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An email came today with estimates of the cost of the attack on Libya. Counting just the cost of the Tomahawk missiles ($1.1 million each) used in the initial assault (112 missiles), the U.S. blew up $123 million on Libyan targets; millions more will have been spent by the time you read these words. Readers can refer to their local media of choice and balance that cost with the cuts to social programs coming to your schools, your streets, your drug rehab programs, your child care programs, your mental health programs, your public radio stations, your housing programs, your mass transit programs.
When it comes to war, most readers of this newsletter have gotten to the point of saying (or shouting) “not with my money” and adhering to that call of our conscience as best we can. The attack on Libya reinforces what we know: if they couldn’t afford to build the weapons they could not launch them willy-nilly around the world at the country of choice rather than finding some other means of dealing with conflicts. There’s the other side, too: who sold weapons to Qaddafi? Near the top of the list are two countries who voted for the UN resolution that allowed the attack on Libya: France and Britain. Hypocrisy — and money — rule the day.
Tax day is rolling around, and we have many reasons to get out and shout: “No to war. Not with our money.” The final day to file is April 18, but groups are organizing events Friday the 15th through Monday the 18th or for the Global Day of Action on Military Spending April 12 (demilitarize.org).
Congratulations on 40 years of support to war tax resisters and granting for war tax redirection to the New York City and Northern California People’s Life Funds. Both were both founded in 1971. How impressive that these funds have survived all these years despite the ups and downs in the strength of the war tax resistance movement in general!
What does this mean in terms of redirection? Neither fund has the figures at hand for 40 years of grants, but between them it’s in the range of a half million dollars. The granted funds are generated from interest off redirected war taxes held by the funds, so congratulations also to all of those refusers who have pooled their money into these funds over the years.
Last year NCPLF had a banner year, granting about $20,000 to local, regional, and national groups including Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership, Bay Area Community Land Trust, Courage to Resist, Haiti Action Committee, Faithful Fools Street Ministry, Phat Beets Produce (and food justice), Prisoners Literature Project, and Tri Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment. About five activists have managed the fund over the past decade, and Jon Marley, one of the managers, reports that there are about 45 active members and 87 other depositers who are inactive. “I think that has helped us make it through the last few years,” says Jon, “despite the fact that about 18 members had to close their accounts since 2004 due to collections and the economy.”
New York City People’s Life Fund (NYCPLF) is looking forward to giving five $1,000 grants this April. Over the years they have supported social service groups, innovative theater and arts projects, small food coops, and peace groups at public training ceremonies in front of the Manhattan IRS. The fund was not able to give grants in 2010, but redirected $4,000 in 2009. NYCPLF holds annual meetings and a core group of members keep the fund going year after year.
New England War Tax Resistance might have the oldest fund, founded in 1968 and still active. They gave out $4,750 of refused taxes in 2010. WTRs in Eugene, Oregon, haven’t set up a fund, but each year they join together and announce their redirections publicly as a group. In 2010 they gave $4,246 to 30 groups!
Look at nwtrcc.org/redirection.php for a list of funds around the country or under the War Tax Resistance/Redirection buttons on the NWTRCC home page or call the office for a printed list (free). If you are interested in how to set up a fund, order the Alternative Fund Resource Packet ($2 postpaid).
Wisconsin has made national headlines lately because of our Governor’s attack on the collective bargaining rights of unions in the state. However, demonstrators occupying the state capitol are not the only type of activism happening in Wisconsin.
On March 8, International Women’s Day, mothers and others joined together for the Mom’s Bus Tour for the Welfare of the People and the Planet. The purpose of our tour was to celebrate the Global Women’s Strike by raising awareness about war tax resistance and government cuts to programs for the poor.
“Federal proposals would deny WIC to 800,000 babies and deny Headstart to 218,000 at risk children and reduce Pell grants $1,000 for poor college students,” points out Pat Gowens of the Welfare Warriors. “Politicians pretend that we are in a fiscal crisis due to poverty programs and pay/pensions for ordinary people. This is not true. Since 2001 taxpayers paid over $1 trillion to bomb and colonize Iraq and Afghanistan. That is causing the financial crisis.”
The first stop on the bus tour was a for-profit tax preparation office. There we began to sing our antiwar songs to the perplexed pedestrians and handed out flyers encouraging war tax resistance to the entertained taxpayers. Our first song (to the tune of “America the Beautiful”) was inspired by this very business and their numerous U.S. flags calling attention to the building:
America America / The country we adore / It’s time to pay our taxes for / Our endless wars and gore
America, Let’s put an end / To pay for wealthy wars / So save your bucks and / Say ‘no more’ to war forevermore
Next we proceeded to the Bradley Foundation, a right-wing think tank that not only funded our anti-union governor, but also helped start Wisconsin’s failed welfare to work program. Mary Laan led a chant about stopping the war on moms and kids, while Barbara Brown pointed out that college money appointed for veterans, like herself, is now at risk of being taken away.
