National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

More Than a Paycheck, June/July 2012

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Contents

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A Tax Day Speech

Delivered on April 17, 2012, at Pritchard Park, Asheville, North Carolina.

“The greatest changes in history have only come when people are willing to put everything on the line.”

—Julia Butterfly Hill

Environmental activist and tree-sitter Julia Butterfly Hill took direct action when the IRS claimed she owed them $150,000 from a court settlement. Instead of aiding and abetting war, Julia redirected this money to education, arts and cultural programs, community gardens, programs for Native Americans, alternatives to incarceration, and environmental protection.

When war is illegal, isn’t paying war tax a crime?

I have refused to pay war taxes since 1981. That’s the year I took the pledge. That’s when I decided to break the deadly habit of paying for war.

It’s not just our federal taxes that fuel war, but our lifestyles of waste and habitual consumption, this privilege that we maintain on the backs of the destitute of the world, is upheld by the Pentagon and its deadly force.

I’m one of thousands of people around this country who openly identify themselves as War Tax Resisters. Some file and refuse to pay. Some refuse to file or cooperate in any way. Some refuse a portion of federal taxes, some refuse to pay any at all.

Most War Tax Resisters are also Peace Tax Payers, redirecting refused war tax dollars to fund community needs. Local alternative Funds throughout the U.S. each year deliver more than $50,000 in refused war taxes to support constructive projects.

As we gather here today to call out Bank of America, to demand that they stop participating in this business of death—to demand that they stop funding mountain top removal coal mining enterprises, stop facilitating the buildup and modernization of nuclear weapons, and stop loaning millions to criminal enterprises like Eric Prince and Blackwater/XE, the largest mercenary operation in the world.

As we say to Bank of America and its shareholders: Stop!

Are we willing to risk our own economic privilege to obstruct this business of death? Who will block the doors to the post office today when most Americans will voluntarily submit taxes on the demand of the IRS—the taxes that fuel the Pentagon!

When war is illegal, isn’t paying war tax a crime?

Whatever the risk to property or privilege, career or liberty, we must stop. We must stop supporting this system of destruction. Not merely because it is immoral and unjust, but because it is illegal—according to International Law.

The Pentagon and media are aligned in their efforts to hide the costs: the maimed soldiers, the battlefield carnage, the grieving widows, the broken souls, the poisoned Earth—funded with nearly one-half of every tax dollar obediently submitted under threat. The mandate of the Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal of 1950 is clear:

“Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to [refuse to obey] domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”

We cannot say we did not know.

We who refuse to cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service in its coercive efforts to collect the funds to wage illegal wars, are in fact upholding International Law and treaties that compel citizens to refuse to cooperate with the crimes of their government.

Each citizen has a responsibility to ensure that their own personal conduct does not breach international law.

According to the International Criminal Court a person is criminally liable who “aids, abets or assists” in the commission of such a crime “including providing the means for its commission.”

Governments cannot wage war without the money to buy weapons, pay troops or purchase supplies. Without the support of taxpayers and moneylenders war would be impossible.

When war is illegal, isn’t paying war tax a crime?

Look around. The crime scene is everywhere. Let’s just talk about what we harbor here in these ancient mountains—weapons of mass and indiscriminate destruction—weapons that violate all the criteria for acceptable weapons of war, including: “Distinction” (between combatants and non-combatants), “Proportionality” (causing excessive loss of civilian life); “Protection of Environment” (causing “widespread, long-term and severe damage”).

In Jonesboro, Tennessee, weaponized uranium in the form of armor-piercing bullets is manufactured at AeroJet. It contaminates, kills, and deforms for generation after generation. In Erwin, Tennessee, Nuclear Fuel Services manufactures the fuel for Trident Nuclear Submarines—the first strike nuclear submarines, themselves a violation of International law, and in Oak Ridge at the Y-12 nuclear bomb factory where billions more are being spent to upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal for generations.

The United States is the number one military spender and arms exporter in the world.

