Don’t Wait for a “Peace Tax Fund” to Do Something Symbolic and Pointless

A contributor to a war tax resistance email list recently urged the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee to throw its weight behind the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act which is currently going nowhere in Congress.

This contributor started by saying that “[o]ur common cause is to resist the payment of war taxes and to encourage others to similarly resist the payment of war taxes,” which I couldn’t much argue with. From there, though, all logic seemed to run backwards.

The argument more or less went like this: The war tax resistance movement is small and politically powerless, so if we want to make political change we have to unify behind a small number of issues. The Peace Tax Fund bill is such an issue, one that (according to the contributor) promotes our common cause, and could at least create a media buzz. If we don’t rally behind the Peace Tax Fund bill, we must either admit that we’ve failed politically or we must produce some better piece of legislation to rally behind. Ergo, each of us should meet with our Congressional representatives and share with them our “struggles of conscience” as a way of convincing them to support the bill.

I went into rebuttal mode pretty rapidly:

I urge NWTRCC to reject the “peace tax fund” idea and to strongly discourage people from promoting it.

Far from being legislation that will help us or further our goals, if it ever passes into law it will undermine the war tax resistance movement and it will tempt resisters to return to funding war under its phony moral cover.

It’s clear that there are many war tax resisters who believe that it is unethical for them to give the government money for its wars and militarism but who would happily pay taxes to the same government that spends just as much or more on the same awful projects if only there was a ridiculous “Peace Tax Fund” shell game in place with which they could pretend that their money only went to good things.

We shouldn’t be humoring this sort of bad-faith reasoning. Our movement — especially our movement — should instead be pointing out how flawed it is!

You can’t get off the hook for the moral complications of taxpaying by passing some law of absolution — just because some politicians have sprinkled pixie dust over your tax dollars and sanctified them as “peaceful-only” doesn’t make it so.

If the war tax resistance movement ever does become a powerful force for social change, you can bet that the government will consider passing such a bill — not as a concession to our movement but as a powerful strike against it. I hope that we will be wiser by then and not assist in sabotaging ourselves.

The “Peace Tax Fund” idea is astonishingly popular in war tax resistance circles, for reasons I have a hard time understanding. How is it that a person can have sufficient qualms about paying taxes that go to a militaristic government that they’d get bent out of shape enough to be a war tax resister or “Peace Tax Fund” promoter, and yet be so unbothered about it that they’d be willing to shrug their shoulders and forget the whole thing if Congress would just wave a magic wand over their tax dollars and promise that they’d only be spent on the good stuff.

If you’re willing to stick your head in the sand like that, why not do it now rather than later? Hmmm… I may be on to something here:

Rather than wait for the enactment of a Peace Tax Fund bill, I would encourage those of you who would feel comfortable paying their taxes if such a bill passes to do so now, without waiting for Congress to pass this legislation.

Simply write on your check to the Treasury “this contribution is only to be used for non-military purposes” and when you seal the envelope, close your eyes and carefully visualize your money going from your bank account into the budget of your favorite government agency — perhaps the Department of Education or the Environmental Protection Agency.

Of course, writing this phrase on your check or doing this visualization will not actually affect how the government spends the money that gets sent to it, but neither would the Peace Tax Fund bill.

This way you get to have the same amount of satisfaction and alleviation of guilt without all of the trouble of lobbying your Congressional representatives.

For more info on “Peace Tax Fund” schemes, see:

More of what your tax dollars pay for:

The population of the nation’s prisons and jails has grown by about 900 inmates each week , according to figures released Sunday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. By the system held 2.1 million people, or one in every 138 U.S. residents.