Our final stop was Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services office to bring the message to the people who truly feel the effect of our ever increasing budget cuts. With our flyers and singing, we tried to draw connections between our current wars and our state’s drastic budget cuts. The group’s self appointed cheerleader, Mary-Alice Martinez, bellowed out to the crowd “This is the way to protest! Don’t pay your federal taxes!”
After all the excitement, we went back to the Mother’s Organizing Center. “We need to take care of human needs. I have been a war tax resister for many years. They talk of these government cuts. They never talk about money going towards the military,” shared Roberta Thurstin. While our bus tour wasn’t as intense as thousands of union organizers occupying our state capitol, it was definitely worth it, and we are all giddy with excitement for next year’s action.
Mikel Komba is a live-in worker at Casa Maria Catholic Worker and member of the Milwaukee War Tax Resistance.
Do you pay Medicare Part B health insurance premiums? Are you self-employed? If so, the IRS has never let you take this expense as a self-employed health insurance expense, like the rest of us with ordinary health insurance can. But now they’ve abruptly, and without much fanfare, changed their minds. The instructions to Form 1040 for 2010 say that self-employed people can deduct their Medicare Part B health insurance premiums on Line 29. IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses, still reflects the old rules, but it is being updated.
Among the options for methods of war tax resistance is not filing with the IRS as a way to noncooperate with the tax system that funds war. The IRS has had a priority on bringing nonfilers into “the system,” and calls come into the NWTRCC office fairly frequently from longtime nonfilers who are trying to figure out how to deal with sudden IRS collection actions taken an IRS assessment. If there is reported income (such as a 1099), IRS computers have gotten better over the years at matching that information to the lack of a 1040. Letters and notices to the “delinquent” may follow. Some nonfilers, because of their employment situation (wanting to stay with a job or career) decide to settle. Others, especially those who are not collectible, choose to ignore collection demands. We’d like to hear your stories to help us give the best information possible to individuals who call our office. Email, snail mail, or phone in your nonfiler story of “what happened when I heard from the IRS.” Thanks!
A WTR with a tax debt called recently and said he was told that the IRS could not levy bank accounts or wages unless they had a lien. This didn’t sound quite right and required a re-reading of the section on liens in NWTRCC’s publication, WTR and the IRS. More WTRs are finding that there is a lien on their property (whether they own property or not) filed in a county office. Often you know this because you start getting postcards from companies looking to “help you with your tax problems.” Such a public lien is an option for the IRS, but not a requirement in their collection efforts. Such liens are most known for ruining an individual’s credit rating (see below).
However, if you received a “Final Notice for Payment” from the IRS and did not respond within 10 days, the IRS acquires an automatic lien on all of your property, a legal claim on property or proceeds from sale of property. You will not receive a piece of paper telling you about an automatic lien; it just is. The IRS is required to send a 30-day “Notice of Intent to Levy” before actually seizing money and property.
Included in the January annual report from the National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson (a sort of independent ombudsman within the IRS) was the complaint that the IRS is overusing its enforcement techniques of filing liens in ways that are cruel and, even from the perspective of government revenue, counterproductive. Since 1999, the number of public liens the IRS has filed each year has increased by 550%, but the amount of revenue collected has not increased at all.
Lien filings are picked up by the three credit rating agencies and remain on the taxpayer’s credit report for seven years from the date a tax liability is resolved, or longer if it is not resolved. “Increasingly, employers, mortgage lenders, landlords, car dealerships, auto insurance companies, and credit card issuers utilize credit reports, so a tax lien has the potential to render someone unemployable, unable to obtain housing (owned or rented), and unable to obtain car insurance or a credit card, at least at reasonable rates, for many years into the future,” Olson said. In the current economy this can inflict long-term harm, making it harder for an individual to get back on their feet. Since data shows no meaningful revenue gain from many liens, Olson says, “I find it unacceptable that the IRS continues to torment financially struggling taxpayers in this way.” The IRS says that it is implementing new processes, including raising the tax-debt threshold at which the agency decides to file a lien, making it easier for compliant taxpayers to have their liens lifted, and making it easier to enter into installment agreements and offers in compromise.
