Republicans in this 21st century have clearly enunciated that cutting taxes is the only political game they play. But Republicans, particularly Tea Party Republicans, have announced this as part of a broader denunciation of the United States federal government in general. Indeed, the adoption of the Tea Party allusion to the 1773 Boston Tea Party is their proclamation of a rebellion against the United States federal government. But the facts belie that allusion: they are actually emulating the Shays Rebellion of 1786. The Boston Tea Party was not fundamentally a tax protest, since the Tea Act lowered the tax on tea, while the Shays Rebellion was entirely an anti-tax rebellion.
The Republican Party of today is fundamentally anti-tax. The current Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is known to have multiple overseas bank accounts to avoid paying taxes to the United States. Romney also exploited a tax loophole, designed to provide a limited tax deferral for middle-class taxpayers, to avoid paying income taxes on hundreds of millions of dollars in income. He was audit chairman of a corporation busted by the I.R.S. for a bogus tax dodge. Knowledgeable insiders have stated that Romney rarely pays any federal income taxes at all. Over and over, Republicans are staking out the position that successful individuals in the United States owe nothing to their government.
President Obama said we, all Americans, benefit from the infrastructure provided by government taxes and the Republican Party went ballistic in denial. President Obama stated that each of us succeeds in life not just from our own efforts but from the combined efforts of a society in which the government infrastructure provides a nurturing environment for success. Republicans vehemently disagree and their Presidential candidate Romney is making this a political issue defining the 2012 campaign, repeatedly employing businessman proclaiming in advertisements that the government did not “build” their business (even though in some cases those businessmen turned out to be largely federally financed). Their fundamental disagreement, however, is with paying taxes to fund that infrastructure.
Indeed the Republican Party’s longstanding anti-tax political leader, Grover Norquist, has successfully demanded that Republicans pledge to never increase taxes. He has, in fact, created an online list of Shays Republicans who have signed that pledge. That this list is more than just a tax protest, but rather a rebellion against the United States government can be seen in Norquist’s often repeated claim that their ultimate goal is to reduce the federal government to a size where they can “drown it in a bath tub.” The Republican Party is by every measure a new Shays Rebellion. They don’t call themselves Shays Republicans, but they are. Indeed, I doubt they even know the significance of the Shays Rebellion in American history but they are, in fact, Shays’ philosophical descendants.
Today’s Republicans, particularly Tea Party Republicans, proclaim that they are the party of “freedom.” Republicans take great pride in quoting Thomas Jefferson’s (et.al.) language in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” which they claim gives them freedom from government. But Republicans, particularly Tea Party Republicans, completely ignore the very next line in which Jefferson, et.al., proclaim: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men”.
When the newly freed Founding Fathers first “instituted” a government under “The Articles of Confederation” they minimized its central powers, but there soon was a singular event that discredited that government and brought about a Constitutional Convention to create a new government. That singular event, the defining forge of today’s United States government that brought the Founding Fathers together again was the anti-tax Shays Rebellion.
General George Washington had retired to his estate in Virginia, but the events of the Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts stimulated him into endorsing the Constitutional Convention, which gained great impetus from his imprimatur. And during the debates on this new government there were two major efforts that divided the delegates, the 'Virginia plan' with a powerful central government, and the alternative 'New Jersey plan' that favored state sovereignty. James Madison in extolling the Virginia plan repeatedly reminded the delegates: “The rebellion in Massachusetts is a warning, gentlemen.” Our Founding Fathers’ opposition to the anti-tax Shays Rebellion united the states into instituting our present United States government.
Ironically, considering the fulminations of today’s Tea Party Republicans, even the leader of the Boston Tea Party, Samuel Adams, condemned the anti-tax Shays Rebellion of 1787 by stating "Rebellion against a king may be pardoned, or lightly punished, but the man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death." Considering that the Shays Rebellion was dominantly an anti-tax rebellion, the anti-tax zeal of today’s Republicans makes them the modern reincarnation of the Shays Rebellion. And they are still in opposition to the United States government that the Founding Fathers created because of their predecessors.
The Shays Republicans’ sainted President Ronald Reagan often stated that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is our problem.” Shays Republicans, over and over are not just staking out the position that successful individuals in the United States owe nothing to their government. Indeed, they espouse the belief that they owe nothing to their fellow Americans either. They believe it is their right to derive succor and extract wealth from society without any responsibility for that society. The philosophical importance of that should not be underestimated.
Shays Republicans have clearly defined themselves as an elite removed from responsibility for the rest of American society. They have essentially identified themselves as parasites that exploit that society. The political totem of today’s Shays Republican Party is no longer the elephant, it is the leech. This should be recognized as the defining difference between Republicans and Democrats. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is running on the clearly enunciated view that the elite have no tax obligation to the common people and derive nothing from their government. The contrasting political position of Democratic President Obama is that government taxation is essential to the economic health and freedom of the society as a whole. The elite versus the society as a whole.
More importantly, when Democratic President John F. Kennedy declared “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, the implication was that what benefits society benefits us all and therefore we should strive to improve society in America. This is perfectly in accordance with the seminal economic precepts of Adam Smith who wrote in “The Wealth of Nations” that the wealth and power of a monarch was not just the individual wealth of that monarch, but rather the combined wealth and power of the nation; therefore the monarch should encourage the enrichment of every subject within that nation. The Founding Fathers endorsed Adam Smith’s view that government should seek to empower the common people as the fundamental goal of governance.
The Founding Fathers, reacting to the anti-tax Shays Rebellion, began their new Constitution with the enunciation that it was necessary to impose taxes, in part, “to promote the general welfare” of the people of the United States. The Founding Fathers did not see a country of elite individuals, but rather a country of a common welfare in which there was an allegiance to each other.
Jefferson contrasted that with European society of the time. In a letter to Edward Carrington (Jan. 16. 1787) Jefferson wrote about European governments that applies equally to today’s Shays Republicans: “… under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves & sheep. I do not exaggerate.” Romney’s role in Bain Capital was one of finding viable profitable companies that he could profitably dismantle like a predatory wolf with no regard for the welfare of the employees of those companies. And the profits of his predation were his without obligation to the United States federal government.
Shays Republicans, have adopted the Laissez Faire economic philosophy of the French royalty. The French royalty of Jefferson’s time controlled all of the major economic resources of that country. When the French revolutionaries beheaded the king and proclaimed a new government, the rebels sought to seize control of the economic resources of France as well. To which the French royalty proclaimed their Laissez Faire belief that the economic elite should be left alone to seek their own riches. Thus the foundation of Laissez Faire economics is an antipathy to government precisely because it reflected the ascendance of the common people over the elite. The Shays Republicans have clearly adopted Laissez Faire economics as their foundational philosophy enunciating that government is their enemy and that given the opportunity they plan to drown it in a bathtub.
The anti-tax Shays Republican outrage over President Obama’s assertion that we are a society in which the government infrastructure provides a nurturing environment for individual success can only be understood in the context of the Shays Republicans’ overall behavior and philosophy of a leech parasiting on the body politic of America. Their outrage over the assertion that they owe any obligation to support the American society from which they obtain succor and wealth is not patriotic. Shays Republicans are the very philosophical descendants of that which the United States Constitution was specifically written by the Founding Fathers to prevent.