Even my not-at-all-magical crystal ball is clear enough that I could look into
it last week and see the future: the liberal wing of House Democrats would
whine a lot about the tax package Obama negotiated with the Republicans but in
the end they’d just give in like they always do.
Not that this is a bad thing in this case. The Obama-Republican version of the
bill means much less for the Treasury than the liberal alternative — and is
even (hide your eyes, liberals!)
a better deal for
the poor, particularly with its temporary payroll tax cut. Indeed the
payroll tax cut means even my tax rate will be going down next year, and I
haven’t paid federal income tax since .
But, to be on the safe side, I refrained from blogging about this tax plan
until it got through Congress and to the President’s desk. But now I’ll
highlight some of the features that may be of interest to tax resisters:
The bill allows for something called “bonus depreciation” of assets that
businesses purchase between , at 100%. What this means is that for assets that
qualify, a business can write-off the whole cost of the asset as a
business expense rather than portioning out the expense over a particular
span of time. Tax resisters who have a business or who are self-employed
can use this feature to lower their taxable income this year or next year
if they are in danger of rising to a taxable income level. The bill also
raises the limit for “Section 179” depreciation, which I believe applies
to a larger class of business assets.
The bill temporarily reduces the “employee portion” of the payroll tax by
two percentage points (for only). The
employee portion is what you see on your paycheck stub (your employer pays
what used to be an equivalent amount that you don’t see on your paycheck
stub). Self-employed people will just see their self-employment tax rate
drop by two percentage points (the income tax deduction self-employed
people take based on the amount they’re charged for self-employment tax,
however, will not change, which will make this calculation a
little more complex).
You may wonder: “isn’t Social Security and Medicare running low on cash?
What is going to happen when their trust funds are taking in so much
less payroll tax?” Well, as I’ve tried to patiently explain before,
these trust funds are just accounting fictions, and the government takes
money from wherever it wants and puts it wherever it wants without much
regard for trust funds or particularly-earmarked taxes. In this case,
the new bill explicitly says that the General Fund (where your income
tax money goes) will pay into these trust funds any money they would
have received from the payroll tax rate if it had not been lowered by
A number of tax credits and deductions that Congress perpetually extends
“just one more year” have been extended for one more year yet again. Also
extended is the provision that allows people who have reached retirement
age to exclude from income amounts they donate to charity directly from
their 401ks and IRAs.
I recently read through Robert Cooney’s & Helen Michalowski’s
The Power of the People: Active Nonviolence in the United
States. My copy of the book was published in
as an expanded version of a
original, and it is currently out-of-print.
That’s too bad, because it’s a fine book, one of those large-sized volumes
full of photos from the archives and such. It tells the story of the
development of nonviolent political action theory and practice in the United
States, with brief bios of some of the important figures, and in-depth looks
at some of the movements that most exemplified or advanced nonviolent
resistance — such as the anti-war movements, the women’s suffrage movement,
the civil rights movement, and the labor movement.
Of course I kept a close eye out for any mentions of the tactic of tax
resistance so I could report my findings here. The book has a more complete
story of the founding of Peacemakers in than
I’d seen elsewhere. Peacemakers launched the modern American war tax
resistance movement, and just about anyone who practiced war tax resistance in
America between World War Ⅱ and the Vietnam War was connected with that group.
According to The Power of the People, Peacemakers
was founded mostly due to the efforts of Ernest & Marion Bromley and
Juanita & Wally Nelson, and it drew about half of its original membership
from a leftist anarcho-pacifist group called the Committee for Nonviolent
Revolution that had been founded in Chicago a couple of years earlier.
Peacemakers was more Gandhian than it was Marxist and rejected much of the
rhetoric of CNVR in favor of small direct action projects.
It was organized as a network of local radical pacifist cells, participants
in its local activities being deemed members. During the following ten years
[after it was founded in ], until the
formation of the Committee for Nonviolent Action
(CNVA), Peacemakers was the most active
nonviolent direct action group and the initiator of organized war tax
A sidebar goes into more detail:
Peacemakers was one of the first organizations to be formed after World War Ⅱ
by radical activists inspired by the growing theory and accomplishments of
nonviolence throughout the world. There was a growing conviction among many
that the times called for a grass-roots movement, no matter how small in its
beginnings, which was committed to a vigorous and unmistakable disassociation
from military power. Although it never became a large organization,
Peacemakers did have an important effect on many of the people and
organizations which came to make up the modern nonviolent movement.
Peacemakers attempted to build a decentralized and self-disciplined movement
which stressed local initiative and group coordination along the lines of the
nonviolent revolutionary movement in India. Emphasis was put on building
intentional communities which practiced communal living. “Groups or cells are
the real basis of the movement,” Peacemakers announced, “for this is not an
attempt to organize another pacifist membership organization, which one joins
by signing a statement or paying a membership fee.” Instead, Peacemakers
emphasized a living program which included resistance to the draft and war
taxes, personal transformation, and group participation in work for political
and economic democracy.
Uniquely non-organizational, Peacemakers has no national office, paid staff
or membership list; decisions are made at yearly Continuation Committee
meetings. The major connecting link between individuals and groups
considering themselves Peacemakers is The
Peacemaker, published since as a
forum for letters, announcements, and accounts of the experiences of radical
Peacemakers initiated organized work against war taxes and since
a number of its members have been
imprisoned for refusing to pay for war. Peacemakers at the Ohio cell
organized a land trust to remove property from the market place and
established the Peacemaker Sharing Fund, a mutual aid plan designed to insure
aid to dependents of imprisoned Peacemakers and to help finance group
projects. During the Vietnam war, the sharing fund became the main vehicle
for donations to meet the needs of war resisters’ families. When the
government seized the land trust home where Peacemakers Marion and Ernest
Bromley lived, in , allegedly to collect
taxes on the “income” to the sharing fund, Peacemakers exposed the fraud and
persuaded the government to withdraw its case.
Peacemakers organized a number of direct action projects in the late Forties
and Fifties, including demonstrations in Puerto Rico against
and a disarmament bicycle trip across Europe by four pacifists which preceded
the San Francisco to Moscow Walk by nearly ten years. Peacemakers also
sponsored the “Walk for Survival” in , the
first large post-war peace walk in the
U.S., and set up
Operation Freedom, a fund to aid people in Tennessee and Mississippi who had
been deprived of home or job for seeking their civil rights.
Peacemakers lost some of its initial impetus by the mid-Fifties as it
encountered the difficulty of maintaining a decentralized and largely
anarchist program and at the same time keeping a disciplined and well
organized radical group functioning. Some Peacemakers went on to join or form
other nonviolent groups which incorporated the radical view Peacemakers
helped to germinate, while others in the organization gave more emphasis to
life style and nonviolent principles. Peacemakers published a “Handbook on
the Nonpayment of War Taxes,” and has also offered summer training and
orientation programs in nonviolence since ,
often organized and led by long-time resisters and Peacemakers Wally and
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