Many war tax resisters have liens filed against them and stories vary from the lien having no effect, to some who fear they didn’t get a job interview because of a bad credit rating, to others who found they could buy a home despite the lien, to others who could not get a loan.
Perhaps it’s a good time to note that hoping to hold onto large assets while carrying a WTR-related tax debt is problematic. Thus it is also a good time to refocus on why one gets into tax refusal in the first place and to sort through personal priorities.
Thanks to Dave Gross for contributions to this section. Check out his blog for continuous musings and news related to tax resistance: sniggle.net/Experiment.
Thanks to each individual who helps to keep NWTRCC going through their financial or volunteer support and to the affiliate groups below for recent dues payments.
Center on Conscience and War (DC)
New England War Tax Resistance (MA)
Pioneer Valley War Tax Resistance (MA)
War Resisters League (NY)
Advertising rates for this newsletter can be found at nwtrcc.org/ads.php or contact the editor at 1-800-269-7464.
New Affiliate: Washington Peace Center (DC)
New counselors: Katherine Fisher (MA), Charlie Keil (CT), and Anita LaFollette (CA)
Returning contact: Bill Glassmire, Corvallis, OR
NWTRCC’s list of war tax resistance counselors, area contacts, affiliates, and alternative funds is on the “Contacts and Counselors” page at nwtrcc.org. Print versions of the Network List can be requested from the NWTRCC office. Please let the office know if you are interested in joining our network. Email email@example.com or call toll free 1-800-269-7464.
First articulated in 1970s Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, Permaculture is a philosophy, practice, and movement for creating human environments that are ecologically sound and economically viable. Permaculture systems are sustainable because they provide for their own interrelated needs and do not exploit or pollute. (For simplicity’s sake, we might say that “doing Permaculture” is akin to “creating edible landscapes.”)
Similarly, WTRs understand all too well that war, poverty, environmental degradation, and the interrelated systems (economic, political, cultural, etc.) that tend to produce them are neither viable nor sustainable. As Jeff Knaebel writes in “Some Thoughts On Civil Disobedience: My Duties and Responsibilities,” printed in We Won’t Pay! A Tax Resistance Reader, “In 1981, fifty-three Nobel Prize winners warned of an unprecedented holocaust, encompassing the horrors of mass exterminations and extending the frontiers of barbarism and death. In 1980, while tens of millions of people were on the verge of starvation, the global war machine engaging 60 million people was squandering nearly a million dollars per minute towards our universal extermination. Today the level of violence is even higher. It is incomprehensible.” No kidding.
Permaculture is one comprehensible way to continue the process of healing self, community, and planet by helping to establish and strengthen interrelated systems. Using Permaculture design principles and techniques has an immediately tangible healing effect on the participants, the soil, the local ecosystem, and the planet. Toward this end, a Permablitz is a community-building event modeled after the Amish barn-raising tradition. A crew of friends and volunteers descend on a site to give it a Permaculture makeover. Food, drink, hard work, and merriment ensue.
The first Permablitz took place in Melbourne, Australia, in 2006, but Permablitzes have now taken place around the world. Maine’s first Permablitz was organized and carried out by Portland Maine Permaculture. This event was partly funded by redirected “tax obligations,” and now we (cross-pollinated WTRs and Permaculturepeople) are looking to accomplish at least three Permablitzes in Maine in 2011. We’d also like to encourage and facilitate cross-pollination between WTR groups and Permaculture groups everywhere. And there’s plenty of room for interested third parties, so we might see a WTR group offering funding to a Permaculture group in order to Permablitz, say, a community radio station. In that case, the yield might include not just pretty flowers and tasty fruit, but also an opportunity for in-depth local news coverage. Anyone know anyone at CNN?
Jason Rawn is a graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jesse Watson is a certified permaculture designer providing design/build and consultation services in Midcoast Maine. He can be reached at midcoastpermaculture.com
www.permablitz.net — introduction, How-to, etc. They respond to e-mails!
www.meetup.com/portlandpermaculture — overview, upcoming events, photos of Maine’s first Permablitz, contact info
Food Not Lawns by Heather Flores — super book for those looking to grow gardens and movements.
Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway — practical, hands-on, home-scale guide
The Peace and Social Action Committee of the Palo Alto (CA) Friends Meeting hosted a Pie Party on March 6. Different pies were served including lemon custard, banana cream, apple, blueberry, pumpkin, and others — all delicious and most homemade — happily enjoyed by about 60 attendees.
Pies were sliced with a template following the U.S. federal budget pie chart of the War Resisters League. As pie eaters requested a slice, they were asked to identify their favorite government program or priority. If they were unhappy with a small slice, they were asked if they’d like to take a portion out of the military budget. Everybody wanted more pie!