U.S. war crimes include “crimes against peace” such as the “planning, preparation, or initiation of a war of aggression.” “Crimes against humanity,” (both civilians and soldiers). Violations of the rules as to the “means and manner by which war is to be conducted once begun.” These include the following prohibitions: “killing of civilians, indiscriminate bombing, the use of certain types of weapons, killing of defenseless soldiers, ill treatment of POWs and attacks on non-military targets.”

We can’t say we didn’t know.

Any violation of these two sets of laws is a war crime—when done on purpose, as the U.S. has done, they are grave breaches—Nazis and Japanese following World War Ⅱ were hanged for such grave breaches.

The United States and its leaders have committed international crimes. As global citizens, under International law, we are complicit in these crimes against humanity, these war crimes.

When war is illegal, isn’t paying war tax a crime?

How long, I ask, will it take those of us who know the futility of the Pentagon’s wars— how they rob us of our brightest and best, how they kill and rape and maim, tear apart families, lay desolate the land, leave orphans and widows and broken and discarded veterans wandering our streets, filling our jails, or bringing the violence of war back home—how long, war tax payers, will you persist in this deadly submission?

We can’t say we didn’t know.

When war is illegal, isn’t paying war tax a crime?

Clare Hanrahan is an organizer with the New South Network of War Resisters, a National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer, a nonviolent direct action trainer, and served on the Administrative Committee of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. A Memphis native, she has lived in the Asheville, North Carolina area for over twenty years.

More on tax day actions and redirection in the next issue.

Oakland Tax Day Dance

BAY-Peace: Better Alternatives for Youth and Northern California War Tax Resistance teamed up with Code Pink and others to protest militarism and war at the Oakland Federal Building on Tax Day 2012. The action included street theater, poetry, and this BAY-Peace original song:

People, People, People, can’t you see?
They kill around the world with tax money.
Stealing from workers how their money’s made,
I guess that’s why we’re broke and they’re so paid!
People, People, People, can’t you see?
They tax the poor more, the rich stay greedy.
No money for health or to educate,
I guess that’s why we’re broke and they’re so paid!

Watch the performance at the link on our tax day page – nwtrcc.org/taxday2012-reports.php.

Counseling Notes:

Passports and Tax Debts

Rumors have flown for years that you can’t get a passport if you don’t pay your taxes, but that has not been the case. However, now Congress is considering legislation that would deny or revoke passports from Americans who have tax debts in excess of $50,000. The bill that contains this measure is called “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” or “MAP 21,” and was introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer to reauthorize funds for federal highway and transportation programs. It passed the Senate and is still under consideration by the House, where there is more opposition to the passport rule, but it could still pass because it’s a small part of a larger bill. Contact your representative with your concerns.

Truly Fraudulent Returns

Identity theft is causing huge problems for the IRS and billions of lost federal dollars. In recent testimony before Congress, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration said the IRS detected 940,000 fake returns for 2010 in which identity thieves would have received $6.5 billion in refunds. In addition the agency may have missed an additional 1.5 million returns with possibly fraudulent refunds worth more than $5.2 billion. The thieves just need a social security number, corresponding name and birthday, and they rush to file with fake addresses before the taxpayer has filed. They often ask for the refund by hard-to-trace prepaid debit cards. It can take up to a year for the real taxpayer to get the situation straightened out and receive their refund. We know of one nonfiler in the WTR network who was apparently the victim of this kind of fraud, although it is impossible to know how the thief managed to carry out the fraud.

“Phantom Income”

Ed Hedemann came up with this idea for resistance. What do you think? Potentially, there are many people who feel unable to blatantly resist payment of taxes because they are living below the taxable level, including those in low-income communities (such as the Catholic Worker) or those with declining income and who, instead, depend more and more on Social Security.

