The idea is supposed to have started on February 19, when Rick Santelli of CNBC "spontaneously" complained about plans (click link for video) to help people avoid foreclosure, saying this is the government "subsidizing the loser's mortgages." Santelli called for organizing a "Chicago tea party" against helping people pay their mortgages. But investigators starting finding clues that the on-air rant was not spontaneous, and signs that the campaign was organized by the right-wing, corporate-funded Freedomworks . According to a March 2 New York Times story,
"Mr. Santelli's televised commentary appeared spontaneous to viewers. However, the Internet domain name ChicagoTeaParty.com was registered in August 2008 -- well before his commentary -- but not used until afterwards."The events have been widely promoted by corporate-funded conservative PR professionals who specialize in "astroturf." This is a term for the use of money to create an appearance of widespread "grassroots" support. Currently the corporate-funded conservative lobbying groups Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity, are organizing the events and conservative media including talk radio and FOX News are widely promoting them. Support appears to be coming from Koch Industries, the largest privately-owned company in the country. According to the Think Progress blog post, Spontaneous Uprising? Corporate Lobbyists Helping To Orchestrate Radical Anti-Obama Tea Party Protests,
The "tea parties" are promoted as a "grassroots uprising" against "high taxes." Tea stands for "Taxes Enough Already." However, 95% of Americans will received a tax cut in the next year if the upcoming Obama budget passes. Only Americans with incomes above $250,000 will receive a small tax increase -- and even then their taxes will be much lower than almost any time in the last 80 or so years. This increase on the top incomes will help pay for some of the Republican-caused economic damage as well as reduce the budget deficits that the country has faced ever since the same income group received tax cuts after George W. Bush was elected. (This is similar to the tax increase in first Clinton budget that led to the great economy of the 1990s and large budget surpluses.)
"This type of corporate 'astroturfing' is nothing new to either organization. While working to promote Social Security privatization, Freedom Works was caught planting one of its operatives as a "single mom" to ask questions to President Bush in a town hall on the subject. Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed Freedom Works for similarly building "amateur-looking" websites to promote the lobbying interests of Dick Armey ...
Americans for Prosperity is run by Tim Phillips, [a] former partner in the lobbying firm Century Strategies. The group is funded by Koch family foundations -- a family whose wealth is derived from the oil industry. Indeed Americans for Prosperity has coordinated pro-drilling 'grassroots' events around the country."
The other complaint from tea party organizers is that President Obama is "spending too much." The increased spending in the stimulus package and upcoming budget funds education, unemployment checks, efforts to ward off foreclosures and other programs designed to help bring us out of the recession and provide jobs. These are programs that benefit regular people instead of big corporations and the rich.
So regular people who go to these corporate-organized tea parties are asking the government to undo their own tax cuts and reduce their own government services in order to keep taxes low for the very rich. I wonder if people have really thought this through?