pretentious) adopted him. So here’s to bringing the troops (from both wars) home by Christmas!
    P.S. I think Nancy is hot

  15. Sensible One

    Of course you would think Nancy Pelosi is hot!!!!!

    There’s no accounting for taste!!!

  16. The Dude Abides

    Well that is sort of nasty and here I thought we were buds? On a sidenote, with all this discussion on Tea Party Goers and tax complaints, it should be pointed out that following 911, Little Bush went running after Bin Laden (I still think he has shaved his beard and is teaching at Hofstra) and in doing so, 200 FBI agents were taken off white collar crime (i.e. Wall Street free to subprime it) and nearly 400 IRS agents were assigned to tracing Al Qaeda money (hence 1 out of 100,000 returns get audited and many not filed at all). Thus, while the Tea Party crackers want less government, we see what happens when it is misdirected. Medicare fraud in Florida?? Two inspectors for the whole state! Be careful for what you wish for.
    P.S. Speaking of accounting, I think “Shocked” needs to find a creative accountant.

  17. Our accountant suggested ways to lower our taxes, but acknowledged that we would be dealing in questionable areas. My husband and I vowed when we got married 20 years ago that we would never, ever cheat on our taxes. I’d rather the system change than our principles.

  18. The Dude Abides

    Bless you. How about a home business catching tax evaders? Self-employment is the last tax shelter left and you would be killing two birds with one stone. IRS would love you and you could deduct an office in the home, entertainment, travel . . . sorry the attorney in me sometimes errupts. The Dude Abides to your principles.

  19. Sensible One

    Gosh Dude! (blushing!!!!!) We’re still buds – but I think that most of the frustration regarding taxes is that we see so little results with a great deal of waste and no accountability. We elect these people and hope that they will do as they promise.

    Fraud is everywhere and I doubt it will go by the wayside any time soon. Does our population in the U.S. have so little integrity? It seems to me that doing the wrong thing these days is okay – until you get caught! We see it all the time – people in the court rooms crying and saying how sorry they are – and of course the retort is – they’re sorry they got caught. There seems to be a smaller and smaller pool of individuals who even care about doing the right thing anymore.

    And before, anyone gets all excited about universal health care – they’ve had it in Canada for a very long time and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. There are big restrictions on where you can go, who you can see and the wait time for surgery, x-rays is astonishing. Unless you are at deaths door, you can wait ad nauseum for the basic tests. But, they don’t have to pay for it! As an example, if I live in Westport, and I have a Doctor in New Canaan that I’d like to go to (for whatever reason) – can’t do it. You have to go to a Doctor in your area (whatever they decide it is) period. If I have cancer and want to go to Manhattan to Memorial Sloan – can’t do it. I’d have to move to New York.
    Now, of course, we don’t have to follow the model they have in Canada, but if it is government run, I guarantee you that there will be lots and lots red tape.

    I’m off my soapbox now.

  20. John McCarthy

    Sensible One,
    You wrote

    “but I think that most of the frustration regarding taxes is that we see so little results with a great deal of waste and no accountability.”

    Is there a nation/state/town which you could hold up as an ideal place with the visible results, lack of waste and accountability you so desire?

  21. Sensible One

    Mr. McCarthy,

    Sadly I don’t, but that doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. Probably unrealistic though.

  22. The Dude Abides

    Two interesting points raised. I think there are small towns in America that do fit Mr. McCathry’s possible nirvana that are run efficiently and honestly. Certainly some small towns in Texas were and still are run that way.
    It seems, however, the bigger the town, the more corruption.

    But my Bud S1 questions why our society seems to embrace dishonesty without integrity. Again, I don’t think this is the norm or value instilled in most Americans. I believe most people are good but the media trashes the evil mongers in our face so much that it is becoming our reputation.

    As to to universal health care. The doctors had their chance (and got greedy), the insurance companies took over (and got greedy & nasty) so that leaves the government. The consensus among the countries of England, Germany, Switzerland, Taiwan and Japan was the following:
    (1) Everyone has to be in the system to enlarge the pool;
    (2) The insurance companies have to become non-profit;
    (3) The government has to set the costs.

    Call me when you have all that in place S1.

  23. Sensible One

    Oh, my gosh, I’ve hit a nerve!

  24. The Dude Abides

    Nah, I am not anti-government as you are. I believed in what they taught me in 8th grade civics class: That government can do good things. Except go to war.

  25. Sensible One

    I am not as anti-government as I may sound – the government CAN do good things. Spending like there is no tomorrow, however, is not a good thing. But putting all of that aside, when it comes to health care, they are lacking in their vision.