But why should arbitrary IRS rules and tax tables prevent low-income people from resisting? Now there is a way: Fill out a 1040 form claiming enough “phantom income” to push you just over the taxable level. This is somewhat counterintuitive for most of us, who routinely seek ways to reduce our taxable income or increase our deductions. With this method a resister might owe, say, $10 in taxes, which is not a big risk should the IRS succeed in collecting. In the unlikely instance of the IRS discovering this ruse, it would be surprising if they charged the resister with fraud. But if they did, it could create quite a publicity coup for the movement!

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Many Thanks

Thanks to all of you for your continued support and to these affiliates for recent dues payments:

And thanks to Brad Lyttle for his help in hosting the NWTRCC Gathering in Chicago May 18–20 and to Katey Feit and Mike Bremer and family for cooking great meals for us and helping us get around Chicago.

We are grateful to the Friends of the 57th Street Meeting for use of the space and to Lisa Rademacher and the Sophia Community for their hospitality.

Network List Updates

NWTRCC’s Network List of Affiliates, Area Contacts, Counselors, and Alternative Funds appears on the “Contacts and Counselors” page at nwtrcc.org, or request a list from the NWTRCC office.

Please let us know if you are interested in being a contact on our network list: nwtrcc@nwtrcc.org or (800) 269-7464.

Advertising rates for this newsletter can be found at nwtrcc.org/ads.php or contact the editor at (800) 269-7464.

International and Legal News

Spanish Campaign

Half a million copies of a radical tabloid called ¡Rebelaos! (“Revolt!”) have hit the streets across Spain. It advocates resisting the forces that would surrender the governing and looting of Spain to foreign bankers by creating bottom-up, autonomous government outside of the existing establishment structure. The Spanish state has abandoned the Constitution, they say, so why don’t we abandon them? Prominent among their proposals is mass tax resistance and redirection. They credit Spanish war tax resisters for giving them the idea, and the Spanish war tax resistance movement is lending its support to the campaign. More on this campaign can be found at sniggle.net/Experiment/index5.php?entry=18May12 and earlier entries on that site.

Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns

War Resisters’ International published an excellent organizing handbook a couple years ago that we may not have mentioned before. For groups and individuals who are interested in strategizing outreach and educational efforts, the Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns is worth reading. A number of the stories and strategies include war tax resistance as one of the tactics. Sections in the handbook cover:

This handbook can inspire and support your work and give you resources to adapt to your own needs and context. The Handbook can be ordered from War Resisters League for $10 at warresisters.org/store or by calling (212) 228-0450. You can read sections online at wri-irg.org/pubs/NonviolenceHandbook.

Legal News

Dear Readers:

I’m glad to report that I’m done with my federal probation June 7. I again want to thank everyone for the support through this ordeal. It’s an ongoing trip with the IRS but at this point seems to be on track. I’ve been deemed a hardship case and not collectible, but have liens on my home for lots more than its value. So be it. From what I’m told they won’t be coming to try and take it from me since that’s a big expense for the Government.

I have a per month payment, so what they say I owe should be paid off in just over 500 years, including lots of interest and penalties. It seems the key to the game is the payment, however small it might be.

Folks in the war tax movement may not agree with the way I handled my tax trip, but, to refer to Karl Meyer’s response in October/November 2010 newsletter, we all do it different ways. I might add — just do it your own way, but do it now.

I don’t necessarily like the per month payment, but being on probation — either pay or break probation and finish your time back in prison. After June 7 it seems an easy way for me to keep them away from my door. They could take 15% from my Social Security check. Either way compromises my belief in not paying for the war machine, but life is full of compromise.

Frank received a year and a day prison sentence after pleading guilty to underreporting income for a couple tax years. He spent about 6 months in the federal prison camp at Estill, South Carolina, and then another few months in a halfway house. A number of previous issues carried stories about his case, including February 2010 and other 2010 issues.

