More and more Americans are fed up with watching their tax dollars support the greatest foreign policy disaster of our time. Over the past year, millions of US citizens have voted, lobbied, marched, written and taken direct action to end the war in Iraq. Yet Congress continues to appropriate billions of dollars for an occupation that has become a humanitarian catastrophe. And despite the recently released NIE report on Iran, the Administration’s saber rattling stunningly continues.
That’s why Chris Hedges recently pledged in The Nation, ” will not pay my income tax if we go to war with Iran… I will put the taxes I owe in an escrow account. I will go to court to challenge the legality of the war.” It’s also the reason a coalition of antiwar groups – including CODEPINK, the 2008 War Tax Boycott coalition, United for Peace and Justice, Goldstar Families for Peace, Institute for Policy Studies, and others – are using this weekend’s Boston Tea Party anniversary to begin circulating this pledge: “When I am joined by 100,000 other US taxpayers, I will join in an act of mass civil disobedience and refuse to pay the portion of my taxes that pays the US military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.” The organizers hope to reach the goal of 100,000 tax resisters by April 15 who will hold in escrow or redirect the war taxes to humanitarian aid projects–such as those providing relief to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
The social democrat in me has always been uncomfortable with tax resistance, despite my admiration for the War Resisters League. As progressives, we want to enlarge the public sphere, and elevate the primacy of politics, engaged in collectively, as the means for solving social problems. Taxes are obviously a crucial element of meeting our common goals. In that respect, opting out of the collective decision making of the polity about how to spend the nation’s money is problematic.
At the same time, there’s a long and admirable tradition of civil disobedience and tax resistance, and at a certain point when the normal mechanisms of politics have broken down, extraordinary action of this sort may be justified. There’s a good case to be made that we’ve reached that point now. As CODEPINK said in a released statement, “Taxpayers who oppose this war have the power to show Congress how to cut off the funds for this war and redirect resources to the pressing needs of the people.”