Tax Resister Sam Vimes and the Lesbian Sheep

Sam Vimes is starting to resist, and plans to stop paying taxes until Dubya is impeached or otherwise removed from office:

When I say I won’t pay any taxes on my income, I mean exactly that. I’m working as a contractor at present, so it’s up to me to set aside enough to pay tax. But since I just started (was not a contractor in ), I am not required to make quarterly payments. I can save it all up, and pay when rolls around… and I’ll do that, if Bush is facing impeachment by then.…

I have two wonderful parents, and they’ve been most vocal (in email) about warning me of the risk I take by refusing to pay taxes. So have people here. What surprises me is how little support I’ve gotten for the idea. The majority of responses have been warnings, with the exception of a few people maintaining a more neutral stance, along the lines of “Well, it’s your decision.” Yes, it is, but I’d still like people to understand the reason I’m making it.

There are two parts to the reason. The first is to gain visibility for my point of view. Writing letters and making phone calls to Congress is good; at least they’ll know how I feel. Giving money to groups that place ads in newspapers, calling for Bush’s impeachment, is also good; perhaps a few more people will see those ads and the message will get back to Washington, D.C. Marching in the streets is something I haven’t done yet, but that’s another fine way to draw attention. A large enough demonstration draws media coverage, and Congress certainly hears about it. I worry, though, that all of these acts have become too easy for the opposition to ignore. They can say something like, “I’ll take your views under advisement,” and then keep doing what they have been doing, casting their votes according to the lobbyists rather than to their constituents.

You can argue that when people march in the street, the message isn’t meant for Congress, but for voters… but then I have to point out that the last two presidential elections were stolen, and I’m not confident that the next one won’t meet the same fate, or a worse one. We can’t count on the usual forces of democracy to rescue us. If voting with our votes doesn’t work, voting with our money is the next logical step. If a lot of people did that, the Government would have a lot less money with which to do damage. Money, after all, is the primary thing motivating the Congress right now, and an awful lot of that’s coming from big corporations via lobbyists. To have equal sway, we have to demonstrate willingness to withhold equally huge amounts of our own money. Naturally, just my own taxes won’t make that much difference, if I’m the only one who makes that decision. But once again, “Act as though by your act, you will universal obedience to the principles by which you act.” I can only decide for myself, and hope that others will do the same. I can’t wait around for ten thousand other people to commit to it before taking that step myself. It’s the Lesbian Sheep thing again.

As to what the Lesbian Sheep thing is, you’ll have to look it up. Vimes goes on to address some objections his friends and family have made to his decision, and then goes on to reason #2:

Morally, I cannot condone what is being done with my tax money. It’s being used to buy guns, hand them to our poorer citizens, and ship them overseas, where they shoot innocents for the purpose of making rich corporations richer. It’s being used to pay torturers. It’s being used to fund operations that spy illegally — and Bush has some balls, I must say, to admit it and refuse to back down — on all of us, particularly those of us who disagree with him. None of this is legal. None of it is acceptable. And if I keep paying taxes, it is all my fault — and the fault of every other citizen who continues to fund these illegal activities by continuing to pay taxes. We are morally obliged to do everything in our power to put a stop to these atrocities. Were we Germans during World War Ⅱ, living just down the street from a concentration camp, the imperative would be no greater. Seen in that light, tax resistance feels woefully insufficient. But what more can we do?

That’s a stronger position than that of Thoreau, who said that nobody is obligated to do everything in his power to stop great evils but that everybody is obligated to not actually commit or practically support great evils. That principle was enough for Thoreau to advocate tax resistance, and it’s possible that Vimes damages his case by overplaying his hand here.

I’m personally skeptical that removing Dubya from office is sufficient to make meaningful worthwhile change. But a temporary tax resistance of this kind — an “I’ll resist until my demands are met” sort of thing — might have more appeal to some than my more open-ended variety.

There has been some talk in the war tax resistance community of trying to launch a limited, one-year tax strike as a way of introducing people in the anti-war movement to tax resistance but making it less scary to them. Maybe a Vimes-style “not a dime ’til Dubya’s gone” boycott might appeal to some folks.

There’s a web page out there that claims to tell you where your tax dollars go. Basically, you type in how much you paid in federal taxes last year, and it divides that up proportionally among the various government programs and agencies according to how the official federal budget is divided up. It probably understates the cost of the wars, since much of that spending is outside of the budget. Still, it’s kind of interesting…

With the expected passage of the largest emergency spending bill in history, annual war expenditures in Iraq will have nearly doubled since the U.S. invasion, as the military confronts the rapidly escalating cost of repairing, rebuilding and replacing equipment chewed up by .

The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in to $59 billion in to $81 billion in to an anticipated $94 billion in , according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion , a new Congressional Research Service report found.

Annual war costs in Iraq are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam , in today’s dollars.