Cindy Sheehan

Our May mailing included an article Cindy Sheehan wrote after her appearance in court in Sacramento, California, in response to an Order to Show Cause, a Justice Department order that she divulge assets. The IRS says she owes something over $100,000 and ramped up their collection efforts last fall. Cindy used the 5th Amendment in court and was ordered to return to the IRS offices and give a line-by-line 5th Amendment response to questions on the IRS form. The judge has the parties back in court on June 4. We will have an update on our website and in the next issue, but Cindy posts all her writings at cindysheehanssoapbox.blogspot.com. NWTRCC continues to do what we can to support her (send letters of support to NWTRCC and we’ll forward them), and legal advisor Peter Goldberger consults with Cindy and her Bay Area lawyer Dennis Cunningham. If you did not get the mailing and would like a copy of her article, please contact the NWTRCC office at (800) 269-7464.

Tax Day 2012

Photos (Click on name of group to see the photos)

The Raytheon Peacemakers in Tucson, Arizona, are well-equipped with signs for tax day and vigils at Raytheon Missile Systems on any day. Photo by Felice Cohen-Joppa, April 17, 2012.

The Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance in Portland held Redirection 2012 at the Unitarian Church on April 15. The featured speaker was Dr. Sharif Abdullah (pictured) who founded the Commonway Institute in Newark. The group redirected nearly $10,000 split among Right2DreamToo, a group of homeless people who are being fined and harassed for organizing in order to survive with a measure of safety and dignity; Children’s Community Clinic, whose mission is to provide awesome medical care to underserved children; and the Military and Draft Counseling Project, which takes their programs and literature into the local schools. Photo by Mike Hastie.

NYC War Resisters League members Walter Goodman, Donna Gould, and Maureen Shea carry the pie chart banner during the annual march from the Manhattan office of the IRS to the General Post Office, through Times Square. They are followed by members of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, who keep it lively with music and chants, and a phalanx of police officers make sure there’s no stepping out of line. Banners created by Bread and Puppet Theatre attract lots of attention, and hundreds of pie chart flyers are handed out along the way. Photo by Ed Hedemann.

In Kansas City, the American Friends Service Committee, Occupy KC, Peace Planters and PeaceWorks KCKC held a parade and rally with Billionaires for No Taxes, Lady Liberty, and Uncle Sam. They focused on three tax dodging corporations: Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), one of the top 20 Pentagon contractors in 2010; Bank of America; and Great Plains Energy, parent company of the local power and light company. Photo by Nehemiah Rosell.

Members of Greater Seattle Veterans for Peace distributed over 500 leaflets asking “How is the war economy working for you,” along with WRL pie chart flyers. The leaflets were offered to lunch-time passersby at Seattle’s Midtown Post Office. Photo courtesy of Michelle Kinnucan.

Flag upside down in photo denotes distress. In the weeks before Tax Day, members of Women in Black and Arts for Peace joined Occupy New Paltz at the New Paltz, New York, post office, in an ongoing presence to protest our income taxes going to the military. “We realize our responsibility to pay veterans benefits and honor returning soldiers, but we need to resist the ongoing declared and undeclared wars and arms proliferation throughout the world.” They also gave out flyers supporting the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill and encouraged people to call their congress person to cosponsor the bill. Photo by Michelle Riddell.

Milwaukee War Tax Resistance held their tax day vigil at an Army recruiting center near a university and two high schools this year, which brought the message about refusing to participate in war with our money or our bodies to a new neighborhood and a new audience. A sit-in was to be part of the action, but the recruiting center, which was supposed to be open, was deserted the entire time the group was there. Photo by Mikel Komba.

Announcement

One day you stopped paying for war….
…and that was an important event in your life.

If you are on Facebook, let your Facebook friends know about it – and maybe inspire them to make such an event part of their lives. Follow the instructions at nwtrcc.org/LifeEvent to add that event to your Facebook timeline.

