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Editor: Ruth Benn
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More Than a Paycheck is the bimonthly publication of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, a clearinghouse and resource center for the conscientious war tax resistance movement in the United States. NWTRCC is a coalition of local, regional, and national affiliate groups working on war tax related issues.
NWTRCC Mission Statement: NWTRCC sees poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, economic exploitation,
environmental destruction, and militarization of law enforcement as integrally linked with the militarism which we abhor.
Through the redirection of our tax dollars, NWTRCC members contribute directly to the struggle for peace and justice for
June 2003. HEADLINES IN THIS ISSUE:
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Beloved war tax resisters,
I am leaving the job as NWTRCC Coordinator in a few days. It has been very good four years. I thank you for the trust you all placed in me. I've enjoyed the variety of tasks; setting my own daily priorities and schedule; talking to people on the phone.
Most of all, I enjoyed getting to know all of you! A friend of mine, who is not war tax resister, commented once that the decision to become a WTR is a deep spiritual and moral one, requiring a lot of soul searching and self understanding. I have found this to be true. Most WTRs have a good sense of humor, integrity, groundedness -and other qualities which I find hard to put into words, but which I respect and enjoy being around.
The past six months have been, for all of us and here at the office, particularly intense. My partner Pete and I have had long discussions about how to build a movement in these times. I'm still not sure that I know the answer. Why is it that some people become WTRs and others do not? I believe part of it must come from the support a person feels in his/her decisions. It is a rare person who undertakes the path of WTR alone. We need one another on this journey. That is a key concept in organizing: building relationships.
We're in an interesting time politically. These past few months have seen a dramatic rise in interest in WTR. Will all those people who asked for information "stick?" Will WTR become bigger movement as the obvious becomes clearer: money spent on wars is being taken out of urgent domestic needs? I know that these are long term questions.
This past month has been, for me, particularly intense. I've been interviewed by many journalists and received 150 emails, most of them angry, in response to an article about war tax resistance on the Yahoo website. It has left me feeling a little bit raw, but also wanting to hone my arguments even more. I want to systematically study nonviolence: King, Gandhi, and others, so that I can speak more articulately about what I believe and what the solutions may be.
I got help in answering many of those emails, and we're finding that with some of them a dialogue is springing up. A WTR answers; the "angry writer" replies; the WTR replies back. Again, building relationships.
While I have enjoyed this job, my heart and body are much happier being outside. I will be growing organic vegetables and selling them at Farmer's Market, with a friend, part-time, this season, and doing odd jobs on the side (landscaping, substitute teaching), as I did before I began with NWTRCC. That suits my personality better. I sincerely hope not to lose touch with many of you. Please call if you're ever in Ithaca, and I hope to see you all, somewhere, maybe at NWTRCC meetings...?
The NWTRCC office wall is covered with quotes and poems that sustain me. Here is one; "Wage Peace" by Judyth Hill:
Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble, breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds
Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothespins, clean rivers.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries.
Imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don't wait another minute.
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A Good Time to Promote WTR!
by Ruth Benn
Given the world that we are facing these days, I'm concluding that it is a great time to become the NWTRCC coordinator. I'm not thinking this just because it is bound to be an interesting time for war tax resistance, but mostly because of the personal comfort of being able to talk regularly with people who are actively trying to decrease the militarism of the U.S. government. I hope that we will see many people join our numbers in the coming months as the repercussions (economic, international, and what else?) of this administration's aggressive war policy become clearer and clearer.
During the last year I have been organizing more actively around war tax resistance than in recent years (coincidental to applying for this job). While I have been a war tax resister (telephone tax; income tax file/don't pay) for more than 20 years now, I have not consistently participated in or led community workshops. The ones that we organized in the past months, although not exactly drawing crowds, each offered insights into the motivations to resist, the problems people have as war tax resisters, and the various reasons for resistance to resisting. I expect that sort of experience to serve me well in this new position.
As many readers know, I worked on the national staff of the War Resisters League for many years (1987-2000 with a year off in the middle when I worked for a knitting magazine). I spent six years as editor of The Nonviolent Activist and six as Director of the National Office. Even with those job titles, war tax resistance was either in my purview or in my heart to keep visible within the WRL. I have researched and written the annual tax pie chart since 1988. In the early 1990s the war tax resistance and disarmament task forces of WRL created the Alternative Revenue Service and the "EZ Peace Form." We kept that campaign going for three years, and this year I found myself thinking that the "EZ Peace Form" or something like it might be a good tool these days. Recently I learned that Conscience: the Peace Tax Campaign in England created a form this year based on the EZ Peace Form. As an organizer I've always found that when you plant seeds you never know where they will grow, and this recognition has helped to sustain me over the years.
