New England Quakers Wrestle with War Tax Resistance

From reading my blog lately, you might think that American Quaker war tax resistance stopped 125 years ago. But, of course, it’s still going on today. A couple of reports from the recent New England Yearly Meeting of Friends make note of how Meetings like this continue to struggle with the issue:

  • At Teeksa Photography, Skip Schiel mourned at what he saw to be a half-hearted interest in such issues:

    [L]ike a person with an ailing stomach or chronic arthritis, not life threatening, simply annoying, distracting, worrisome, who then dilutes focus on issues in the wider world, NEYM turns inward, year after year. Our stated theme was “War, God Help Us!” and some like Ernestine Buscemi in the keynote and Peter Crysdale in the bible half hours attempted to refer to it. Despite their attempts, little attention was directed to societal issues such as the war in Iraq, the threat of war with Iran, torture, erosion of civil liberties, environmental desecration, racism, to name a few of the pressing problems of our day. We (I say we inaccurately — I attended only one hour of one business session, not boycotting, just displeased and choosing to devote myself to other matters during that period) passed several minutes about the Iraq war and torture, but I’ve heard these were relatively weak, mostly for internal communication (other meetings and Quaker bodies), lacking substantial discussion, let alone controversy and debate which might stir the pot more, and without action components. Lo and horrors should we ever call for tax resistance or surrounding the Pentagon or joining the equivalent of the Poor Peoples’ Campaign — or freeing one’s slaves.

    And on a more encouraging note, he quotes from the opening prayer of outgoing presiding clerk Christopher McCandless:

    “God, help us: Help us to be Your people, a people of peace in a world awash in the imagery and realities of war. Forgive us our complicity, by our corporate silence and the taxes we render unto America, in our nation’s headlong prosecution of military responses to the violence in the world.…”

  • Will T. at Growing Together in the Light mentions tax resister Paul Hood’s talk at the meeting:

    Paul Hood gave a lengthy testimony of his experiences as a marine in the Pacific in World War Ⅱ and how he was eventually led to being a tax resister. Although he hasn’t paid Federal income taxes since the Vietnam War, he found to his surprise that he was eligible to a tax rebate check this year. After giving it some thought he filed a tax return and has now decided to give his rebate check to the Yearly Meeting.

Some bits and pieces from around the web:

  • I haven’t had a chance to look this over yet, but it might be interesting: “Whistleblowers and Tax Enforcement: Using Inside Information to Close the ‘Tax Gap’ ” — a paper by Edward A. Morse from the Creighton University School of Law. Abstract:

    This article examines the current legal structure allowing rewards for informants who provide information to assist the IRS in the enforcement of the tax laws. IRS data suggest that informants are a cost-effective means of enhancing tax enforcement. The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of introduced a separate whistleblower award program that provides even higher rewards (up to 30 percent of the amount collected) and greater certainty in the payment of such rewards, including a process for enforcing reward claims against the government through litigation in the Tax Court. Although the whistleblower provisions may enhance tax enforcement, they also raise significant issues concerning taxpayer privacy and IRS secrecy in the context of lawsuits to enforce reward claims. Moreover, prospects for large financial rewards without comprehensive attention to eligibility constraint may effectively induce prospective whistleblowers to breach other legal or ethical responsibilities. The article argues that these important issues deserve more careful attention from Congress, and should not be relegated to administrative or judicial development.

  • Roderick T. Long at Liberty & Power reviews the evidence that Etienne de la Boétie’s “Discourse of Voluntary Servitude” was actually written by Michel de Montaigne.
  • Remember that Army recruiter who called up a high school student and left a message on his answering machine threatening him with arrest if he didn’t come in to get recruited? And remember how when this scandal hit the press, the Army shut down their recruiting stations nationwide for a day to retrain recruiters in appropriate methods? What happened next? “just two months later… instead of punishing Sgt. Kelt, the Army had promoted him to the role of station commander at a neighboring recruiting station. That meant he would supervise and train other recruiters on how to do the job.” And recruiters continue to lie to potential recruits — telling them that they’ve signed binding contracts to join the Army when they’ve done no such thing, and threatening them with arrest if they decide against joining up.

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