Three Oregon Activists Talk War Tax Resistance

The Oregon Peace Institute has a cable access show in Portland, and recently hosted three members of the Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance — John Grueschow, Anne Huntwork, and Pam Allee — to discuss war tax resistance:

While it’s nice to see war tax resisters getting the word out, they sadly spent much of their time asking people to support the “Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act” — a counterproductive waste of time and energy.

They bent over backwards to reassure people that they aren’t opposed to taxes in general — indeed they are in favor of taxes, but they feel these taxes should go to “life affirming” things that are “for the common good.” To this end, they redirect their own taxes — sending their checks to charities of their choosing rather than to the IRS.

This message is common in war tax resistance circles. The intention in part is to distinguish war tax resisters from tax evaders who are avoiding taxes for selfish reasons. But I think this can send another message that isn’t as helpful: They seem to be saying that it is perfectly fine for them to decide on their own which charitable activities they want to support, but that this isn’t okay for everyone else.

In other words, if the government ever decided to spend its tax receipts on things the resisters agree are “life affirming” and “for the common good” then the government would be perfectly justified in forcing everyone else to go along with it. It seems to me that once you admit that some group of people gets to decide what the “common good” is that everyone is forced to spend their money on, you’ve already lost: all that remains is a political battle over which group of people gets to do the deciding.

It strikes me as arrogant for war tax resisters to say “yes, I believe one group of people should be able to tax everyone and spend their money… but only if they decide the way I like, otherwise I’ll drop out.” It’s like saying that you’ll flip a coin to decide who does the dishes: if it comes up heads the other guy has to do it, and if it comes up tails you’ll flip it again until it comes up heads.

It would be more respectful to say: “I think I know how to spend my money in more beneficial ways than Congress does, and I believe I am right to do so, and so I will, and I’ll certainly respect your right to do likewise.”

Anyway… Here’s another video clip, of the Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance holding up “Burma Shave”-style signs for traffic on Tax Day:

War tax resister John Chisholm is profiled in The News-Leader of Springfield, Missouri. Excerpts:

I am not going to pay for your war.

Read that sentence again aloud.

I am not going to pay for your war.

That’s a statement of power, self-determination.

That’s the statement that John Chisholm started making in .

So far, Chisholm has been refusing to pay a symbolic amount, but he’s working to get under the tax line so he doesn’t have any federal income tax burden at all.