This is the letter I sent to newspapers about my refusal to pay federal income tax in 2000.

April 11, 2001


To the editor:

Tax time is here and people all over the United States are scrambling to prepare their Federal income tax returns.

The early steps taken by our new resident in the White House have only heightened my concerns about how this money will be spent. After two months, it is quite clear that the Bush administration is actively working for several key budget goals:

1) to make the tax burden even more regressive–the wealthy pay less, working and middle class people pay more, 2) to reinvigorate the military with a new generation of weaponry, including a massive Star Wars system, and 3) to reduce spending which seeks to meet social needs, protect the environment and address social injustice.

Although we claim to be a "democracy," the priorities of the general public play little role in governmental decisions about the budget. Instead, large corporations and wealthy people, who can buy access to politicians, play an increasingly significant role. Few people use the opportunity of tax time to reflect on where that money goes and how we as citizens can influence how our money is used.

Nearly half of the money sent to the IRS in income taxes will be used for current and past (Veteran’s benefits and interest on the national debt) military spending. This total of nearly $675 billion (proposed for 2002) accounts for over one-third of global military expenditures. Russia, China and the seven most frequently cited potential "enemies" of our nation (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) together spend less than 35% of the official proposed U.S. military budget for 2002.

There has been increasing discussion in the media, including the Syracuse Newspapers, about "bullying" and how families, schools and communities can address this issue. There are often many insightful and valuable comments made by experts in child development and education. However, no one talks about what we teach our children through our national behavior. The United States is the world’s bully. These actions teach our children that the biggest and most heavily-armed people have a right to get their way.

Our "national bullying" takes many forms, including economic sanctions which kill innocent people (Iraq, Cuba), massive support for local military forces which carry out human rights abuses and killings of civilians (Colombia, Israel), our own military forces deployed in many parts of the world (Saudi Arabia, Korea, Japan) and actual war-making (Serbia, Iraq).

If we really want to teach our children that "violence is not an acceptable way to solve conflict," the words of former President Clinton, then we must set an example through changing our behavior as a nation, including massive cuts in military spending. We want our children to act respectfully, to value diversity and to care about the needs and feelings of others. Modeling these values in our relationships with the rest of the world (and here at home) would be much more meaningful than all the lectures in the world.

As a conscientious objector to war I choose to redirect my federal income tax money to the kinds of programs which work to empower people, provide for their needs and create a society based on principles of justice and equality for all. This is part of my personal "anti-bullying" campaign. However, like any campaign, it requires participation from other committed people to be successful.


Andy Mager