Say… what’s going on with the tax resisters in Spain these days? There are
two active tax resistance campaigns that I know about: one is a sort of
expanded war tax resistance campaign that has grown to include a critique of
centralization and of austerity budgets that favor international bankers over
taxpayers and citizens; the other is part of a Catalan independence movement
that is upset that the region is paying far more in taxes to the central
government than it receives in government benefits and services.
The first of these groups is
updating their “Right of Rebellion” manifesto
for the coming tax year and is fine-tuning the way in which they encourage
people to redirect their tax money from the central government to local,
autonomous social welfare projects. They are also continuing to staff
“economic disobedience offices” to give face-to-face advice to resisters.
Something that’s new to me is that they’re promoting something they call
“Desobediència Integral” (Comprehensive Disobedience):
Comprehensive disobedience involves breaking the social contract with the
state of the territory where you live, in order to make a new social contract
with a community in which the individual feels really connected.
This campaign has provoked a backlash from that portion of the left that sees
the central government as an important part of its program and is threatened
by proposals to weaken it. An organization called the “Grupo de
Trabajo Economía Sol” (Sun Economy Working Group) made
If people withhold taxes from the government, the government will probably
begin cutting the budgets of education, health, and social welfare
programs before those of the more objectionable parts of the
The law now requires Spain to make debt payments a priority over social
spending, so if you reduce tax revenue, you do nothing to fix the problem
of illegitimate debt, but only hurt recipients of social spending.
Tax revenue should be managed by the people as a whole, and not by small
groups on a local scale. The projects proposed as recipients for tax
redirection may be nice, but they are lacking in transparency and in
Meanwhile, the Tortoise Antimilitarist Group is ramping up its more
traditional war tax resistance
In the second of these campaigns, some
650 municipalities in Catalonia
have decided not to forward the taxes they withhold from their employees (and
certain other taxes they administer) to the central government in Madrid, but
instead to give the money to the Catalan Tax Agency. This is something of
a symbolic measure
as the Catalonian government itself sends this money along to Madrid, but
the rebellious towns see this as an opening gambit in a series of measures it
hopes will lead to increased Catalan independence.
Eleven demonstrators gathered
outside the Federal Building, 600
St., to protest the use of tax
dollars for military spending.
George Mummert, a spokesman for the demonstrators, said they represent no
organization. “We’re just a gathering of concerned citizens who have an
objection to our tax dollars going toward war and its preparation and not to
The protest came on the final day to file income-tax returns.
Mummert said the protesters received mainly positive response from passers-by.
In addition to passing out literature and holding signs, the group planned to
deliver a giant postcard bearing supporters’ signatures to
Rep. Harold Volkmer’s
Most of the demonstrators were
“people of faith,” according to Mummert, although they are not affiliated
with any particular denomination or church. “It’s hypocritical for us to pray
for peace and pay for war,” Mummert said.
He cited statistics stating that 64 percent of the federal income tax revenue
goes toward current military expenses and debts from past wars. All the
protesters were what Mummert called “hard core war tax resisters.” They do
not file federal income tax returns, he said.
Mummert, a conscientious objector in , said other tax resisters pay half their tax, some pay all but $1,
while still others refuse to pay their telephone excise tax.
From The Washington Post,
Tax Resisters Refuse to Fuel War Machine
by Colman McCarthy
Well-deserved acclaim has been given to sociologist Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
for his recent book Hitler’s Willing Executioners:
Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. It details the complicity of
German citizens during the political reign of the Nazis when much of the
public accepted the intellectual arguments for the mass murder of Jews.
“Hundreds of thousands of Germans contributed to the genocide and the still
larger system of subjugation that was the vast concentration camp system,”
writes Goldhagen. He states that “the moral bankruptcy of the German
churches, Protestant and Catholic” was “extensive and abject.” Religious
leaders “were men of God second and Germans first.” They blessed state
As the main military force that defeated the Nazis, the United States has
been able to position itself on
the moral high ground and, with furrowed brow, ponder in astonishment why so
few Germans protested their government’s well-organized barbarity.
If a cold eye is to be cast on Germany’s behavior a half-century ago, why not
a condemning word and a protesting stance of resistance against the violent
policies of the U.S.
government in ? What violence? Congress
lavishes the Pentagon with $700 million a day, a sum nearly equal to the
military budgets of all other nations combined and 17 times more than the
combined budgets of the six nations the Pentagon claims are threats. Also
each day, about 38,000 children are dying throughout the world of
hunger-related diseases, according to Oxfam International.
The United States is the planet’s largest arms merchant, with Commerce and
State Department officials roaming the world on trade missions to hustle more
customers for the
industry. Client states include such habitual violators of human rights as
Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. ,
uncountable dictators to whom the United States has supplied weapons turned
them on their own people. , the annual arms bazaar — the “Contingency and Operational
Procurement Exhibition” — is scheduled at the Sheraton-Washington Hotel. This
is the mercantile occasion when the newest wares of death are displayed. The
Peace Action Education Fund is organizing a protest.
Differences between Germany’s military machine 60 years ago and America’s
today are obvious. Less so are the similarities. Germany had a complicit
clergy, as does the United States today. America’s church leaders offer a
biblical argument: Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, to God what is God’s.
Dorothy Day had an answer for that: After you give to God, there should be
nothing left over for Caesar.
The second similarity is how rarely dissent is voiced by ordinary Americans.
