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.
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.
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!]