National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

More Than a Paycheck, October 2009

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Extraordinary Times, Shared Struggle

by Coleman Smith

Some text and information used with permission of Leo Murray from his short animated film, "Wake Up, Freak Out-then Get a Grip," online at wakeupfreakout.org.

Each generation accepts a singular cause or event that defines their time on this planet. Today it seems that all else pales against the urgency of climate change, and young people around the world have sounded the alarm of global warming, taking to the streets with direct action to demonstrate the urgency to reverse course.

In many of our recent discussions, war tax resisters have been looking for better ways to connect with the youth of today. This article is intended to launch a conversation between natural allies-those who believe that all war is a crime against humanity and will not pay for it, and those radical earth and climate activists who see the inevitable ecological collapse of our planet if our carbon footprint is not dramatically reduced. One binding element is the fact that the military-industrial complex is the largest polluter on earth with the greatest carbon footprint of any institution in history. The stage is set for us to work together.

Nightmare Scenario

For three million years our planet's climate system has been in one of two stable states: either warmed like today or cooled, as during an ice age. It takes only small fluctuations of solar radiation to move us back and forth. The emissions of CO and other greenhouse gasses from our use of fossil fuels have built up in the atmosphere, trapping heat, disrupting natural patterns. As the rate of warming increases, we are pushed out of our stable niche towards something known as the tipping point. This is where the planet's temperature has reached a point past which positive feedback systems rapidly increase global warming, propelled by its own inertia, causing truly catastrophic, runaway change to our world's climate system. Once past the tipping point, a planetary increase of 6 to10 degrees is predicted.

With a 40- to 50-year lag between emissions and temperature increase, we can count on another .6 degree centigrade added to the estimated .8 degree centigrade increase currently registered. This brings us to 1.4 degrees centigrade, which most climate scientists place dangerously close to the tipping point, or past it. If we get there, the human impacts will add up quickly.

A rapid decline in access to clean water occurs as rains fail, rivers dry out, and rising sea levels contaminate reservoirs. More and more crops will fail, forests will burn, deserts spread, and coastal regions flood permanently. By the millions, humans will move in search of a better life because their lands are no longer productive or habitable. Countries still habitable will spend huge resources fighting to keep the starving millions out.

As one of the major industrial powers on earth, with the most carbon hungry military ever known, the U.S. is driving climate change and global warming. At the same time, the world is awash with weapons-enough to arm one person in seven. As the world's ability to support huge numbers of people dwindles, most will not die peacefully in their sleep.

In addition and no less important, the politics of life on a "burning" planet could fan the flames of racism. The wars for resources in the future are likely to be over water, food, and a place to live. What would have to happen for Colorado to cut off the flow of water to southern California? As the sea levels rise, coastal climate refugees could be met with a xenophobic policy as they try to move to higher ground. This racist politic of the future was foreshadowed, post-Katrina, on the Crescent City Bridge that connects New Orleans to the affluent and unflooded suburb of Gretna. Thousands of people fleeing a drowning city were turned back with gunshots by the unrestrained and well-armed remnants of the suburb's police force.

These Are Extraordinary Times

None of this is inevitableyet! We should neither panic nor despair, but act while we still can. For a radical ecological analysis to reach beyond narrow circles, it must be brought to the forefront of larger interconnected struggles. Climate change allows us to talk about humanity's disconnect from the earth, human rights violations from Appalachia to Nigeria, the consumer paradigm, and the exploitation of land and labor in a single conversation. Defunding the military and demilitarizing the population is a parallel conversation to climate change that links many of the issues presented above.

Wars are fought over resources and oil (energy) is currently the hot commodity. The organization that needs the most oil and gas is the same one charged to wage war (think "tail wagging dog"). Corporations don't just profit from U.S. war policy-they drive it. Venture capitalists, think tanks, media, universities; construction firms, big oil, coal, gas and nuclear weapons makers, mercenaries, and the government are all part of the Global Economic War Machine that perpetuates endless war on this planet. They are dedicated and committed to doctrine that prioritizes endless short-term economic growth over the survival of all life on this planet. They consume the largest proportion of energy resources, leaving the greatest carbon footprint on earth.

