Friday night: “Raising the Stakes” Matthew Hoh on leaving the military and State Department and becoming a war tax resister. Watch his talk on YouTube – it will be well worth your time!!
Tax season and follow up
(Thanks for Robert Randall for his notes, added to Ruth’s)
Sam Koplinka-Loehr facilitating; the tax day photo page includes shots of some of the actions mentioned below….
Sam introduced the session about this being a huge season of organizing. The election lifted the veil for people and brought many to raise the stakes. NWTRCC has been getting more interest with a jump in website visitors and more people at trainings around the country.
We’ll cover 3 topics: What worked well in our communities. What we learned. Thoughts toward next season.
Jim S – Earth day in Burnsville, a town of 19,000 people, brought out 1,000 people to local town square to talk about environmental issues and climate change in a fairly red community. Not so much peace and justice and WTR but a surprising turnout.
Clare – in Asheville on tax day a group of us went out with big banners. Later went out with palm cards and with people coming out on all issues she found the palm cards flew out.
Coleman – expanding and doing stuff before tax day and not just on tax day. Redmoonsong did workshops at an anarcho bookstore from January to tax day. People picking up on doing more throughout the year.
Chrissy – WILPF chapter did their tax day event in town, closer to center of things than in the past; it happened to be near bombing of Syria so brought more attention.
Ruth – With the new interest it did seems that our network worked; could refer to people around the country and that really helped. It needs to be stronger and bigger, but it’s a good solid base. Also had good people to do interviews and to refer to with new interest.
Anne – got some new referrals from office and will continue to follow up. The April 15 Tax March got swamped by trump “show us your taxes” and by Indivisible. Her redirection announcement got swallowed up by that. Whether trump or Clinton we’d be in similar space. A number of people she talked with were surprised that it’s illegal. She used Dave’s 99 Tactics book to help with organizing.
Rick – In small town Colorado where it’s pretty red, but similar to Jim’s report new people coming out on many issues (but too many flags).
Erica – found a certain amount of “it’s patriotic to pay your taxes.” In Seattle, didn’t have other WTRs doing workshops with her, but she did 2 workshops and got 4 people – all new faces. Did some outreach with solidarity work for immigrants and found interest though not solid – need more time – but did find interest about taxes going to border wall and immigrant detention. Folks approached her because they knew she’s a WTR, so being public for her it paid off. Speaker’s Bureau page got more attention. A request came for Seattle high school and she gave presentations to an American government class and a public speaking one with an overview of war history and tax resistance history. Her slideshow is online if you want an outreach tool for high school students. She got lots of questions on all sorts of topics. Important to be super-interactive.
Gary – gave a presentation to students and emphasized that interest on the debt is growing. They were interested in how that would affect them in the future.
Ginny – In Maine, she called people to do actions in towns. Got 16 locations and more follow up contact and more media. Got 4 letters-to-ed in papers. In one place an entire class came to the table.
Susan Miller – revived a letter from her trips to Palestine and Berlin about walls up and down. Seeing same problems today as 15 years ago re: building walls. She got a letter to editor in the paper which received a few comments.
Bill G. – He went to Eugene and joined the rejuvenated WTR group, which organized a tax justice march on April 15. About 500 people came with some discussion of WTR.
Kima – Did the traditional outreach with signs on bridges in Portland on April 15 with people coming to the bigger Tax March and got lots of positive response. One year they had the NWTRCC website on their signs but should have done more with that this year. Trump saying he’s smart and doesn’t have to pay his taxes so now more people are saying “why should I” – we should use that to our advantage – not about not paying taxes but doing the right thing with the $$. It felt positive to have so many calls from NWTRCC website.
Clare – Many Veterans for Peace members locally are WTRs who stood in support and are allies with WTRs. It’s a good network to do outreach and ask them to “stand with us”and make a formal resolution. Collectively bearing the burden with us.
Peter – In South Bend we did a bean poll at MLK Day, and more people came to table this year. They do a weekly vigil and are getting more positive honks. They have stands to hold signs for “surrogate” signs since the human turnout is small.
Coleman makes the banners so people can see from 100 feet away. He paints from projection onto the material and paints from that. He gets frustrated when he sees unreadable signs. He uses a projector to project the words or graphic the size he wants onto a cloth and then traces it and paints from there. It’s easy to do1
Sam – Did a tour in upstate New York to build a regional base with WTRs and people supporting. There was new interest plus having the base of names was effective. Sam is available to tour and go to regions and help with that. Redirection effort – morphed to black, brown, indigenous – was effective. 10 communities participated and about $20,000 across the country. Do some reflection on the redirection effort and whether/how to continue next year.
Some themes have emerged –
Like the network being in place and building connections with other groups, like climate change, immigration
What’s something in the year to come to build on? What to carry forth?
Here’s a list followed by more detailed comments:
- Rising to the challenge: speak out when we can
- Counter-recruitment in the high schools
- Focus on environment to bring in more young people
- Co-hosting with other organizations, esp. racial justice groups
- Helping other organizers connect with each other
- Personalize the fiscal costs of war
- Building connections between the issues
- Human rights connection
- Redirection, esp. to people who are affected by war
Jason – Maine People’s Alliance (Democrat Party front) held a fair and 900 people. Jason and 2 volunteers were there with WTR info. They had an open mic and Jason didn’t arise to the challenge but he will next time. There are people in Demo party who are worth outreaching to.
Kima – Used a tri-fold display locally that shows how the US military is biggest polluter. Found that the earth cards went fast at an environmental conference. Focus more on environment and taxes/war, etc.
