Tax Resisters Divert Their Money From War to Human Welfare

President Biden’s foreign policy to date is largely indistinguishable from Trump’s. His administration hasn’t reversed tortuous sanctions against Iran, the United States continues to bomb Somalia, and there’s no indication that the U.S. will shutter any of its 800 military bases around the world. In February, Biden authorized airstrikes in Syria, killing at least 22 people. His “national security” team is as hawkish as they come. Biden broke with Trump’s policies when he announced that the U.S. would leave Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, continuing the military presence there four months later than the May 1 deadline Trump set with the Taliban.

Biden’s record indicates that people in the imperial core will need to take it upon themselves to throw a wrench in the war machine. Thus far, antiwar movements in the U.S. have not succeeded in accomplishing this. U.S. military spending rose from $533 billion in 2005 to around $740 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2021. Biden recently requested a $753 billion military budget for FY 2022.

Drones, missiles and tanks don’t grow on trees: American taxpayers make U.S. imperialism possible. In 2021, an estimated 47 percent of all federal income tax will go toward the U.S. military.

For this reason, Howard Waitzkin, a medical doctor, a professor focusing on social medicine, and an activist, believes mass war tax resistance could serve as a wrench. For about four decades, Waitzkin has withheld federal income taxes proportional to the amount that would go toward military spending. He redirects some of his income tax funds toward “creatively constructive purposes that move beyond capitalism,” including a program he coordinates that provides medical and mental health services to active-duty GIs who can’t access them in the military.

Waitzkin hasn’t been arrested or fined. In fact, most tax resisters haven’t faced severe consequences. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, a network that supports individuals who refuse to pay for war, is only aware of a couple dozen war tax resisters who have been jailed over the last 60 years — a majority for falsifying documents. The last recorded case of tax-related property seizure took place in the 1990s.



2 thoughts on “Tax Resisters Divert Their Money From War to Human Welfare

  1. In his classic book “Wealth of Nations,” by Adam Smith, published in 1776, Smith claimed the people of Great Britain would never accept a personal income tax, because it would be too invasive. Instead, Smith researched a wide variety of other revenue raising methods to pay for “the late war,” which he never named but was probably the Seven Years’ War in Europe and called the “French and Indian War” in North America. That war ended in 1763.

    War is expensive in any century, but high tech makes it more expensive and ultimately more profitable for the people behind the guns (and behind missiles, drones, desks, cameras, and microphones).

    And, to put this in a current context, masks won’t protect anyone from a bullet.


  2. Interesting perspective from Adam Smith. To my knowledge, Smith never addressed the way money is created in the Wealth of Nations, although the Bank of England began creating money via fractional reserve banking (under the Dutch merchant interloper William of Orange) in 1694. War has always been financed by borrowing from bankers. I suspect Smith realized that, and it’s interesting he looked for some alternative method.


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