Normalcy prevails, as if it were rational to have a proposed
military budget $20 billion larger than in
, at the peak of the Cold War.
Not all Americans fall into line. This month in more than 50 cities, such
groups as Veterans for Peace, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the War
Resisters League have been organizing programs and demonstrations for tax
resistance. Last year, according to the National War Tax Resisters
Coordinating Committee, about 20,000 patriots who value their government but
not its warrior spirit refused to channel money to the Pentagon through the
They are back this year, again finding it both illogical and immoral to work
for peace while paying for war or war preparation.
labels them tax cheats, which is incorrect. They are happy to pay taxes when
the money is for social programs that enhance life, not for the world’s most
effective killing machine. Those with religious ties argue persuasively that
providing money for military people to kill violates the teachings of the
For Marian Franz of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, a Washington
nonprofit group, conscientious tax resistance is a religious liberties issue.
She has allies in Congress, including
Sen. Mark O. Hatfield
Rep. Andrew Jacobs
Each recently introduced legislation — the
Peace Tax Fund bill — that would provide legal protection for citizens who
want their taxes to be diverted from the Pentagon maw. The legislation is not
likely to pass in this or the next millennium. Its value may be for
historians, ones who will ask how and why so many ordinary Americans in the
said or did nothing about their government squandering its
wealth on militarism. In this current darkness, a few lights shine. Honorable
dissent may be only flickering, but it is still a flame.
McCarthy seems to have had a soft spot for war tax resisters. He penned another
op-ed on the subject in :
Washington — Whether a taxpayer obeys or
violates his or her conscience on April 15 is no concern to the Internal
Revenue Service. It wants dollars, not qualms. But at tax time, conscience is
an issue to a fair number of citizens whose religion, ethics, or value system
holds that cooperation with war or war preparation is not moral.
They see no consistency of conscience in working 364 days of the year
opposing policies that make the United States the earth’s most militarized
nation while, on the 365th day, paying taxes that
overflow the government’s war trough.
Tax money has paid for all seven of America’s declared wars and all of its
137 “presidential actions,” the latest of which are Grenada, Libya, and
Nicaragua. Citizens helped provide the Pentagon with nearly two trillion
dollars under the Reagan administration, including a doubling of money for
nuclear weapons and the beginning of a space battlefield.
The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, an East Patchoque,
N.Y., group estimates
that between 10,000 and 20,000 people will be sitting out
for reasons of conscience. The
estimate is probably low. This isn’t a group much given to self-generated
publicity or issuing press releases every time Caspar Weinberger emits
another war whoop. Street theater is rare, although a few war tax protesters
will put up a picket line in
front of the
offices in Washington.
More important than the precise number of resisters is the growth of lawyers
or counselors assisting them: More than 120 are now at work, up from 55 in
. Strength is seen in another figure: a 400
percent increase — from 45 to 180 — in
for national and local
groups working on war tax resistance.
Kathy Levine of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
reports that the people saying yes to their consciences and no to the
form a diverse group: “During Vietnam, it was mostly ‘the peaceniks’ who
protested this way. They were against just the Vietnam War. Today there are
people from all kinds of political and philosophical positions who are
refusing to pay their taxes. Some are opposed to the development of nuclear
weapons. Some have religious convictions who feel they must obey God’s law
before a civil law. And many in the middle class are sickened and fed up with
the amount of money going to the military.”
Groups like the War Resisters League and the Friends Committee on National
Legislation calculate that 55 percent of the tax dollar goes for military or
military-related purposes. The federal tax law lacks a provision for
pacifists or others who want no part of the government’s violent solutions to
conflicts. After that, though, good news and bad news emerges.
The good news is that no conscientious tax resister has been jailed for
. For the
the strain in dogging tax cheats and willful evaders, and prosecuting them if
they are caught, is too great for it to be coming down hard on the
noncriminal resisters. The bad news is that the
through the “frivolous return” penalty that was added to the tax code in
, has increased enforcement powers to make
it easier for the government to get not only the money that wasn’t paid by
April 15 but also a larger amount from penalties Bank accounts and personal
assets can be attached. Without a meticulous plan of resistance before a
decision is made and the services of a skilled tax lawyer after, a
conscientious resister can end up paying the
more than if he had not protested at all.
In a few days, a solution that would satisfy both the resisters and the
government will be proposed in Congress: the Peace Tax Fund bill. With some 55
House sponsors and four in the Senate when offered in the last session, the
legislation would amend the tax code. Citizens opposed in conscience to
participating in any way in military solutions would be allowed to redirect
their taxes to non-military purposes. These tax resisters aren’t out to deny
money to the government. They seek only to deny it to that part of government
that wants money for military violence, which is morally unacceptable.
Marian Franz, the director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund and
who has been working for this law for , says that “during the Vietnam era 15 percent of all draftees
were recognized as conscientious objectors. If that same percentage of
taxpayers diverted their tax payments to the Peace Tax Fund, this trust fund
for peace projects would receive about $2 billion each year. These funds
would have an impact on the way the wortd would think about, and moves to
resolve, international conflict.”
A dreamer? Yes, gloriously. But not a dangerous dreamer. The
planet-threatening menaces are those who keep on dreaming — especially around
April 15 — that more money for more militarism is the way to peace. All that
group proves is that well-funded dreams become expensive nightmares.