Musings on Obstructing a Public Way, War Tax Resistance, and More

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Why Don’t We Do It In the Road? Musings on Obstructing a Public Way, War Tax Resistance, War Profiteering, Divestment, Livelihood, and Destroying Hundreds of Targets at a Rate of Up to Ten Per Minute

by Jason Rawn

I was involved in an organized civil resistance action last June 18 at shipbuilders Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. The 12 of us, now called the “Zumwalt 12,” sat in the road blocking traffic just outside BIW for ten minutes at the “christening” of the second of 3 super-high-tech Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers.

The original intention was to build 32 of these unproven warships “capable of destroying hundreds of targets at the rate of up to ten per minute[!],” but due to cost increases, that number dropped to just 3 warships capable of destroying hundreds of targets at the rate of up to ten per minute. Each of these three Zumwalts costs US taxpayers somewhere between $4 and $7 billion. The actual cost of a single GPS-controlled shell designed for the Zumwalt by war profiteers Lockheed Martin and originally budgeted at a mere $50,000 each, is $800,000. Those are the shells that would have been fired from the two 600-round magazines capable of destroying hundreds of targets at the rate of up to ten per minute. If the Navy could have afforded them. More on that later.

Our case has achieved a decent amount of media attention throughout the state, including a Letter to the Editor about our case published in the January 22 Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

As a war tax resister (WTR), a former payer of federal income tax “obligations,” I’m happy that I no longer help line the pockets of war profiteers by filing forms and sending checks to the paper tiger IRS. But I would gladly start paying federal income tax again if we could convert our economy to center around peace, justice, and regeneration. The 5,600 jobs GD [General Dynamics] needs to fill in order to make its profits through BIW are important. But this 5,600 is a small number relative to the number of jobs that would be created by investing US tax dollars in peace. That the conversion of the war profiteering economy would be widely beneficial is hard to argue.

In their 2007 study “The US Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities,” Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of UMASS Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute demonstrate that, per billion dollars, investment in war creates fewer jobs and less general wealth than investment in health care (50.2% more jobs, 29.3% increase in total wages and benefits relative to defense), education (106.7% more jobs, 131.4% increase in wages/benefits), mass transit (131.4% more jobs, 55.9% increase in wages/benefits) and home weatherization and infrastructure construction (49.7% more jobs, 22.9% increase in wages/benefits).

With more collective investment toward planetary regeneration – which may sound super-groovy, but which would provide no small number of educational, bulldozing, Geiger counting, bomb disposal, healthcare, fungal bioremediation, carbon farming, and other high-and low-tech livelihoods geared toward a just peace – more of us will prosper while intentionally working toward goals more worthy of human dignity and ingenuity than is war.

 

drawing of melting snowman wearing a black top hat that says "Melty" and a blue scarf with "Border Free" printed on it. Text: DIVE$T from the PENTAGON over a simple yellow sun.

A Dive$t from the Pentagon postcard, featuring Melty the snowman wearing a scarf that reads “Border Free,” created by Jason Rawn

The non-payment and redirection of individual “tax obligations” is a tactic that deserves more time in the spotlight. And it may get that spotlight time, thanks to the new president. The desire of individuals not to fund various absurdities, such as additional security for NY-based Mrs. Trump, the projected $5-5.5 billion increase in navy war ship production, “the wall”, or a million other possibilities, could provide opportunities for widespread tax resistance and redirection.

With fossil fuel struggles featuring more and more prominently (and I’m not saying that these struggles have yet achieved “prominence”) in mainstream media, understanding of the divestment process – or even that there’s such a thing as “divestment” – is increasing. As could WTR, or other forms of tax resistance, arriving at the party on convenient coat tails of fossil fuel divestment successes.

Writing about oil and tobacco companies in This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein outlines the basics of divestment strategy:

“The eventual goal is to confer on oil companies the same status as tobacco companies, which would make it much easier to make other important demands – like bans on political donations from fossil fuel companies and on television (for the same public health reasons that we ban broadcast cigarette ads). Crucially, it might even create the space for a serious discussion about whether these profits are so illegitimate that they deserve to be appropriated and reinvested in solutions to the climate crisis. Divestment is just the first stage of this delegitimization process, but it is already well underway.”

I feel privileged to be part of the delegitimization of war and war profiteering, both as a WTR and as a defendant in a civil resistance case. By refusing to pay federal income tax, I divest, I deny the war profiteers the slice they want to coerce from me. It feels good knowing that I’m not funding $12 million raises for executives banking on the benefits of the revolving door between corporations. And I tell people about it. And people take notice. And stock markets tremble as war and war profiteering are delegitimized!

