By Lincoln Rice
I become a war tax resister because of my deep-seated belief that war is wrong and I cannot voluntarily participate in war with my body or resources. Therefore, I have spent the last twenty years refusing to pay my federal income taxes and have redirected those funds to more life-giving projects.
A recent VOX article, “To Stop Endless Wars, Raise Taxes” by Sarah Kreps, provides a different method to resist war—raise taxes.
In her article, Kreps asserts, “Contemporary wars are all put on the nation’s credit card, and that eliminates a critical accountability link between the populace and the conduct of war.” This does have a ring of truth to it. According to the federal budget pie chart, published by the War Resisters League, 80% of the national debt can be attributed to past military expenses. The interest on that military portion of the debt results in yearly federal taxation of $447 billion—or roughly 14% of the federal income tax.
Kreps documents that throughout most of American history, financing war through borrowing was considered unthinkable and reckless. She notes that the last war tax, “a 10 percent surtax on incomes (which, however, exempted low-income taxpayers),” was instituted by President Johnson in 1968.
Kreps’s thesis that the American people would reject recourse to war if they had to pay the costs upfront is similar to calls by those who want to reinstitute the military draft. I am sure that both options would make endless wars unpalatable to the American people, but neither option will be adopted by a Congress that supports a war economy.
Perhaps this article offers a way to help us “cross the aisle.” Normally, when war tax resisters talk about the other costs of war, they link the harm war causes to traditionally liberal issues like environmentalism, poverty, and racism. Concern for the national debt is a Republican issue, with a focus on cutting social programs to lower the debt. Kreps’s article is a reminder that any serious solution for decreasing the national debt must include cuts to the military budget.
Around 2015, I was invited to partake in phone town hall meeting with Tea Party Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson. Each person on the line had the opportunity to ask a question. The cornerstone of Johnson’s campaign had been decreasing the national debt to give our children a bright future. So I asked if he had seriously considered cutting the military budget since it is responsible for 80% of the national debt. He stated he was open to that idea, but first an audit of the Pentagon was required. A safe answer, since the Pentagon had never been audited.
But as announced last December, the Defense Department is currently undergoing its first audit. The audit will cost $367 million and it is a forgone conclusion that the Pentagon will receive a failing grade. The results will be published in November. Perhaps focusing on the waste and lack of accountability that the audit will reveal can help us make headway in promoting WTR among more conservative members of American society.
Taxing Wars and BDS Against the US (June 13, 2018)
Will I Get Audited? (December 17, 2014)
WRL Pie Chart: Escape from Responsibility? (March 26, 2014)