We must act on many fronts. To reduce emissions in line with the science is no mystery-we simply consume less! But this is practically out of the question in a society founded on ever increasing consumption of energy and material resources. Many war tax resisters are making such lifestyle changes. There are good lessons to incorporate from the practice of Reduce, Reuse, Remake, and Recycle. But making individual changes in our lifestyles is not enough. We must be more than just consumers. We must actively confront powerful, vested interests that will stop at nothing to prevent the changes we need from taking place.

We do this against the military when we resist by nonpayment and redirection of income taxes dedicated to the war machine. Climate justice activists do this when they stage a tree sit to shut down a mountain top removal mine or when they walk hundreds of miles to a state capitol to demand clean air and water for their children. It's time for us to cross generational and organizational barriers to push back on every front we can. Those before us didn't know about run away global warming and those who come afterwards will be powerless to do anything about it. For us there is still time.

Coleman Smith is active with Asheville War Resisters League and Asheville Area War Tax Resisters. Trained as an Architect he has remained in the field as a Designer and Builder. He has 35+ years experience as a grassroots community organizer in the Southeast and has experience in social, economic, and environmental justice campaigns. He is also a nonviolent direct action trainer.

Stay Connected: Send comments as letters-to-the-editor of this newsletter, or contact Coleman Smith through wrlasheville@gmail.com with feedback and your suggestions for investigating intergenerational activism.

For more material on climate change and activism, see: www.risingtide-na.org; www.earthfirst.org; www.bitethebullet.us; www.mountainjusticesummer.org; www.climategroundzero.org.

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What To Do With Resisted Dollars

For those of us who earn over the taxable income, or even those of us who don't, alternative funds exist across the country to provide us with a place to put our redirected tax dollars to work supporting peaceful activities. Twenty-one of these funds are scattered from New Mexico to Washington, and California to Maine.

All of them function a little bit differently. Some of them give grants and/or loans while others also assist war tax resisters (WTRs) in need. The War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund and Iowa's Penalty Sharing Community were founded to support WTRs. These funds do not keep a balance. When WTRs need help paying the IRS, the group mails a request for support to their list of people and groups. They divide the amount received from the mailing by the total requested to get the percentage of the amount requested by each WTR needing help and distribute the funds based on this percentage.

Although the number of alternative funds has shrunk slightly in the last ten years, their balances have grown considerably. The total balance of all the funds is $1,118,250.

That's right, folks, over a million dollars! And, this does not count the balances of a few funds that did not report. Although in terms of the military budget this is small, it is pretty impressive resistance.

This year the funds received new contributions of at least $65,200 and gave away more than $76,000 to nonviolent projects. Some of the peace work supported by alternative funds this year includes: a Save and Green Campaign, funding to start an annual regional WTR gathering, legal assistance in Central America, Theatre Against War, a committee on occupational health and safety, a Dominican women's development center, a project that supports combat veterans to work on farms while they heal, 9 to 5, a coalition on militarism in the schools, an air force bombing and strafing exhibit, and an inner city food coop among others.

Help by alternative funds to WTRs ranged from writing checks for WTRs who do not have bank accounts; consulting services on how to set up an alternative fund; returning resisted taxes to WTRs who feel it in their best interest to respond to the IRS; and counseling WTRs.

Whenever I am over taxable income, I go through the chore of calculating my supposed debt to the IRS. Then I send that amount to my alternative fund of choice. I suggest you check out the various funds and how they work to find one that suits you. After all, part of the work is removing our complicity with the killing machine. The other part is building a peaceful, organic, holistic world while meeting human and environmental needs. Voting with our dollars may be the most powerful vote we have.

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Counseling Notes

Taxable Debt

The dangers of credit cards abound, as many people find out the hard way, but NWTRCC just learned about this one. A large credit card debt was incurred (we won't try to explain the details). The bill was long past due, and interest charges were piling up. A settlement was made with the credit card company. They forgave thousands of dollars of debt and accepted a much lower payment to clear the account.

At the end of the year the individual was shocked to receive a 1099 from the credit card company showing the forgiven debt as income-subject to income taxes. We had not heard of this before, but a web search did show that this forgiven debt is taxable. The basic reasoning is that an individual could have ended up paying a lot more to the bank/credit card company than they will pay in taxes to the federal government. Not much of a choice of course: either pay off a large debt to a capitalist bank or owe a lower amount in taxes to a militaristic government. Many of our readers probably warn against credit card use to begin with, but at minimum this is a good reminder to read the small print on any debt settlements and to be wary of sharing a credit card in your name only-even with those you want to trust.