We also took a Penny Poll, and 26 pollers allocated 49% of their pennies (AKA tax dollars) to human resources and only 5% to current military.
Queries for Friends Regarding War Taxes, prepared by Quarterly Meeting war tax resisters, were read in the last minutes of meeting for worship before the Party.
“Pay Under Protest” leaflets, the WRL Pie Charts, and other WTR materials were handed out. The Party generated lots of good discussion, and we were asked to host another Pie Party next year as an “annual” event. Let’s hope next year we won’t have to do this.
—Ed and Janet Hale
Jeff Knaebel, an American entrepreneur and war veteran who turned into a pacifist, voluntaryist, Gandhian, and expatriate to India, is dead. In 2009 he destroyed his U.S. passport and applied for political asylum, saying he had been coerced to pay taxes, which are then employed in bloody wars of aggression and coercive international economic practices. Those practices exploit weaker peoples whose lives, cultures, and ecologies are destroyed in the process. “I was not permitted to withdraw from citizenship and the concomitant complicity in mass murder which U.S. citizenship entailed.”
Knaebel found the Indian government to be unsympathetic to his hopes for political asylum and his wish to live in a condition of Statelessness. He took his own life by self-immolation on January 26. “I did not stay put and apply for Indian citizenship as the Court ordered. The authorities have begun looking to arrest me because I did not follow their orders. If apprehended and interrogated, my truthful answers will land me in jail. I have chosen death under the open sky rather that the living death of imprisonment or any other form of enslavement by Power.”
He leaves behind his writings at JeffKnaebel.org and on other websites.
Anna Aschenbach, who had been a simple living war tax resister for many years (her anti-war activism went back to the second World War), died in January in New Haven, Connecticut. She suffered a stroke at the ceremony at which she was being awarded the Dr. Alice Hamilton Peace and Freedom Award from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The Progressive Action Roundtable-New Haven said in their tribute: “She had a vibrant intellect, was a passionate peace activist, a staunch war tax resister and a fierce believer in justice, civil rights and the possibility for a better world. She would often remind us that we all bear the responsibility to help bring that better world into being.”
Muriel Stackley, who touched many lives as a writer, editor, pastor, theologian, peacemaker and poet, died of cancer Jan. 29. She was 73. She witnessed for peace through her writing, speaking and lifestyle. After her children were grown, she downsized her living space, giving away possessions and eventually living in an efficiency apartment. She resisted paying for war by living with a below-taxable income. In a farewell message, she asked her friends and family to continue her work for peace and to “sing out daily with the joy of one who appreciates the smallest details and feels powerful enough to do battle with giants.”
—Susan Balzer from the Mennonite Weekly Review, February 7, 2011
Frank Donnelly is in a halfway house. Write him at 5 Grant Street, Portland, Maine 04101. His term should finish in June 2011.
Carlos Steward is about six months into his 2-year prison sentence in Montgomery, Alabama. Send letters to: Carl W. Steward, 09105-088, FPC Montgomery, Federal Prison Camp, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, AL 36112.
Both cases have been covered in previous issues, or you can read about them at nwtrcc.org. See the "NWTRCC News" column for links.
War Resisters League — warresisters.org
National Priorities Project — nationalpriorities.org
Friends Committee on National Legislation — fcnl.org/budget
Our Taxes Are Off to War, 2011 Edition (Feb. 23) — dailykos.com/blog/RandomNonviolence
New Priorities Network — newprioritiesnetwork.org
True Cost of War — mfso.org
Healthcare Not Warfare — pdamerica.org/get-active/healthcare-not-warfare-campaign
CODE PINK: Bring Our War $$ Home — codepink.org
Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home — bringourwardollarshome.org
Bring the $Billion$ Home — wwfor.org
Peace Economy Project — peaceeconomyproject.org
25 Percent Solution — 25percentsolution.com
Campaign for Smart Security — smartsecuritypa.org
25 Teachers’ Salaries — 25teacherssalaries.org
Our Funds - ourfunds.org
War is a Crime — defundwar.org
Please add a contribution for postage costs. Affiliates take 20% off total cost of literature. See the NWTRCC website for all of our publications and to order online: nwtrcc.org/publications.php#brochures.
“Social Justice Networking for Sustained Resistance”
Hosted by Northern California War Tax Resistance, Sonoma County Taxes for Peace, and NWTRCC
May 6 — Berkeley Friends Church, Berkeley, CA — Dinner and WTR organizing discussion,
May 7 — Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, Oakland, CA
9-5: Mini-conference with presentations including Michael Eisenscher on the New Priorities Project, homebrewing skills share. walk-around-the-lake small-groups discussion, dip-your-toes-in tax protest, teaching Thoreau, being public as a war tax resister, basic “how to resist” workshop, and more!
