The Tea Baggers and the Bizarro Revolution

bizarroworldThe 2009 Tax Day “Tea Party” protests remind us of the stubbornness of Bizarro politics.

On the cube-shaped Bizarro World, the backward planet of DC comic’s universe, a salesman hawks bonds “guaranteed to lose money for you” and the larger populace works towards imperfection. The code of opposites is the rule of the land. Greed ushers good will. Compassion breeds corruption and laziness. To work against one’s interests is to serve one’s best interests.

If the “tea baggers” had dusted off their history books, they would have been struck by the traditions they shared with the citizens of Bizarro World when they laid claim to the legacy of the 1773 Boston Tea Party.

Like the current day activists who rallied against the greed and abuses of huge global corporations, the Boston Tea Party participants railed against the largest and most powerful transnational corporation at that time–the British East India Company. It was a time of financial crisis and the British East India Company, who pervaded almost every aspect of British society, was on the verge of bankruptcy. The British East India Company aggressively lobbied the British government for laws to aid them, especially their expansion into the American colonies.

When the government freed the corporate behemoth of paying taxes on importing tea into the colonies, the colonists rebelled. They knew the British East India Company would wipe out the many small local businesses in the colonies by undercutting their prices and stifling the stirring entrepreneurial impulses that would come to define the modern American Dream. The populist-driven anger culminated in a small group, under the veil of night and disguise, dumping the newly arrived imports into the sea.

The fact that the colonists paid taxes while the largest corporation in the world received a hefty tax cut undergirds their slogan, “Taxation without Representation.” For them, the British government placed wealthy corporate interests before their own.

In contrast to the Boston Tea Party and in true Bizarro fashion, the April 15 “Tea Party” protests targeted Obama’s program which would raise taxes for the wealthy top 2% while providing a tax cut for 95% of the population.

In total Bizarro-speak, they shouted, “Obama is raising our taxes,” even though President Obama’s tax cut “covers the most people in the history of this country.”

They defended the wealthy and said, “The rich pay too much—72% of all income taxes” while ignoring the fact that the large percentage is because wealth concentration is at its highest since the Great Depression. In other words, they make more money but they have been paying a declining rate over the years (In 1980, it was 45% and during the Clinton years, it was 28%. In fact, the top 2% paid a higher rate of about 10% more under Reagan than Clinton. Obama’s plan would have the top 2% at the Clinton rate. I highly doubt these same “tea bagger” leaders would be vehemently protesting Reagan). According to the latest General Accounting Office Audit (2004), 71% of foreign corporations doing business in the US and 61% of US corporations paid no taxes from 1996 to 2000.

Despite three decades of escalating income inequality, tea baggers still believe if the wealthy get to keep more of their wealth, the better off all working people will be (In 1980, the average CEO pay was 42 times the average US worker pay. By 2006, the average CEO pay was 364 times the average US worker pay).

It is not a surprise that one of the leaders of the tea baggers is conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, the queen of Bizarro World and an Asian American woman who wrote a book justifying the US government’s forcible internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

After many years of Reagan to George W. Bush policies which oriented government services towards the corporate elite, the tea baggers want to forgo their own tax cut and spending on them in order for the richest to pay less taxes.

john-delloro.gifThe original Bizarro eventually destroyed Bizarro World in order to become the exact opposite of Superman. The seeds of self-destruction have already been carefully cultivated.

(Note: for more information about the Boston Tea Party, see Thom Hartmann’s essay “The Real Boston Tea Party was an Anti-Corporate Revolt“).

John Delloro

Originally published by the Asian American Action Fund.

John Delloro is the Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, LACCD and currently sits on the Legal Advisory Board of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) and the Board of Directors of the PWC. He was one of the co-founders of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (PWC) and served as the president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). For the past decade, he also worked as a regional manager/organizer for SEIU 1000, Union of California State Workers, a staff director/organizer for SEIU 399, the Healthcare Workers Union, and an organizer for AFSCME International and HERE 226, the hotel workers union in Las Vegas.


  1. Brad B. says

    Ummm…wasn’t the British East India Company in fact chartered by the Imperial British government? In light of the fact that the “Tea-Baggers” are motivated by anti-government sentiment, I fail to see how this is a “Bizarro” parallel.

  2. John D says

    Mark, you raise a good point. I am not a big supporter of the bank bail-out but the many of the leaders in the Boston Tea Party did support a bail-out loan for the British India Tea Company as opposed to a tax cut for the company. In that case, it would be appropriate to use Bizarro world as an analogy (one of the several messages communicated by many of teabaggers included opposition to a tax increase on the wealthy and opposition to a tax plan that had increases that largely exempted many of the grassroots teabaggers).

    Nigel, your point only makes sense if you assume that investment in healthcare (largest cost for employers and employees) and education (most important investment for working people to enable them to advance and engage adequately in a democratic system) does not help the economy and that the “free market” policies of the past will help majority of citizens. Capitalism survives on people putting money into the system. Since unemployment is high and people in today’s economy are holding onto their pocketbooks tighter, the economic system will continue to decline. The past economic policies since Reagan (and including Clinton) have increased productivity but none of it “trickled down” since income inequality is at its wideness since the Great Depression (the mortgage crisis was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. income inequality is the real force behind our economic crisis). Tax cuts for the rich don’t work for working people. If working people, as consumers, don’t put money into the system , the economic system as we know it needs to change.

  3. Nigel says

    I think you’ve misunderstood the point of the Tea Party protests. Its really about excessive government spending that many people find irresponsible (i.e. Bank bailouts, large deficits).

    For instance. According to Obama’s official budget, his administration will increase the national debt by $3.8 Trillion and that’s assuming that the economy grows by 60.7% (in GDP) by 2019. A rate which would be faster than the growth in the last 50 years. Now if this doesn’t happen then the Obama administration can increase the national debt by $11 Trillion. That’s a doubling of debt in just 8 years.

    The problem isn’t taxation, its spending through inflation and borrowing. In the end, future generations will have to pay for it either through taxes or inflation.

  4. Mark says

    I didn’t really get the whole tea party thing, but what Obama and Bush have and are doing with the Banks and corporations sounds a lot like what the british were doing with the east indian tea co. (making sure they get their share while regular tax payers are expected to bear the burden) – doesn’t sound like such a bizzarro parallel to me!

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