Tax Resistance and the American War Machine

There are thousands of people across America who refuse to pay their taxes because they don’t like their hard earned money being used to fund wars. Most US citizens don’t pay notice to what their taxes are spent on and have little idea of how those trillions of dollars are distributed each year.

It might well come a shock to find that as much as 27 cents in the dollar from personal tax goes on funding the military. That compares to about 5 cents on education and less than a couple of cents on the energy and environment.

Over half of federal money, some $600 billion dollars, goes on the Pentagon and related spending. It seems that the US government likes building for war. It’s the main reason that war tax resistance is on the rise. But it’s not a new thing.

Back in 1989, the LA Times ran a story on war tax resistance claiming that it was as American as apple pie. And it wasn’t just young hippy types who were taking part. There was an 80-year-old farmer called Wally Nelson who hadn’t paid taxes since the Second World War. A conscientious objector all his life, Wally was damned if he was going to pay for the bullets the kill people.

Others followed his sentiments. According to the LA Times article:

“In nearby Colrain, Randall Kehler and Betsy Corner file their 1040 forms each April, but for the last 12 years, instead of paying taxes, they have given the money to anti-war and charity groups and have written the IRS and Congress explaining their opposition to nuclear weapons and to military intervention abroad.”

Back in 1989, people who were resisting paying their tax because they didn’t want their money being used to fund wars came from a range of different backgrounds. This included farmers, office workers and even an ex-military man who’d fought in Korea.

Perhaps the most famous war tax resister was Henry David Thoreau who didn’t want his dollars being used for an ill-advised war with Mexico around the mid-19th century and ended up being sent to prison. On the whole, though, the individuals who practice war tax resistance are ordinary folk who have a conscience. Like Wally Nelson they are fundamentally opposed to paying for the military, war and contributing to the deaths of thousands of people every year.

The recent growth of war tax resistance is certainly down to the increasing unease at the situation in the Middle East. Western powers, including the United States and the UK, are thought to have made a fundamental mistake in going to war in Iraq. According to the Washington Post the US, since 1776 has been waging war somewhere 93% of the time. At the present moment America has armed personnel in about 150 countries around the world and are involved in several major conflicts including the ongoing ‘war on terror’.

It’s no wonder that many people don’t want their own income used to supplement military action abroad. More and more nowadays, people are becoming unsure about what we are doing overseas and why we are involved in certain conflicts.

War tax resistance may be a small thorn in the government’s side at the moment but it could start to become problematic as greater numbers begin to use it as a way of non-violent protest. Resistance may be prompted by the television pictures that are now beamed almost immediately into our homes, graphically revealing the true, real time and bloody impact of war and armed conflict.