FOIA and the IRS

A recent news item about an IRS audit report said the agency has improved its response time over the past decade for taxpayers' requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This served as a reminder to note to readers of this newsletter that you can make FOIA requests to the IRS for documents related to a complicated case. Many basic tax records are available to you without going through the FOIA process, but the documents behind an investigation, summons, or court action could prove interesting. Presumably the case must be closed before the papers become available.

FOIA requests must be in writing and sent to one of the IRS Disclosure Offices located by region around the country. There is a page of FOIA guidelines with Disclosure Office addresses on the IRS website (or go to irs.gov and search on FOIA request) or call your area IRS office. We would like to hear from anyone who has used this process recently and know whether any insights into IRS "thinking" were gleaned from the documents received.

Contractor Levies

We mention this every so often, but the IRS regulations on wage levies are very clear about the difference between a levy for 1099 contractors and a salary levy. Employers are sent the full levy with numerous pages. Salary and wage levies (for W-2 employees) are the exception to the levy in that they are continuous and in effect until the IRS sends the employer a release of levy.

The employer copy of Form 668-W(C) includes a page that states very clearly (with bold as shown):

"For income other than wages and salary, and benefit and retirement income as described above, this levy is effective only for the funds you owe the taxpayer now. We may issue another levy if necessary. However, this levy attaches to all obligations you owe the taxpayer at the time you receive it even though you plan to make the payment at a later date."

If you are a contractor and the organization/company that hired you receives a levy, be certain they understand that it is not a standing levy. It is very annoying to hear about employers who go beyond the IRS requirements and insist to the contractor that the levy will remain in effect "until we hear from the IRS." They are wrong. If this problem arises, ask for a copy of the full levy. Read the front and back until you find this text, and then show it to the payroll person. If that person insists the levy is standing, ask them to call the IRS. If they won't call the IRS, try calling yourself to seek a proper-and legal!-resolution.

Letter #2645C Continued

In the last issue we included a quote and short note about IRS letter 2645C that begins, "Thank you for your correspondence. We have not resolved this matter because we haven't completed all the processing necessary for a complete response...."

A few readers shared their experiences after receiving this letter. One found that it is often followed by the frivolous fine threat letter, but nothing after that. Another reported that she received at least three last year for her 2007 tax filing, as well as other letters. Responding seemed to generate another such letter, but "when it came time to receive my stimulus check, it never came." The IRS took what they wanted and that cleared the account for this resister.

And, we received this letter:

To the Editor:

I noticed the blurb about IRS Letter 2645C in the most recent More than a Paycheck

(August 2009). We have also received similar forms over the past couple years, usually in response to our practice of involving our church board. When the IRS informs us that we owe more taxes (usually in early June after having filed in April...we withhold a percentage of what we owe and give it to a good cause), we ask our church board to write a letter of explanation to the IRS stating that:

We send the letter from our church board to the IRS, along with the stub from IRS Letter 2645C. We get repeated responses from the IRS asking for more time to consider our case.

Nothing has ever been officially resolved, but when everyone else gets stimulus checks...we don't get ours...which brings the balance we owe down. Nonetheless, the letter from the church board appears to send our case to some other IRS office and prolongs everything. Hopefully one of these years we will manage to exceed the statute of limitations.

—Titus Peachey, Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, PA

Call for Stories — Mixed Relationships

The next issue of More Than A Paycheck will include some stories from war tax resisters who live (or have lived) in mixed relationships-one person is a WTR, one is not. Some couples find a way to work out the details and stay together for years; others find WTR a source of constant conflict. If you have a story to share, please write to NWTRCC or email it to nwtrcc@nwtrcc.org.

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Network List Updates

NWTRCC is in the process of updating our list of war tax resistance counselors, area contacts, affiliates, and alternative funds. Changes will be made on the "Contacts and Counselors" page of the NWTRCC website in October. Print versions of the Network List, which are slightly more extensive, will be available on request from the NWTRCC office at the end of October.

We are offering a WTR Counselors' training November 8, 2-5 pm, in Cleveland. Please email nwtrcc@nwtrcc.org or call toll free 1-800-269-7464 if you can attend or want more information.