The Zumwalt 12 trial will be another opportunity to delegitimize war and war profiteering, and I will represent myself and tell the story of how my nonviolent, pre-announced obstruction of the public way on June 18 in front of a ceremony celebrating war and war profiteering was a reasonable thing to do. That’s the key word in our case: reasonable. So I will attempt to show that it’s reasonable to petition the state for redress of grievances relating to the form of organized crime called war profiteering committed by GD at Bath Iron Works.

***

U.S. Navy photo of the USS Zumwalt in the testing phase, part of the Zumwalt project at Bath Iron Works (2015) | CC BY 2.0 license from https://www.flickr.com/photos/56594044@N06/22965290304/

The third Zumwalt, the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, is under construction and will soon be ready for champagne. It’s interesting to point out that the LBJ will not be equipped with the $800,000 shells originally designed by war profiteers Lockheed Martin. War profiteers Raytheon will be manufacturing its more reasonably-priced replacement ammunition, the Excalibur, a bargain at a mere $70,000 per round, though “there could [emphasis added] be some design changes that have increased costs.” So, equipped with 1,200 Excalibur shells, the LBJ is capable of sneaking up on China or Russia and launching at least $84 million-worth of destructive technology from its main guns each time it’s ordered to destroy hundreds of targets at the rate of up to ten per minute.

One more time, just in case you missed it, that’s over a thousand targets (1,200) at the rate of up to ten per minute.

Does it seem reasonable NOT to obstruct the public way? Is paying federal income taxes to enrich organized crime a reasonable thing to do?

Again, the third Zumwalt will soon be ready for champagne.

[Editor’s note: On a slightly different but related subject, please check out our main page today for a press release on 2017 tax resistance!]

5 thoughts on “Musings on Obstructing a Public Way, War Tax Resistance, and More”

  1. Larry Bassett says:

    Thanks Jason you have put my 2017 federal income tax filing into new perspective. When I refuse to pay the approximately $130,000 in federal income taxes that I will owe I will be depriving the Zumwalt of one or two missiles. Staggering! On the other hand I will have hopefully redirected $130,000 to meet human needs in the past year.

  2. Steven C Wilson says:

    It is becoming almost laughable if it didn’t hurt so much. Obama starts with two endless and meaningless wars and leaves office with seven wars being waged simultaneously. That doesn’t even count the OILigopoly oppression being pressed against peaceful native American water protectors in North Dakota as I write this: the National Guard is being used to shove and arrest indians on their own land for the crime of objecting to an oil pipeline that will destroy water resources being used by millions if it ruptures.

    It’s always about the oil even when the solar and wind solution has become competitive with fossil fuels. Oil, war profiteers, greed, corruption of our government.

  3. liz matthews says:

    does anyone know if divesting from the stock market in general, and investing in the bond market instead, helps with defunding the military? I have read/heard that 20% of treasury bond money goes toward the defense/military. so in my effort to defund fossil fuels (which are connected to the military), I end up supporting the military–and if this is true (the 20%)–I feel stuck. I don’t know what to do.

    1. Erica says:

      Hi Liz, I don’t know too much about the bond market, but US Treasury does have a lot of bonds and a lot of military-related debt (see the latest WRL pie chart: https://www.warresisters.org/resources/wrl-pie-chart-flyers-where-your-income-tax-money-really-goes). It’s likely that if you invested in government bonds that you would be helping to pay for the military. I know that some people look to invest only in renewable energy mutual funds, or only in community development banks, or in socially responsible funds that don’t invest in the military, or things like that, to try to avoid paying for fossil fuels and military expenditures. There aren’t many easy answers when it comes to investments!
      Let me know if you have other questions.
      All the best,
      Erica

      1. liz matthews says:

        Hi Erica…yes I have many questions. And I don’t know where to start. I divested from the stock market b/c I was reading and listening to people like Richard Wolffe and Michael Hudson–great non neo-liberal experts. And they make a lot of sense (I’m now super anti-capitalist…almost anarchist). But then this other issue of war comes up and it leaves me in a quandary. It seems that if I try to protect my retirement by putting my money in bonds, I then end up contributing to war–and I don’t want that either. Sometimes I think it might be easier to just bring my money home and put it under the mattress. I’ve tried to consult with my retirement people (vanguard) and they are not much help. I swear to god, if there’s someone out there that could create a site that explains this money bull crap in a really simple straight forward way, it would be helpful, and probably make them quasi-rich. I guess I just have to keep reading and searching for the answers.

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