Before there was a National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) blog, there was the newsletter. It’s taken a few different forms over the years – it started as the print-only Network News. Eventually we started putting it online too. Now a pretty large portion of readers get it online only as More Than a Paycheck: Refusing to Pay for War (MTAP).
Our newsletter is a great read every two months. I am not saying that just because my article “The Vietnam Legacy of War Tax Resistance” appears in this issue. I am also not saying that just because Ruth, who puts together and writes a lot of the newsletter, is my coworker/supervisor/friend.
Every issue, I feel recommitted to war tax resistance. I learn about legal issues, I hear from new and long-time resisters, and I expand my thinking about war, militarism, peace, and justice.
The October/November issue has a lot of great reading, but here’s a highlight from the War Tax Resistance Ideas and Actions section:
Tax resistance of the political/ethical sort is popping up more regularly these days (see p. 8 too). Once in July and once in August the New York Times Magazine column “The Ethicist” has dealt with it. One column responded to a question of whether or not a person should turn in their tax-cheating relative. The Ethicist’s careful reply suggested that family harmony might take precedence.
In the other column, The Ethicist replied to the question, “Is it OK to protest Trump by withholding taxes?” Among the various arguments against tax resistance many of us have heard before, the Ethicist states, “When it comes to the federal budget, your individual tax payment isn’t even a rounding error. Perhaps, then, you want to reduce your complicity in what is going on. I am on record as thinking that these clean-hands arguments are usually exercises in moral narcissism.” The author thinks in a democracy we need to follow the laws even when we don’t like the election results, although he makes allowance for civil disobedience “when the law that we are considering breaking is not just unwise but seriously immoral.” Jim Crow laws denying African-Americans the right to vote are his main example; “decent citizens would have felt morally obliged” to break laws that, if followed, might harm others. It’s not clear how The Ethicist would respond to a war tax resister’s obvious reply that our taxes do harm others.
But the main point here is that tax resistance is maybe not so fringe these days. The “Trump resister” also asked, “Assuming I am willing to bear the legal and financial risks of being audited and caught, would it be ethical for me to redirect some or all of my federal taxes to my state taxes…and/or to charitable and political causes that I believe would benefit my fellow citizens?” It is a surprise to read the phrase “redirect my taxes” in a major publication. Perhaps the questioner has been reading our website. Apparently The Ethicist has not and speaks from his assumptions by saying, “What you are proposing…is not legal tax avoidance but illegal tax evasion, which you are hoping to get away with. That means your aim is not the public, expressive one of civil disobedience.”
Even if The Ethicist is not on board with tax resistance, the adage “no news is bad news” might apply here. Many readers may be led to consider the idea further — and might even find our website.
Check out the whole issue at https://nwtrcc.org/media/newsletters/october-november-2017/. You can also read issues dating back to 2008 at Newsletter, or issues from 1996 to 2006 in our archives.
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Post by Erica Leigh