NWTRCC News

NWTRCC Protests NATO

May 18–20, 2012 • Chicago, IL

More than 20 of us from the NWTRCC gathering in Chicago joined the Sunday, May 20, protest against NATO, which was holding a summit with leaders from around the world. Chicago leaders tried their best to marginalize the gathering protests and sideline the antiwar message, but the turnout was big (about 10,000), vocal, and diverse. While the mainstream media focused on confrontations by a small group with the police, our war tax resistance group had a perfectly peaceful and fruitful time at the rally and march. We handed out hundreds of flyers with contact information for NWTRCC and the War Tax Boycott, and our banner was a popular photo op for countless photographers.

Our gathering weekend was a little unusual since we devoted Sunday to getting ready for the demonstration. We held our business meeting on Saturday afternoon, while the morning was devoted to a strategizing session. During the Friday evening go-round with local reports, we also got a chance to hear from Joliet resident Bill Ruhaak, who had taken a case to court asking for an allowance to not pay for war. A judge ruled against him without allowing for a court appearance, and an appeal to the Supreme Court was not heard. He hopes to try to press on with an appeal for conscientious objector status for war tax resisters through a UN body. Cindy Sheehan had intended to join us and talk about her case, but she had to cancel the trip due to illness.

We updated the cases of Frank Donnelly (Maine, see above) and Carlos Steward (North Carolina), who are both nearly free after time spent in federal prison camps, halfway houses, and on probation. Both are doing well. Frank plans to hit the road for a vacation as soon as his probation period is up. Carlos has just been selected to join the NWTRCC Administrative Committee, so we look forward to working more closely with him over the next two years.

Carlos will be joined on the Administrative Committee by two new Alternates, Elizabeth Boardman of California and Rob Stenger of Maine. Jason Rawn (Maine) and Kima Garrison (Oregon) have another year, and Rick Bickhart (Virginia) moves from Alternate to Full member. Rick also serves as co-treasurer with Melissa Jameson (New York). For one year, Alternates fill in if a Full member cannot attend a meeting, and Full members rotate off after two years. We are sorry to see Clare Hanrahan (North Carolina) and Charles Carney (Kansas) rotating off, but thank them for their years on the AdComm.

Off to Colombia, and Other Decisions

The next International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns will be held in Bogota, Colombia, in February 2013. NWTRCC always sends a representative, and we agreed that David Gross from Berkeley, California, will attend for NWTRCC. Along with writing a regular blog and editing three books on tax resistance, David’s been working on his Spanish over the last few years. We’ll look forward to his reports after the conference, which is hosted by Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ACOOC) in Colombia.

We heard reports from the Rapid Outreach Working Group and the Fundraising Committee, both of which communicate regularly and welcome others to join (contact the NWTRCC office). We agreed to add our name as an endorser to the The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World, an effort by peace activists in Australia.

A number of proposals were presented at this meeting, the most important being how we are going to use the $25,000 grant that NWTRCC received from Craigslist Charitable Fund. The three areas that were agreed upon were to give the Coordinator a raise, to put $10,000 into reserves, and to investigate hiring a media consultant to help us with online and social media outreach in particular. Details for that freelance position will be worked out by the Administrative Committee; the pay rate will be hourly and equal to the Coordinator’s hourly rate. There were also proposals to produce a comic book with WTR stories; trading cards with heroes of the WTR movement or key events in our history; and to produce items to sell like totes, mugs, and bookmarks. The latter proposal was rejected as many do not want to produce more stuff (and we are not good marketers). The group felt the other two proposals are good but need more fleshing out before we could make a decision and proceed.

NWTRCC reaches our 30th anniversary in the fall, so we are going to offer an expanded issue of this newsletter in October/November, which we hope to fund by soliciting special anniversary ads (more on that soon). We will also have a party at our November meeting – the location of which is still being sought. We know that we are going to meet in Asheville, North Carolina, in May 2013. The fall meeting is the first weekend in November, and we also meet the first weekend in May. Mark your calendars and join us!

