Old Propaganda War Tax Films

| Federal Income Tax, History

One of the highlights of the November 2018 NWTRCC conference in Cleveland was the preview showing of The Pacifist. As mentioned by Erica in a previous post, the film follows Larry Bassett’s refusal to pay over $100,000 in taxes. The film is still making the rounds of the film festival circuit, so is not yet available to the general public. However, an audio version of the film is FREE online through Spotify and Apple Music audio streaming services (sign-up required). You can also watch a scene from the film on Facebook.

Throughout the film, there were several archival film clips promoting the payment of federal taxes to support war and, by default, democracy (according to the film clips). During the Cleveland showing, every time one of these clips would be featured, someone would ask if these clips were real. I must admit, I was thinking the same thing. The clips were ludicrous.

Via an internet search, I found one of the old films from which clips were used for The Pacifist. “The Truth about Taxes” (1940) was a Republican Party campaign film to promote the presidential candidate Wendell Willkie over the incumbent Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The film argued that FDR was wasting money on his social programs to the detriment of America’s military. As the film states, we need more money for guns, automatic rifles, military airplanes,  and tanks. The film notes that the national debt is growing, but we have nothing to show for it.


Some outstanding quotes: “Every American agrees that our country’s defenses must be so strong that no nation would dare attack us.” “Every thinking patriotic American favors this country’s building up its national defenses at once…. for these, taxes are willingly paid.” “Let us now dedicate ourselves in a holy crusade.” It goes on to blame the national debt on the “wasteful and reckless spending” of social programs while the American military is woefully inadequate to fight a modern war.

I’m assuming the film was showed in movie theaters before certain films, but I couldn’t find any specifics. Though much of the film is laughable, much of it mirrors arguments that continue to plague our culture: “Social programs are killing our country and plunging us into debt. Military spending is always justified.”

Completely absent from this national debt rhetoric is any serious discussion of cuts to military spending. With half of the discretionary federal budget dedicated to military-related expenses, no one is authentically open to a discussion on how to decrease the national debt who will not consider cuts the military. Unfortunately, with some minor updates, this propaganda film could be shown on some neoconservative television program tomorrow.

-Post by Lincoln Rice

2 thoughts on “Old Propaganda War Tax Films”

  1. David Gross says:

    Film as a device for promoting tax compliance has an interesting history.

    Here’s a well-documented example from Israel: https://sniggle.net/TPL/index5.php?entry=30Apr06

    And here’s a Donald Duck cartoon from 1943 about how “Taxes Sink the Axis”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNMrMFuk-bo

  2. Appreciate daily the heroic folks who refuse to cooperate w.an abusive, degenerate, military industrial complex. Me since 1966 no whining only action towards the world we want our children’s children’s children’s children to live in.

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