I hope that many of you have seen the new edition of War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military. Ed Hedemann and I spent most of the winter researching and editing the book in a desperate effort to get it out before tax day, and Rick Bickhart did a terrific job on the design, including the cover. I understand from the WRL office that the book is selling well. While many anti-war activists may have gotten discouraged that we didn't stop the war, others are definitely looking to strengthen their resistance. In my many years in the peace movement I don't think I've seen a time when so many people have made the connection to their tax dollars and war, so this should be an area we can build on. As the state and local service cuts hit people around the country in the coming year, more and more people will ask, "Why is there always money for war?"
My introduction to war tax resistance came in the late 1970s when I was living in Western Massachusetts and worked with the Northampton office of the American Friends Service Committee. Between the Quakers and the Pioneer Valley War Tax Resistance folks just up the road, I think I got a fairly quick immersion into why this form of resistance made sense. I moved to New York City in 1985 to work for Middle East Research and Information Project. I was only going to live in this big, crazy, wonderful city a couple years, "just to get out of a rut," but then I found my way to the WRL staff, and then I met Ed Hedemann, and we have managed to make quite a comfortable life together in Brooklyn, new home to NWTRCC.
I've cleared a little space for a NWTRCC office in a small room of our apartment (I think it's rather nice, but a young person who was just visiting referred to it as a closet!) and look forward to working at home more and being in contact with many of you. I'll also continue to do some other freelance work, including producing outreach and marketing materials for a geriatric day center and bookkeeping for a progressive organization that analyzes the city budget.
It does seem ironic to find myself becoming coordinator of this organization that Ed helped to found 20 years ago, and I hope I can do as good a job as the coordinators who have proceeded me: Kathy, Larry, Carolyn, Karen and Mary. Finally, if you find yourself headed to or through New York City and want to check out NWTRCC's "closet," please do give a call. I look forward to working with old friends and meeting many new ones.
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Thank you to all the groups who have given since our last issue. Your support helps keep us going!
War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund/FOR (Indiana)
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's Working Group on Conscience, War Tax Concerns & Militarism
Philadelphia War Tax Resister/WRL
Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters (Massachusetts)
Military Tax Resistance of Lane County (Oregon)
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War Tax Resistance Ideas & Actions
Here's a snapshot of some of the many creative NWTRCC actions that took place around the country.
That evening war tax resisters set up three literature and counseling tables at Reverend Billy's "Peace Revival and Tax Revolt" at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery. Performance artist Bill Talen ("Rev. Billy") along with his gospel choir and several speakers pushed the idea of rerouting taxes away from the war and IRS to community groups. Lots of pie charts and other literature were given out to the 250 people in attendance.
"We're here to remind people that 47 cents of every dollar in taxes they pay goes to pay for past and current military expenditures, while only three cents goes to education. For the cost of producing a single stealth bomber, we could hire 38,000 elementary school teachers," explained Emily Posner. "Where would you rather your money be spent, MK19 grenade launchers or schools?"
One local TV station filmed the protest and included the story in their evening broadcast.
"...Instead of a day that marks the fulfillment of an important civic duty, this year Tax Day marks the shameful and unconscionable feeding of a seemingly unstoppable war machine, which is more aggressive and a danger to true global security and economic justice than ever.
"...We object that less than 1% of our tax dollars are spent on diplomacy or peaceful alternatives to conflict, while more than 50% of our discretionary federal tax dollars pay for war or expenditures related to the war system.
"...Therefore, we call upon all citizens and taxpayers to fully consider the prophetic words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to work in the spirit of nonviolent discourse and direct action to demilitarize our national budget priorities and redirect our resources to the building of human community and the enhancement of life in this nation and throughout the world.
"...Only when our 'war taxes' are used to fight homelessness, hunger, and human suffering will April 15th become a day of moral significance, not one that marks the feeding of the machinery of militarism and war."
An earlier WTR workshop, also held in San Francisco, was attended by a phone company employee who said "I've read so many customers' statements about refusing the federal tax on the phone bill that I decided to come find out more about it."
Hopefully these forms, if used, will not garner frivolous filing fines.
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Special presentations included Legal Aid attorney Steven Bingham speaking on the Patriot Act and Sebastopol politician and activist Larry Robinson speaking on the view of war tax resistance in the wider peace movement. Robinson emphasized that the question of some war tax resisters feeling marginalized in the movement is a non-issue for him; each section of the movement adds a piece to the ongoing effort for social change. Bingham is new to war tax resistance, but discussed the growing power of the justice department through the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II, if it passes. The ramifications are most obvious on immigrants, but he gave a stern warning to be aware of how these bills are broadening search powers, including anything on the internet, and targeting political groups for special attention.
