|Flyer prepared by
Friends Committee on
Today’s deadline to file federal income tax has me in a foul mood. Not because I’m sweating getting the return in the mail by midnight tonight; my spouse and I filled out everything weeks ago and are even awaiting a small refund. What’s bothering me today, as it does every time I hear about the federal budget, is how my government spends those dollars withheld from my paycheck each month.
Since 2001, military expenditures have more than doubled, now up to $1.6 trillion. That’s a number I can’t imagine, and maybe you can’t either. Organizers of today’s Second Annual Global Day of Action on Military Spending (http://demilitarize.org/featured/video-figure-cost-save-world/) helped me visualize it in their video Go Figure – What Would It Cost to Save the World?. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) helps put these figures in perspective, too, with their breakdown in Where Do Our Income Tax Dollars Go? Here’s how our nation spent each dollar of federal income tax we paid in 2011:
• 39¢: Pentagon spending for current & past wars
• 20¢: Health care
• 16¢: Responding to poverty
• 12¢: General government
• 9¢: Supporting the economy
• 3¢: Energy, science and environment
• 2¢: Diplomacy, development and war prevention.
I’ve fretted and fumed about this for years, watching the percentage of the federal budget spent on war rise. The Quaker Peace Testimony calls me to oppose and refuse to engage in war and violence. Although I strive for peace in my daily interactions, I’m complicit with these preparations for war by all of those 39¢ payments I’ve paid. They add up to lots of death, destruction, and diversion of resources.
According to the National Priorities Project, taxpayers in my county paid $4.9 million for Afghanistan war spending this year. The Project’s Cost of War Tradeoffs website calculates a few things that money could have bought in 2011 here in my community:
· 67 elementary school teachers
· 527 Head Start slots
· 1775 households converted to all solar energy
· 631 scholarships for university students
· 1044 people receiving low-income health care.
For some years I acted on the Peace Testimony by withholding a percentage of my taxes owed comparable to the portion spent on war, or by refusing to pay the phone tax (previously used to fund military costs). This year, as last (thanks to guidance from the Pay Under Protest Campaign organized by Quaker war tax resisters in California), I’ll send a letter to my congressman and senators letting them know I’ve paid my taxes under protest.
And this year, I took action through the FCNL website to urge my senators to stay diligent in decreasing the Pentagon budget (FCNL Action Alert). I hope you’ll do the same.
I have a hard enough time juggling my household finances; imagining changing federal spending can make me feel helpless. Today, I’m remembering that many voices are calling for reform, for expenditures that nurture rather than destroy. If you feel the Tax Day Blues too, join the chorus for change. Here are a few more sources of strength and hope:
Former Costa Rica President and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias speaks about how Costa Rica, without an army, has invested public resources in the public interest – http://demilitarize.org/general/nobel-laureate-scar-arias-gdams-power-demilitarization/