Evening: “Tales of Resistance and doing time” with J. Tony Serra, plus the annual People’s Life Fund Granting Ceremony, and more!
May 8 — NWTRCC Business Meeting, Berkeley CoHousing — all welcome!
War Tax Resistance gatherings offer a mix of presentations, open discussions, organizing topics, and time to ask personal war tax resistance questions.
See nwtrcc.org/gatheringMay2011.php for more information or contact the NWTRCC office at (800) 269-7464 for details and a registration form.
I am 61 years young. I live in an intentional community in southeastern Ohio. I have been a war tax resister (WTR) since the early 1970s. I believe being a WTRer has profoundly affected my adult life.
I do not feel that I am in any way uniquely suited to be a tax resister. I grew up in a small conservative farming community in central Ohio in a farming family. I was in high school as the Vietnam War was unfolding. I also grew up as member of the Church of the Brethren. I think these circumstances greatly influenced the road I took.
I am a pacifist and attribute this to the influence of the Church of the Brethren. The Vietnam War made the military draft significant in my life. I was a conscientious objector and eventually turned in my draft card.
As soon as I started making enough money to pay taxes I could see the glaring contradiction of working to end war, being a pacifist, and paying federal taxes — especially since more than half of those taxes went for military expenditures.
About this time I became involved in a national group, Peacemakers, which strongly supported WTR. I believe that having a support group, whether local or national, is critical to having a positive experience with resisting taxes. It certainly has been for me. Being a war tax resister is not widely accepted or admired so having like-minded people as support is good.
I married Linda in 1970. We have always discussed and shared in the decisions around our (my) tax resistance. We were both war tax resisters until the mid-’80s when Linda stopped, so I just speak for myself in the article.
Once I decided to not pay war taxes I had other decisions to make; what percentage to pay or not pay and whether it was important to actually keep the government from getting this tax money.
It was clear that over half of any taxes I paid would go for military expenditures, so I determined not to pay any. It also became clear, after much talking, thinking, and reading, that it was important to actively work to keep the IRS from collecting any of this tax money. I had no idea how profoundly this decision would influence my life.
I decided not to file tax returns. I reasoned this would make it harder to track me down and harder for them to make an assessment of what I owed. I realized this would extend the time of liability and increase the amount IRS might collect, but deciding to become a WTR does have possible consequences both positive and negative. I did not want my wages garnished so I decided I needed to be self-employed. IRS could levy bank accounts or auction off property. I opened a business account, with a friend as the primary signer and was then able to get a credit card, which has been very helpful. I reduced the amount of property I owned and put my truck in my wife’s name after she stopped resisting.
I have been a fruit picker, woodworker, builder, stained glass craftsperson, and organic farmer. I presently raise organic red raspberries for fresh sell and make stained glass with the owner of a small stained glass shop.
I am now living a much simpler lifestyle than I would ever have imagined as a young adult. I attribute this largely to my decision to not pay my federal taxes and to work hard to not let the IRS collect this tax money. I have always donated that tax money to helping change the world and to relieving suffering. I live in the woods and hills of southern Ohio in an owner-built home, heated with wood, and energized by solar panels and the healing vibes of mother nature.
The IRS has not collected any money from me in all these years. I attribute this to three factors: not filing federal tax returns, earning money in ways that make it hard for IRS to collect, and not having bank accounts and property that is very accessible. I am a nonfiler because I didn’t want to announce myself on their terms with their forms. I am very public about my resistance and have been active on and off for all these years in WTR issues.
The IRS has come and gone throughout this journey. They tried to collect early on but we were actually living below the taxable level. I was involved in a protest action in the early ’80s at the time the frivolous penalty was first introduced. Several of us sent in a tax return everyday or once a week basically inviting them to levy the $500* frivolous penalties, interest, and fees. I was pursued vigorously for about 10 years. If I had a job from which they could have garnished wages or a bank account to levy this would have been done. I have had an IRS lien for many years. This is mainly a problem if you borrow money or want to set up accounts. I have been getting letters from the IRS for the last two or three years; I ignore correspondence from them.
Being a WTRer has been an overwhelmingly positive experience-not that it isn’t a pain in the butt sometimes. I love the WTR community; local, national, and international. I am very happy with the way resisting has directed my life and in ways I couldn’t see when this journey started. I invite you to jump on board if you aren’t on board already.
*raised to $5,000