There was a session to talk about tax day actions and other local organizing that gave us all a chance to hear new ideas and share experiences, such as with local post offices and their varying rules for demonstrations on federal property. Eugene (OR) was especially annoyed-and amused-by a compromise that allowed die-in participants to lie on the post office steps, speakers on a patio, while those carrying signs and leafleting had to be further away on the sidewalk. A math teacher talked about how he uses budget priority problems as lessons in his class.
Sonoma county hosts for the weekend are spearheading the One Million Taxpayers for Peace campaign and are especially interested in seeing a united, national campaign grow. Other national efforts were offered, among them, Iraq Pledge of Resistance and War Resisters League are building a new "Hang Up on War" phone tax campaign, and the Appeal to Conscience petition will continue to be circulated. Symbolic levels of resistance were endorsed by many as a way to broaden our outreach, and interest in some national campaign is high.
The NWTRCC Coordinating Committee met on Sunday morning to discuss a fairly light decision-making agenda. The transition of the office from Mary Loehr in Ithaca, NY, to Ruth Benn in Brooklyn was described, and questions were raised about reviving committees on literature, fundraising, and outreach in particular. Chicago was chosen as the meeting site for November 7-9, if enough organizing support is in place, and new members of the Administrative Committee were agreed upon. The Committee members are Paula Rogge (Austin), Jessica Stewart (Ithaca), Peter Smith (South Bend), and Rick Bickhart (Colorado Springs), and alternates are Lincoln Rice (Milwaukee) and Sasha Vodnik (Richmond).
Finally, a concert Saturday night featuring local Raging Grannies, 85-yearold folksinger Faith Petric, and comic/singer Dave Lippman was a weekend highlight. Special thanks to the Sonoma County folks for their excellent organizing. We hope that many readers will join us at the November conference.
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Also, that web site has a list of cars and houses of war tax resisters seized in the last 20 or so years. Please send corrections and additions to that list as well.
Finally, we need corrections and additions to a third list: war tax resisters who have gotten an "order to show cause." Email, mail, or call NWTRCC if you have anything to add to these lists.
Background to reach these figures:
Compiled by Frida Berrigan, World Policy Institute.
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No job, no salary, no relationship, no degree, no house, no car, no art, no furniture, no trip, no gadgets, are worth paying federal income tax to rob, terrorize, blind, cripple, paralyze, make homeless and murder our sisters and brothers worldwide.
The main purpose of the U.S. war machine is to make sure that most Americans, especially the greediest, keep on stealing and hogging the wealth of the world.
The best way to boycott the U.S. war machine, with no fines and no threats from the IRS, is to live simply-under the taxable level.
The taxable level this year for a single, sighted, under 65-year-old person is $7,800. I lived well last year on $3,760.
I have owned no car since I returned to Albuquerque in 1988. The last time I rode in any car was April 7, 2001. I hate cars because I hate wars for oil, poisoned air, the horrors of global warming, highways smothering fertile soil... I love to WALK!
I would not trade my 12' x 14' apartment home for the most luxurious mansion in the world.
I am glad I have no refrigerator, no TV, no VCR, no gun, no computer, no credit cards, no business suit, no jet travel, no phone, no microwave, no air conditioner... I wash my clothes by hand at home.
I am glad I consume no booze, no cigarettes, no restaurant meals, no junk food, no meat, no dairy, no cooked food, no illegal drugs, no prescription drugs. I am glad I have no doctor, no dentist, no medical insurance. I am an all-raw foods vegetarian devoted to natural health.
I yearn for passionate lifelong romance with a man, but I will not surrender or compromise my war tax refusal and my living simply for any man on earth!
If a father gives his son a switchblade, how can the father be shocked if his son eventually stabs someone? Many U.S. peace activists for decades have paid thousands of dollars to the U.S. war machine. So how can they be shocked when the U.S. empire uses the weapons purchased by the peace activists to mass murder worldwide? We get what we pay for.
Many U.S. actors, entertainers and other obscenely rich Americans say "Not in my name" against the U.S. war on Iraq, but they pay far more for war than many minimum wage workers who proudly send their soldier sons and daughters to battle. How much good is it to proclaim "Not in my name" unless that means "Not with my money?"
I refused to be a soldier in 1969 during the Vietnam War. For me as a conscientious objector, to pay federal income tax to train other Americans, largely the poor and people of color, to become professional hired killers to murder on command with no conscience, would be more evil than being a soldier myself.
My life is an all-out public boycott of the U.S. Empire everyday as long as I live.
Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world… My life is my message."
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