WTR Action Reports and Organizing in the Obama Era
NWTRCC Gathering, Friday evening, May 1
We watched the 15 minute, online video “Rethink Afghanistan, Part 3, Cost of War” – part of a new series by Robert Greenwald. This video presents succinctly many of the out of control costs of war and why Afghanistan will be even more expensive than Iraq.
Reactions: this is why I don’t pay; the message to me was “the war would be ok if we were waging it more efficiently” – don’t like that; people may not respond to the moral argument but they might respond to the economic one presented here; Obama’s strategy will also increase civilian deaths.
General action go-around and discussion (also see NWTRCC’s tax day reports):
Asheville, NC – Clare reported that their small group followed several hundred “tea baggers.” They had a great banner and lively discussions. She and Coleman have been traveling around the southeast on a listening project with activists. They find the WTR resonates. Click here to link to their blog.
No. Cal WTR, San Francisco — Dave Gross reported on their vigil with Quakers outside a talk Amy Goodman was giving with banners focused on how money is being spent. He also went to the tea baggers event with his “War Tax Resisters Aren’t Buying It” sign and got various reactions. Click here to link to a report on his blog.
Portland, OR – Pam Allee reported that they did their “burma shave” signs on the bridges again but didn’t do a public redirection this year. Group is low energy.
Daniel Woodham is listed as a WTR counselor but reported that no one called him this year.
Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia (NACC) – Geov Parrish reported that leafleting at post offices was great this year. Lots of interest and some counseling calls came in. NACC has a big alternative fund and are in the midst of a new granting cycle.
Heartland Peace Tax Fund – Susan Balzer said they collected testimonies from Mennonites and put an article in Mennonite Weekly in February.
St Louis Covenant Community of WTRs – Bill Ramsey said fewer people have been coming to the post offices so they did a march this year, and on the 14th, before the tea baggers rally on the 15th. Women in Black joined and they had some focus on Gaza. The weather was not great. About 20 people came and Bill turned in his letter to the IRS at Senator McCaskill’s office.
Jim Stockwell wrote letters to congresspeople and sent copies to others. Hosted the Fools of Conscience gathering on April 1 at his house.
NYC – Ruth reported that NYC WRL also is low energy but they did 2 film nights before tax day and a vigil at the IRS and march to the PO on April 15 with a local political marching band. The band attracts a lot of attention and it’s easy to hand out many pie charts. NYC People’s Life Fund also gave out 4 $1,000 grants in front of the IRS. Nationally it has also been a slow year, but there were some media calls and also calls from new resisters.
Robert Randall shared how organizing around only opposing the iraq War failed to expand WTR at all in his area. No tax day action this year.
Coleman shared more about the WRL-sponsored listening tour he and Clare did in the southeast. He feels that whatever is to happen must be collaborative, across a broad spectrum.
Harrisonburg – Ray and Wilma witness WTR at the Community Mennonite Church and the Eastern Mennonite University peace and conflict program also hears about WTR. “We can’t change the government until we change our own congregations.”
Elaine reported that issues of spending for war come up in the EMU peace and conflict program regularly.
Betty talked about how we’ve all survived a traumatic time with the Bush presidency. People are tired and trying to recover. Let’s congratulate ourselves on still being here. We’ll continue.
Clare was on a panel with a person who dismissed WTR by saying that she had done it for 15 years but “the IRS just gets more money from you in the end.” Various folks spoke up with responses to that argument, including that it’s not true overall – adding up the resistance of a group of WTRs will usually show that more was resisted than was collected. We have a questionnaire at this meeting to collect this type of information.
Many commented on how good it is to be in a group of WTRs and the benefit of a roomful of support when resistance feels too hard to continue.
NWTRCC Gathering, Saturday, May 2
NWTRCC is not in crisis at the moment, but this discussion was to bring out what people are learning about nonprofits in this recession era and ideas for enhancing our fundraising and financial support.
Geov – fundraising for nonprofits has become his obsession. He’s been to several workshops in the last couple months. Big nonprofits are cutting in anticipation of cuts. Lag comes 6 months after problems so might not have hit yet. Giving doesn’t necessarily go down, but it shifts – people give more to poverty and that sort of thing. Niche specific will help NWTRCC the better. The more we branch out, the better. Little margin for error in this economy.
Daniel – works with a nonprofit for refugees and teaching which is experiencing state funding cut backs. Some money out there but more people competing.… if you have a niche try to work that. How do we get people who have already been giving to give at least as much if not more.
Don – Kansas Mennonite Relief Service got more last year than before, especially using. yard sales, antiques and such.
Larry – Go to individuals more including family, friends – lots of little donations vs. one large donation can make a large difference. Add more paid time to get another person to help with fundraising.
Geov – people are afraid to ask for money and shouldn’t be, but don’t get committed to one person or individual.
Portland folks sent letters to friends asking for contributions for NWTRCC. They found smaller givers gave more. They also have a recipe for a spaghetti dinner fundraiser and can share that with others.
Personal contacts for money are the best way to get it. Don’t get many calls for WTR.
Think of 5 names of personal friends who support WTR but aren’t. Send them letters to give $$ to NWTRCC.