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MANY THANKS

We are grateful to these groups for recent contributions and dues payments:

A short list this time! That might give you a clue that things are a little tight around the NWTRCC office. Thanks for the individuals who have contributed in the last couple months, but late summer got pretty slow and the coffers are nearly dry. If you can help, please make an extra contribution to NWTRCC today - online through PayPal at nwtrcc.org, or by check to NWTRCC, PO Box 150553, Brooklyn, NY 11215. Thanks!

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War Tax Resistance Ideas & Actions

To the Editor:

I wish you would encourage people deliberately "living below the line" to tell their legislators they are doing so and why. Same with people who are simply poor, but glad that at least none of their money is supporting war.

I also wish you would encourage everyone who does pay war taxes to pay under protest, and tell their legislators why.

Cheers, Elizabeth Boardman, San Francisco, CA

Need Some WTR Energy

Editor's note: Way back in March "need some WTR energy" was the topic for some discussion on the WTR Discussion Group (sign up from nwtrcc.org or at http://lists.topica.com/lists/wtrs@igc.topica.com today!). People were feeling a bit low about WTRs organizing-and that was before tax day, so things have probably not improved. The article on page 1 opens a dialogue related to this topic, and below is one person's thoughts from the online discussion group:

It may be a time not for demonstrations and raising the WTR barricades but rather for teach-ins, dialogue with other groups in quieter educational efforts: pamphlets and study groups rather than leaflets and marches. Some joint efforts that come to mind:

A problem: The way things are going, many of the target audiences, who would otherwise be sympathetic to WTRs, will probably have little or no tax liability. In fact people will be relying on the government to help them through tough times. Will someone soon have to write a how-to article on "WTRs in a time of no taxes"?

-Ed Agro, Randolph, MA

Seeking Pen Pals

Greetings! I received a copy of your newsletter. What a great effort in peace. I totally support your cause.

A friend of mine, Donald Kaufman, was kind enough to tell me about your organization.

I think peace, love, and kindness cures all the infirmities in our world.

I'm a 35-year-old man. I'm currently hospitalized with "mental illness" indefinitely and would love to connect with others who believe in the power of peace!

Please share my address and letter with others.

- Mark D. Brull, 1301 KS Highway 264, Larned, KS 67550

First Southeast WTR Gathering

War tax resisters are joining with the Annual Alternative New Year's Celebration at Crooked River State Park, St. Mary's, Georgia (near Jacksonville, Florida), December 31-January 3, 2010.

The weekend includes a New Year's eve Peace Walk and Midnight Vigil at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, homeport for Trident nuclear submarines; speakers, workshops, films, networking, storytelling, and entertainment with Southeast activists at work on peace, justice and environmental concerns on New Year's Day (Friday).

The war tax gathering begins on Saturday, January 2, and wraps up after breakfast on Sunday, January 3. War tax resisters will offer practical workshops, and there will be time for information exchange, networking, and ideas for future gatherings or organizing efforts.

The site offers cabin or tenting space, kayaking, river walks, good food, fun, and winter warmth. For program development and registration information contact: Clare Hanrahan or Coleman Smith at wrlasheville@gmail.com. To follow other WRL/WTR activities in the South visit http://warresistersleagueasheville.wordpress.com.

24th Annual New England Gathering
of War Tax Resisters and Supporters

October 9-11, 2009 Amazing Planet Farm & Justice Center, Williamsville, Vermont

"Telling Our Stories, Part 2" picks up on the success of last year's theme and presentations. All seasoned war tax resisters and explorers welcome. For a brochure and further information please contact: WTRs Gathering, c/o Erik, 270 Bullock Rd., Guilford, VT 05301. Ph: (802) 257-5725, or email: andbefree@yahoo.com.

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RESOURCES

War Tax Boycott Year 3

NWTRCC is continuing the War Tax Boycott for another year. We're in the process of updating the Boycott website with new information and downloadable flyers and resources, and we still have Palm Cards in the office that can be used for outreach at events in the coming months. Many new people have found their way to war tax resistance through the Boycott website, and we hope to see the list of public signers online continue to grow as long as the wars continue. See wartaxboycott.org for the latest materials-and sign on if you have not already!

Updated and Available Online

NWTRCC has updated the "Students and War" flyer, an outreach tool for young people that connects military recruiting and war tax resistance, and the short flyer about W-4 resistance that is also targeted at young employees. We do not print these flyers in bulk, but they can be downloaded for copying from the NWTRCC website, http://www.nwtrcc.org/downloadable.htm, or ask the office for a copy that you can use for reproduction.

