|PHOTO: ERIN THOMPSON|
We Won’t Pay”
BY ERIN THOMPSON, The Indypendent, Oct. 19, 2005
“I intentionally lived on
the edge of poverty to avoid
paying for the war machine,” said Ruth Clark, a slightly
hunched-over elderly woman wearing a pin on her pink
lapel that read, “Ask me about Resisting War Taxes.”
former missionary with the United Methodist Church, Clark was among 60 attendees at the National War Tax Resisters Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) strategy conference. The conference, held Oct. 7-9 in Brooklyn’s St. Vincent Ferrer Church, sought to provide information and support to war tax resisters and to develop strategies on how to help war tax resistance gain political momentum and garner more supporters within the antiwar movement.
The premise of war tax resistance is simple: Those who do not support wars perpetuated and funded by the U.S. government should not pay for them. For fiscal year 2005, the federal government raised $927 billion in individual income taxes, in comparison to $278 billion in corporate taxes. Half of the government’s $840 billion in discretionary expenditures ($419.3 billion) for fiscal year 2006 has been allocated for the Defense Department. This does not include another $49.1 billion in supplemental funding for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the total bill for the Iraq War surpassing $250 billion, the progressive think-tank, Institute for Policy Studies, puts the cost of the war in Iraq at about $2,900 for a family of four.
“I just will not pay for killing,” said Ed Hedemann, who was one of the original organizers of NWTRCC in 1982, and who has refused to pay the $65,000 in federal taxes that have accrued since he first became a war tax resister in 1970. “I refused induction into the military in 1969,” he explained. “I thought, ‘It’s good to refuse induction to fight in a war, it’s consistent to not pay taxes for someone else to enter into the military.’”
Some war tax resisters intentionally earn less than the taxable income; others avoid payroll taxes by working off the books or through self-employment. Some don’t file at all, while some file but refuse to pay part or all of the owed federal taxes. Hedemann still pays state and local taxes, as well as Medicare and Social Security. He files a federal tax return and instead of sending the money to the IRS puts it into causes that he feels are under-funded by the government.
All war tax resisters face the threat of loss of property, garnishment of wages and even jail. In 1999 Hedemann was taken to a federal district court in Brooklyn by the U.S. Justice Department under order to give information to the IRS on his assets. When Bob Bady, who hasn’t filed a tax return since he was 18, had his wages as a nurse garnished by the IRS, he quit his job. “I told the hospital it didn’t make sense to work to heal people to pay for hurting people,” Bady said. In 1989 Bady’s house was seized and sold in an auction by the IRS.
Clark stopped filing tax returns in the early 1970s, but lived mostly below the taxable income level for years. Any extra income she did make, she put into a non-taxable Individual Retirement Account (IRA). When she recently liquidated her IRA and invested it in a project that makes small loans to third world women, her tax burden was raised significantly.
“I had the check in my hands for less than 24 hours, but it made my income for that year higher than it had ever been,” she said. She filed a return for that year and withheld 47 cents of every dollar she owed – a penny, she said, for every percentage point devoted to military spending. It was then that the IRS began sending her threatening letters. Eventually, the government put a lien on her savings and checking accounts and drained the balances. The IRS is now threatening to take part of her Social Security. Well into retirement age, Clark’s only income comes from Social Security and her pension from the United Methodist Church.
Although Clark initially considered her war tax resistance a moral act, and not a political one, her recent experiences motivated her to share her resistance. She hopes that “by my sharing, someone else is strengthened to say I’ll do it. I won’t pay for war.”
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[This article is from page 7 of the Oct. 19, 2005, issue of The Indypendent at http://nyc.indymedia.org/media/2005/10/58823.pdf]