    Lets say, your beloved wife of 30 some odd years gets breast cancer – you would naturally send her to the top physicians in the field here so that she would do well and have a positive outcome in her treatment!! Everybody would say – of course!!!! That’s a no brainer!!
    However, in the universal healthcare world, that is a problem!
    Universal healthcare doesn’t provide Specialists in each and every area, they provide whom ever happens to be in your particular neighborhood! If you are lucky, you win the lottery and score a wonderful, educated, and well-connected physician. If not, you’re stuck.
    As an attorney, you are well aware that there are good attorneys and not so good ones – or dare I say even bad attorneys.
    Same goes in the medical field. I have not lived in Canada for quite some time, but my best friend since childhood is still there and lives with the system. You don’t get to see the same physician each and every time – perhaps if you are lucky in the scheduling of your appointments – maybe- they all have your records and you get to deal with the physician of the moment, whether you like them or not. It doesn’t matter if you respect him/her or even if you think he/she is the village idiot. That is who you have to deal with! It also doesn’t matter if in previous visits you have gotten an incorrect evaluation – nobody cares!!!!!
    There is also no such thing as a real appointment – you go and wait……… I could go on and on.
    The bottom line is that it IS a good idea, but has been poorly executed north of the border. And the only positive thing that people say about it – IS that they don’t have to pay for it!
    Is that what we really want here??

  26. The Dude Abides

    S1: I think that you are misinterpreting universal health care for the same care for everyone. While I am not familiar with the Canadian system, I did summer in Vermont on the Canada border (Newport) and became aware of the dissatisfaction with the quality of their doctors by Vermonters. But no system I mentioned in my earlier “consensus report” prohibits one from getting their own health insurance and using their own doctors. What universal health care means to me is that everyone is covered regardless of ability to pay. However, if you are fortunate enough to have money to avoid the best, you get the best.
    P.S. If you ever get cancer or someone you love does, go to M.D. Anderson is Houston. They may brag in New York but it is the best of the best. Just ask Phil Mickelson.

  27. Sensible One

    I’m not misinterpreting anything! Government provided health care is basic. You go where they tell you to go to in your area. In Canada, it’s geographically allotted. If you have the unfortunate circumstance of living in the Maritimes, your chance of surviving a major illness is severely diminished as opposed to living in Montreal, Quebec.
    It all has to do with the numbers. When they first implemented this whole health care reform back in the 70’s, the Doctors worth their salt ALL came to the states.
    Now, Obama has said that if you like your own health insurance and want to keep it, fine – but, I really wonder when it gets down to the real implementation of this new health care reform if that will be the reality. I hope that it will be.

  28. The Dude Abides

    Touchy! All universal care programs are not like the Canadians. In Japan, you are allowed to have your own private coverage if you wish. The same is true in Switzerland. The key really is the cost of the care which has become prohibitive in the states. While the Far East is struggling with too low costs (an MRI costs 97 bucks in Taiwan), our costs are totally out of wack with GDP. If we don’t control those expenses, we will go bankrupt with my boomer generation. On a sidenote, I have VA insurance as my basic major medical. When I have a minor ailment, I go to whatever doctor I chose and tell them I am “self-insured.” Inevitably, the cost is much lower than what would have been charged to an insurance carrier. As the kids would say, that is “jacked up.”

    P.S. One reason all the doctors came to the states is the demand. The AMA keeps a tight rein on the number of medical school graduates. That is why your doctor is most likely trained at Faulkland Island Unversity.
    They need to pump out a few more hundred thousand doctors every year. But, of course, that would drive down costs/salaries and they don’t want that.

  29. Doctor Strangelove

    Chris Rock made an analogy on those getting so upset about health care. Suppose you are sitting in first class on a flight to Florida and they bring up some bum from “economy” to sit next to you.
    He has been upgraded due to overbooking.
    While you paid $2,000 for your seat, this guy is getting the same seat for $130.00. Now do you b itch and moan OR welcome his luck and good fortune?

  30. Somehow these comments all started with the so-called Tea Party movement and while what I say won’t end the discussion, may I quote from Palin’s Boston speech yesterday: “We’ll keep clinging to our constitution and our guns and religion….” Tell me, what in God’s name do guns and religion have to do with taxes? Oops, now I know the role of religion. 🙂

  31. Could Sarah fit all that on her palm?

  32. The Dude Abides

    Indeed, Curious, we have strayed from the main course. I do believe, however, that taxes raises the issue of fiscal responsbility of which gives rise to health care. In additioin, we are attempting to break the record of 52 comments that related to Marilyn Chambers’ death, which, however perverse, brings us full circle by your mentioning Mrs. Palin. Thank you.

  33. The Dude Abides

    Not to beat a dead horse but last week’s Tea Party rally seems to have brought greater definition to their beliefs (or lack thereof). There seems to be two factions: One led by Ron Paul, a medical doctor from Houston who has found a political base in southern Texas. He is a firm liberatarian Congressman who is strict to his convictions and hates war. The other is led by Sarah Palin who seemingly hates THIS present government and thinks govenment should implant strong “American” values into society. These are far diverse fews of government within a single “party.” While it is somehow encouraging to see a political discussion, I find it somewhat surprising that this “party” is protesting taxes when, for 95% of us, they have gone down under the current President. On the other hand, President Reagan raised taxes six (6) times during his two terms and they carry his banner like he was the past Messiah. Does anyone know what time it is??