For more information: www.nwtrcc.org/publications.htm

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NWTRCC News

Friday, Nov. 6 - Sunday, Nov. 8
Deconstruct War, Use Tax Dollars to Construct Peace
NWTRCC Gathering and Meeting

The Nehemiah Center
6515 Bridge Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio

NWTRCC’s fall weekend includes a mini-conference about cutting off war’s money supply and funding life-affirming programs. The program includes stories of individual resistance, discussion about consequences and effectiveness, strategizing about all of our work against war and creating the world we hope to see. The NWTRCC business meeting is Sunday morning, November 8 (open to all). Along with local activists, people from around the country who refuse to pay for war will participate in the mini-conference. Come for the whole weekend or one session.

The program and housing will be at the Nehemiah center (nehemiahmission.org) and is hosted by Dorothy Day Peace Tax Fund, Cleveland Catholic Worker, the Cleveland Nonviolence Network, and the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. For more information see http://www.nwtrcc.org/meetings or to have a brochure mailed to you contact the NWTRCC office at nwtrcc@nwtrcc.org or (800) 269-7464.

Introductory WTR Film On the Way!

By the time the next issue of this newsletter comes out we should be announcing sales of the new WTR film on DVD. The Film Committee has just reviewed and commented on a rough cut produced by film editor Carlos Steward of North Carolina. His lively and well-paced collection of stories by war tax resisters about their motivations, how they resist, the consequences of resistance, and thoughts about WTR as part of the peace and justice movement will complement workshops and presentations and motivate audience members to seriously consider taking the step of refusing to pay for war. We're excited to be in the final stages of this project, which began with filming and initial work by Steev Hise, who works with the Pan Left Collective in Tucson, Arizona. Watch for announcements in the next mailings and on our website.

Mass Mobilization and More

Three Times the Warmth!

" Foreclose On War, Invest in People" scarves are for sale by NWTRCC for another season. This year you can triple the benefit. You buy a scarf, and we put it in the hands of someone who can use the extra warmth but couldn't afford to buy it themselves. NWTRCC has an agreement with Casa Maria Hospitality House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Purchase a scarf for one of their residents or community members, we'll send them the scarves to hand out to folks who can use them this winter-a triple benefit:
  1. NWTRCC makes money to cover our budget shortfall;
  2. someone in need gets the benefit of the warmth;
  3. the message is carried to places it might not go if they were all sold to traditional peace and justice advocates.

You can also buy one or more to donate to a homeless person or other charity in your community.

Scarves come in three colors-Cherry, Off-White, and Patina with the message in contrasting colors.

Note the new prices for '09-'10: $15 each, 3 scarves for $36, 10 for $10 each, plus postage: 1-3 scarves, First Class (estimated 3 days) = $1.60 for one scarf; $1.00 each additional for 2nd and 3rd scarves; 1-3 scarves, Priority Mail (guaranteed 2-3 days) = $5.00. Call for postage on orders of 4 scarves or more.

All proceeds benefit the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) and our campaign work, outreach, and support for people who refuse to pay for war.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES

I suggest to you that those who are not on the Register for military service are equally participating in the crime. He or she, therefore, who supports a State so organized is, whether directly or indirectly, participating in the sin. It is fraught with immediate danger. Seeing that each man, old or young, takes part in this sin by contribution to the State (by paying the tax to the State). ...all those who want to stop military service can do so by withdrawing all military co-operation. Refusal of military service is much more superficial than non-co-operation with a whole system which supports the State. But then your opportunity becomes so swift and so effective that you run the risk of not only being marched to jail, but of being thrown on the street. This was the position of Tolstoy.

—From The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi,
Answers to Questions, page 402, submitted by Paul Lauzier, ME

Probably this remarkable passage is in Dave Gross's great anthology, but I just came across it in its original context, and thought I'd send it around. It's from the Nobel Peace Prize lecture given by Emily Greene Balch, who won the prize in 1946 (but I think the lecture wasn't given until 1948). She taught where I teach now, until the Trustees fired her for her work against American involvement in World War I.

Here's what she wrote:

I feel it rather surprising also that refusal of war has never taken the form, on any large scale, of refusal to pay taxes for military use, a refusal which would have involved not only young men but (and mainly) older men and women, holders of property.

—Submitted by Larry Rosenwald, Wellesey, MA