This is the letter I sent to newspapers
about my refusal to pay federal income tax in 1995.
To the Editor:
During the past several months the news has been filled with reports of budget battles on the federal and state levels. We are led to believe that a taxpayers revolt, led by Republican politicians, is underway.
Unfortunately, the changes under discussion will continue to benefit the wealthy, to further penalize and impoverish the poor and attempt to give the "middle class" just enough to keep them from making noise.
This is a very unusual society in which we live. We have great freedoms. We can demonstrate, write letters to the editor and organize. At the same time, U.S. society is arguably the most violent in the world. Each day brings new headlines of massacres and death. We imprison a greater proportion of our population than any other nation on earth.
Our society is so affluent, yet there are millions of people living in wretched poverty. In this we are unique. Homelessness, hunger and despair are rampant. We have the finest medical technology in the world for those who can pay for it. Down the street people struggle to survive with medical care worse than in many parts of the developing world. We are taught to believe that this is inevitable, a result of "natural" differences in intelligence, skills and willingness to work (subtle racist images are often included here).
I am unable to accept this terrible injustice. I feel compelled to do what little I can to confront it, to expose it and to refuse to participate in it. One of the steps I can take is to redirect my tax money so that it doesn't maintain and support this structure.
This year's federal budget allocates 51% of income tax money to current and past military spending. (The budget picture presented by politicians claims that the military portion of the budget is only 16%. They accomplish this distortion by adding in Social Security, a trust fund which is raised and spent separately from the budget, and by creating a special category for "interest payments," which ignores the fact that the federal debt is primarily a past military expense.)
Is there a connection between this bloated military (and crime-fighting) budget and the terrible economic inequality I described? The very purpose of such vast investment in violence is to maintain that inequality. Why else would it be tolerated, if it weren't backed up by the threat of violence. Even with such a situation, those on the bottom still struggle to challenge the inequality which hits them over the head in our wealthy society.
I have refused to pay federal income taxes for 14 years. The passage of the death penalty by New York State has led me to to stop paying state taxes this year as well. My decision to resist these taxes doesn't come easy. Yet, my conscience offers no alternative to such an action.
As I decide how to distribute this money to organizations whose work I support wholeheartedly, I am reminded of all the important and necessary work being done. This lessens my fear and revives my faith that a peaceful and just society can be created.