Sam – when they do a presentation they use co-hosts in Philly and upstate NY. Finds that the connections to militarization to police, prisons, etc., has been very effective.
Cathy – Redirection by So Cal War Tax Alternative Fund got new energy from looking at the collective redirection. Built connection with CodePink, going to someone else’s meeting works better. That led to another talk in a church. One of their grantees was Youth Justice Coalition – Black led – has a program for vets coming out of prison. SCWTR also worked with Vets for Peace and connected these groups at Arlington West to do their redirection ceremony there. It was a powerful ceremony. Alternatives to Violence project was there also.
Matt – doing work on Afghanistan found the best way to connect to people was to personalize it and make the connection to their own lives. The fiscal costs seemed to be what people responded to the most. Use the $100 billion numbers more and then how communities were laying off fire fighters/services etc. at that time. When going to specific communities, have those numbers at hand in your presentations, If it effects what their lives are like it has more impact. In Newark, there’s a car-jacking a day…and making the connections to services lost. In a meeting with a congressperson who is a fiscal conservative Republican, hearing the real amount US is spending in Afghanistan made a difference; he didn’t care about the deaths and moral arguments but the money shocked him. Personalize it, find out what matters and they listen more.
Anne B – VfP is working on Miramar air show, trying to convince parents not to take the kids there because those air show train kids to do drone attacks, etc. It’s horrific. The Peace Resource Center will be working with them on that. Doesn’t’ feel we can drive congress – have to work on a different level. Working with Project YANO and VfP about how kids are trained to kill. As member of NAACP, finds that people are pro-military. Hard to talk about WTR but working on it in terms of breaking through the pro-military – finding some common ground. People Over Profits San Diego – they are a great group with a strong bond/working on prisons. White privilege is the phrase they use there. SD is very militarized. After Trump a huge invasion of immigrant neighborhood. But getting liberals who have money to resist is hard; they are terrified of IRS.
Coleman – increasingly involved in human rights organizing. At an HR conference found that militarism was not even on the list. So he and others are trying to bring that in with the connections.
Bill Ruhaak – finds the people listen to his redirection message better if he says he’s giving it to people affected by war – Veterans and immigrants.
Erica – important not to be everything to everyone; we want to be relevant but also hold onto core principles. Focus on a particular connection and the message that resonates with that population.
Susan Miller – in her community recently Michael Sharp was killed in the Congo. His parents live in Newton and emphasized the message that we should keep funding the UN and efforts for peace.
Jim – lots of what is said today is more about urban centers than rural America where he is. Agriculture – likes to talk about organic. Get youth to look at new ways of using their minds and bodies to bring about a better world. Challenging the system includes not participating in it — and creating alternatives.
- Private collection agencies are starting now. Only 4 companies. Hard to separate from scam calls. IRS didn’t want this. Just hang up on them (robo calls); you should get a letter from the private agency telling you they have your case.
- Passports: tax debts over $50,000 there’s a risk of revocation or non-renewal. Don’t know how this will go yet; no WTR has had this issue that we know of.
- How to find out what you owe: ask the IRS. Go online and request your transcript. There’s probably little risk in doing this.
- Filing jointly or separately; makes a difference if a mixed marriage for potential seizures.
- We do have a chart that shows interest & penalties and how they add up. The interest on the cart might be at a higher level than currently, but it gives you an idea.
- Remember to use and tell people about the WTR Penalty Fund.
- Protect bank account by opening an non-interest bearing account. interest of $10+ gets reported to IRS.
- Frustration: Employers, contractors, and financial institutions do more for the IRS than they have to.
- If you have an agent assigned to your case (which is rare) they can increase penalties, such as with a Social Security levy; special requests can push it above 15%
Group 1: how to interact better anti-war and the other activist groups
We have tools and the way we can talk about militarism and war that can help connect to those groups. Our federal budget starves the other communities. How can we bring some of this money home.
For outreach to new groups, talk to someone in a group about the discussion, get an intro to a “higher up” in the group, talk to them about it, work your way into understanding how to talk to that group before setting up a presentation.
Redirection is one thing to emphasize.
Alternative funds and escrow accounts – using those to set money aside and let that community decide where the funds are going to go. Empowering the communities to make these decisions.
WTR penalty fund – These are things to talk about in a presentation. It’s an entry point to support the needs of the community.
Listen first to the interests of the group. Collaborate our goals and use their language to do it. Bringing more integrity to the redirection by making it a group decision, group or community involved. If you collect enough money, deciding where to invest the money is important too.
Our language has to change. Not self-righteous or our personal philosophy. Humility and respect.
Make it more about our community – talking about bettering our community.
Group 2 – Giving guidance to consultants
Sign on letters – generally found to be not too exciting; we can support and circulate but not really a NWTRCC project. A sign on letter isn’t part of something bigger. We have time to develop some new approaches or enhance campaigns in the next few months that would connect to other things better.
W-4 campaign from Northern Cal WTR – improve some of our info and counselor training on that and offer a Training for Trainers with more on this.
Building on some of the noncooperation and other CD actions people are taking to encourage them to move to another step
Alt Funds – updating info on this and seeing if there is a new way to approach this that will attract new attention – restyling the info in a way that is more attractive to now. Community building fund etc.
David Whitt came from WeCopWatch and offered a somewhat condensed training, or an overview of their full trainings. We encourage all to arrange for such a training in their community – and donate to keep their work going!