Bill promoted scarf sales. We have a few hundred to sell so that we can truly make money on this project. Think of events in fall where you can sell 10. Everyone is asked to take 10 and try to sell them in the cooler months – we’d get rid of most of them if each took 10.
Idea — Put the scarf as an offer in the fall on a fund appeal – for so much we’ll send you a scarf. Or ask people to send $20 and we’ll send a scarf to “Mongolia” or homeless shelters. We should look into where to give scarves and make this kind of offer also.
It was asked that we consider other material besides fleece in the future. It is recycled plastic, but in a way it encourages plastic use.
NWTRCC Gathering, Saturday, May 2
- Bethany Criss, Executive Director, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund
- David Gross, San Francisco, CA
- Ray Gingerich, Harrisonburg, VA
- Ruth Benn, NWTRCC Coordinator
Bethany Criss — U.S. Representative John Lewis (D–GA) re-introduced the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill on April 23, 2009. The Bill’s number in the 111th Congress is H.R. 2085. It has 10 cosponsors. There is information on the NCPTF website about current lobbying efforts and special dates for lobbying in Congress.
Bethany touched on some of the arguments that had been presented in writing regarding the bill. She pointed out that the term “religious freedom” in the bill’s title is inclusive of everyone, including the non-religious. Conscientious objection to military service did not decrease the number of soldier, but was still a big step forward. Similarly, the PTF would not decrease money for the military, but would be another step forward. NCPTF does not believe the government would tap into or borrow from the fund for purposes other than the way it is defined. paying for veterans’ health care would be an ok use. In general, rights and freedoms don’t come overnight; they come incrementally over time. Dissension is not the best thing for the overall movement; we need to stay united in our cause. Having a checkbox on the 1040 and information sent out by the IRS about CO would do more to promote us than anything we might do. Steps like that could make a big difference over time. She hopes NWTRCC continues to support the bill.
David Gross – WTRs and PTF supporters have a great deal in common; we are natural allies. But we need to disagree on the RFPTF. It would not result in anything on which we agree. It would increase the amount going into the General Fund without decreasing the amount Congerss can spend on war. The bill does harm by:
- clouding moral clarity about paying or not paying
- if passed, our movement would be divided between those who take advantage fhte Bill and those who don’t
- it would give more reason to oppose actual WTR
- it sends the wrong message about the seriousness of war tax resisters, staing that we can be bought off.
There are arguable benefits to PTF, but are they worth the amount of effort and energy being put into passage.
Ray Gingerich – link here to his statement
Ruth Benn spoke about the relationship of NWTRCC and NCPTF over the years. NWTRCC does appear as an endorser to the Bill, although for whatever reason we have not found the decision in the minutes of meetings since 1982. A bit of a mystery there. Nevertheless, NCPTF is a NWTRCC affiliate and NWTRCC supports the work of NCPTF as it supports all its affiliates. NWTRCC & NCPTF worked together on the 2000 International Conference held in DC. NCPTF was a founding member of NWTRCC, and staff and coordinators in both organizations have had friendly, helpful relationships over the years, and NCPTF has often had a rep at NWTRCC meetings. At the Kansas meeting in 2007 Alan Gamble gave a talk at Bethel College, which was the Friday night program for NWTRCC gathering; he joined us for the weekend.
At the International Conference last fall in England, the differences between the U.S. bill and PTF bills in other countries became clearer. The British bill and those in a number of other countries all are written to create a special peace-building fund, rather than the U.S. bill which just puts the money in the general fund for purposes other than military and related. The peace-building aspect makes for wider education on alternatives to the military.
Questions/Discussion points following the panel: NWTRCC may have endorsed the Dellums bill, which was quite different than this one; since the Bill has little chance of passing, the changes in it are disheartening, because they make unnecessary concessions – for educational purposes the bill should be what we want to promote; WTR is aimed at getting rid of the state so don’t believe in giving the government any right to grant “me” rights; something is better than nothing so support this bill; asked about how CO money would be spent, Bethany pointed out the details in the bill which exclude many government agencies related to military and violence, not just DoD; this bill does not create a peace-building type fund because Congress does not like being told how to spend the money; people doing anything on these issues is valuable and people who like it should work on it, but endorsing the current bill is not in our best interest; what’s most important is how we work together toward our ultimate goals – can we work together to improve the bill and use WTR to help promote it?; nothing is perfect but we should keep supporting this effort; Should NWTRCC endorse anything – we’re a diverse coalition and exist to help small groups around the country – we should not put the coalition name on anything; it is difficult to get everything we want at once – we have to do it step by step – get what we can then make it better; nothing we do changes the U.S. budget directly, but both WTR and PTF could change it indirectly; don’t agree that PTF passage would split the movement, but also don’t agree with this specific bill
In response to discussion Bethany commented that when the legislation gets passed she believes it will bring more people on board to CO not just based on moral/religious beliefs. It will expose the paying for war issue to many more people, and there is still a form of resistance in not paying into the fund if you feel it is impure. The bill is watered down because the support is weak. Don’t have the resources to reach out to all the people, so NWTRCC endorsement helps to reach out to more groups to spread the word.
The Coordinating Committee meeting on Sunday was tasked with making a decision on the NWTRCC endorsement.