One other special event of our Chicago weekend was to attend a program sponsored by our affiliate Voices for Creative Nonviolence. They were holding a reunion at the same time as our meeting, so we attended the Saturday night public event, a talk by author/activist David Swansen on “Lifting the Shadow of War.” On the one hand his analysis of the political decisions that lead to war gave us plenty of reasons for being war tax resisters. On the other hand he offered historical examples of decisions to outlaw war that are models for decisionmakers today – if only they would learn some history and make the choice for peace. Kathy Kelly welcomed NWTRCC to the event in her introduction, and war tax resisters made their presence known in the Q&A session.

We came to Chicago over this weekend to network with other activists and feel that it turned out to be a very successful weekend. Thanks to all who helped us with food, housing, and transit!

Perspectives

I Became A War Tax Resister Because (or Because of)…

At the NWTRCC gathering in Chicago, one of the introductory go-rounds had us telling who influenced us and got us started in war tax resistance.

A friend in college talking about panhandling said, “I’d rather make the mistake of giving than make the mistake of not giving,” and that got me thinking about money and choices.

I got talked into organizing a peace walk and one thing led to another.

Dorothy Day and Catholic Worker.

I refused military induction, met folks from American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and Chuck Matthei introduced me to WTR.

I refused induction, got involved with Peaceworks and the Kansas City Interfaith Peace Alliance. Went to an action to block the nuclear train, which seemed pretty scary, so rather than lie on the tracks I decided to refuse income tax.

The Vietnam war raging. I was just out of college and got a bad job, but I met a WTR, an older guy and we became good friends.

My first civil disobedience was when the White Train came through and activists were blocking it. I met many activists and Quakers. “The duty to not cooperate with evil” and Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement were very influential.

I met Shelley Douglas in mid-60s and went to the Selma march.

I went to a Buddhist college and learned to be “mindfully radical.” A cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, was important. In Maine I read listings about the New England Regional Gathering, thanks to Larry Dansinger.

Heard about Christian anarchists and looked at website for a Jesus Radicals conference and read “render unto Ceasar” from the perspective of “this money is for people not the government.” Many other influences got me thinking of the role of taxes.

I enlisted in Air Force and was in for four years. The military experience turned me around. After I got out I rode a bike cross-country, and in a desolate, prairie area a B-52 flew right overhead. I thought of the 50,000 men who designed that aircraft or are needed to keep it going. It was natural after that to not pay taxes. Nothing else I could do would compensate for paying taxes.

I joined a nuclear weapons study group in the Brattleboro area and read Catholic left writings. Wally Nelson’s quote about knocking on a person’s door and asking for money to pay for weapons was big influence.

The context for coming of age is important – for me growing up during the 60s. Two influences were Eugenia Price, a Christian writer of historical fiction and a pacifist, and a song by Ed Ames, “Who Will Answer.” God said to me, “you will answer.” I became a Christian pacifist and WTR followed.

I heard of Joan Baez and her not paying taxes and mentioned it to my husband. When we had to do taxes in 1968 and had a big bill we realized we could not pay.

I grew up in a military family around the slogan “working for peace.” Our family was sent to Okinawa, which had been bombed, and people were still being killed by unexploded ordinances. That was my introduction to war. Finally in 2002, I met Daniel Woodham and that was it.

“The times” were important. Karen Marysdaughter had a big influence in my early days of WTR. She was very insightful.

A lot prepared the way. People of color being sent to the Vietnam war, assassinations, racism and the civil rights movement, radical environmentalism. There were many influences. Then I met Clare Hanrahan who said, “why are you still paying?”

I was living Western Massachusetts and became active with Frances Crowe and AFSC, where I began to read WRL literature and also met many pacifists and WTRs.

At college I ran into a table with literature and got a brochure on telephone tax. Not sure who was doing that table, but I eventually met with the WTR group in Portland.

Folk music movement of the 60s got fermentation process going. Met Brethren pastors Phil and Louise Rieman, who are tragically gone now. Seeing a gentle personal witness is very important.