War Tax Resister Bryan Nelson

The Hartford Courant profiles war tax resisters Anna Aschenbach and Joanne Sheehan, who have been resisting taxes since the Vietnam War.

“It didn’t make any sense to me to be working for peace and paying for war,” says Sheehan. Along with her partner, who’s also a tax resister, Sheehan raised two kids with a family income of about $24,000. Now that their children are grown, and can no longer be claimed as deductions, each earns less than about $8,000 a year in order to keep from paying taxes. They’ve lived in collectives and communes much of the time, sharing living expenses with other resisters. They practice “radical simplicity” by going “back to basics” — doing things like hanging clothes instead of using a dryer, not going to restaurants or buying pre-packaged foods.

“People think that they can’t live on less. I encourage people to think of how much — even when you think you don’t have much — you’re still the upper class of the world,” says Sheehan…

The East Bay Express takes note of the upcoming People’s Life Fund Granting Ceremony, at which Northern California war tax resisters will redirect their taxes from the Pentagon to worthy community projects:

[T]he activists in Bay Area War Tax Resisters have been sounding alarms for quite some time. But unlike the legendary Paul Revere or those patriots who dumped barrels of tea into Boston Harbor, they’ve resisted with little fanfare, quietly refusing to pay tax dollars earmarked for the military-industrial complex, and, by extension, for an unjust war.

Tax resister and Thoreau scholar Lawrence Rosenwald shares his Notes on Pacifism, a refreshingly unsentimental take on the subject. He takes on the connection between war and what we do with our money:

The classic formulation here is still the one made by the Quaker activist John Woolman, in :

Oh! that we who declare against wars, and Acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the Light, and therein examine our Foundation & motives in holding great Estates: May we look upon our Treasures, and the furniture of our houses, and the Garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have any nourishment in these our possessions, or not.

The power of the passage has to do with its uncertainty, with the fact that Woolman formulates his point as a question. He’s not telling us in advance that every “great Estate” has the seeds of war in it; he’s just insisting that we find out whether it does or not, and he’s right. Maybe it’s impossible to figure out the chain of causation between each of our expenditures and the waging of war. But it’s possible to trace the connections in some cases, and in such cases we should as pacifists sever the connections we find as quickly and sharply as we can.

I started thinking of myself as a pacifist  — when, that is, I began to scrutinize one expenditure in particular, namely, the money I was spending on the American military. There’s much to say against doing that sort of resistance; the IRS often collects not only the refused taxes but also interest and penalties, the resistance becomes routinized, one gets regarded as an eccentric or an extremist or a traitor. But each year since I began it’s seemed better to resist than to pay voluntarily, and each year it gets more puzzling to me that so many pacifists freely pay taxes to the American government and its gigantic armies. Surely a pacifist doesn’t have to be a war tax resister. But a pacifist does have to give such resistance serious consideration, find some authentic answer to the question of why, if one is opposed to war across the board, one would go on voluntarily paying for it.

If you like that, you’ll probably also like Rosenwald’s essay on Orwell, Pacifism, Pacifists.