The following is the letter I mailed to the IRS a few days before tax day about my reasons for not paying federal income tax. This is the first year since leaving the military that I have had taxable income, otherwise I would have done this sooner. Working under-the-table is a much simpler form of protest, and perhaps no less effective, but it also involves no risk and no sacrifice. I am no longer protesting in silence. This is not a symbolic gesture either; I am not paying one penny in federal tax, but instead donating every cent of it to charity. I do not think any less of my family, friends, and neighbors for continuing to pay taxes, however I urge you to consider exactly how those hard earned dollars of yours are being spent. They’re certainly not being spent in our communities. We all deserve better.
13 April 2015
To whom it may concern:
This letter is to inform the United States government that I am refusing to pay my federal income tax for fiscal year 2014 as an act of civil disobedience, because I cannot in good conscience do so. I fully understand the point of taxation and how we should all contribute to society; however I do not see wars of aggression as a valid contribution. I do not disagree with taxation in principle, rather with the fact that our taxes have long been used to fund war and other aggressive foreign policy, and it is getting worse by the day. As a veteran of both the US Coast Guard & the Army National Guard, (one taking me to assist in the relief effort in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, the other to war in Iraq) I have witnessed how taxpayer-funded death and destruction in other countries goes hand in hand with the lack of much-needed resources here at home. For these, and the following reasons, I will be redirecting my hard-earned money to programs of social uplift.
In the American chow halls of Iraq we found Thai food, Mexican food, Italian food, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, healthy and hearty fruit salads including pineapple and strawberries, all the Coca-Cola products we could drink, and never a shortage of steak, stir-fry, tacos, fresh salad, coffee, tea, energy-drinks, cake, cookies, pastries and countless other items, most colleges don’t even have for purchase. All of this was “free.” Only it’s not free. Every plate that every soldier takes, even if they only get a cookie and some grapes, costs the American taxpayer over $20. Even with those plates, many of the guys and gals in uniform still felt the need to spend a few dollars each day at Green Beans Coffee (Starbucks-owned) or Pizza Hut, or Cinnabon, or Subway, or Burger King, etc. Just the profits from food alone are reason enough for these companies to want war, and profits from burgers and iced lattes are peanuts compared to rifles and bombs. As retired United States Marine Corps Major General and two time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley D. Butler said in the 1930’s.
“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”
Because of our taxes funding the slaughter of innocent people around the world, resources are lacking in all aspects of American society. We as citizens are left to watch the collapse of our already failing infrastructure while Uncle Sam spares no expense in expanding the ‘war on terror,’ but even the money not funding war is misused and has long been causing detrimental harm to our communities. It far is more likely today that systemically impoverished communities will see a brand-new, state of the art prison fully funded and built to house primarily non-violent, mostly black and brown, ‘criminals’, long before their aging and failing schools are even properly renovated, much less rebuilt. Civilian police departments are receiving MRAPs from the federal government for ‘community policing,’ while art, music, and physical education classes are being cut to make way for more and more standardized testing. Our children need more art, music & physical education, not less. Quality education (including quality higher education and/or vocational training) and the other basic, yet fundamental aspects of life which we all need to survive: healthy food, clean water, basic shelter & adequate healthcare (including mental healthcare) should be provided by any society claiming to be civilized, especially one taxing its citizens to the extent that our nation does.
Along with extreme inequality at home, war leads to huge numbers of people being slaughtered, forced to flee and live their lives as traumatized refugees, or at best, left to sift through the rubble of what remains of their society, and bury their dead while bombs funded with American tax dollars continue to fall from the heavens killing more of their friends and loved ones, and fostering in some of the survivors the very extremism the American government claims to be fighting. Our “elected officials” toy with the idea of leveling entire cities (while simultaneously leveling other cities) and literally joke about it at state dinners, while nonchalantly imposing inhumane sanctions, calling it ‘politics’. These sanctions punish countless millions of innocent human beings, only empowering the very governments they are allegedly aimed at hurting. Sanctions did not hurt Saddam, but they terrorized the Iraqi people. The only way that genuine, lasting change can come to a country, be it Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, North Korea, Iran, or anywhere else, is holistically. A home-grown mass movement from within a society is the only avenue to lasting change. Liberation cannot be forced on a people; democracy cannot be gifted to them either. We have long been spending money which would be better used here at home, meddling in the affairs of others, and worse. Were it not for tax-payer funded interference in Iran in 1953, we would be looking at a vastly different country today. The laundry-list of nations where our tax dollars have been used to destabilize and overthrow pro-democratic governments is as criminal as it is depressing. From Syria to Nicaragua, the dozens of coups our tax dollars have helped fund is beyond comprehension. If American taxpayers knew what they were funding, both covertly and militarily, not to mention who we are supporting through aid and arms sales, and the extent of the ‘gifts’ received by civilian police departments from the military, I would venture to guess that a sizable portion of the population would at a minimum refuse to continue funding this insanity.
As I said, I am not opposed to the idea of taxation. I have paid in full my state taxes. Though I take issue with some of the actions of state governments in both Hawaii & Massachusetts, to the best of my knowledge the states of Hawaii & Massachusetts are not nearly as culpable as the federal government in the destruction of American society, or the slaughter of countless thousands of innocent civilians from Iraq to Somalia and beyond.
I do not seek to pay less than my fair share to my society. Refusing to pay federal income tax is not a selfish act seeking personal financial gain. It is also not an act that I take lightly. This is not a joke. If Americans knew exactly what they were funding, and those we kill were actually humanized to the American public, there would be no more war. I am an American citizen, but beyond that I am a veteran of the US military. I eagerly enlisted at 18 to serve my country, and if that is what I was doing I would still be in the military. I took part in the destruction of Iraq and will have to live with this fact for the rest of my life. As you may know, (according to the VA) twenty-two veterans feel they can no longer live with the guilt forever etched on their consciences, (and mixed with trauma) every single day. It is difficult to reconcile the things we were taught to believe about America as children and still see on the ‘news’ and hear spewing from the mouths of politicians, with the reality of what we experienced. Our taxes would be better spent helping heal the warriors society is as quick to discard as they were to label ‘hero’.
The obese ‘defense’ budget, as well all of the other avenues from which the ‘policy makers’ get our hard earned tax dollars to meddle in the affairs of the world, are not only starving, displacing, and killing countless thousands of innocent people the world over, but starving, displacing, and killing our own, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to understand. I feel about today’s wars, as King felt about Vietnam,
“Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead-end road that can lead to national disaster. America has strayed to the far country of racism and militarism.”
We are a lot further along that dead-end road to national disaster today than when King was warning us on April 4th, 1967, and the urgency to end senseless war has never been greater. The color of the American president’s skin means nothing to the children killed by his drones, nor does it mean anything to the men who look like him but instead of hearing “hail to the chief’ hear only the hail of bullets from the guns of police officers. Some example we are setting for other countries.
“It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to return to her true home of brotherhood and peaceful pursuits. We cannot remain silent as our nation engages in one of history’s most cruel and senseless wars. During these days of human travail we must encourage creative dissenters. We need them because the thunder of their fearless voices will be the only sound stronger than the blasts of bombs and the clamor of war hysteria.”
Dr. King was right, and it is with his words in mind that I am refusing to contribute one more cent to the death and destruction of people and cultures the world over. It is with the words of Smedley Butler in my ears that I refuse to continue funding this ‘racket,’ which is killing innocent civilians abroad, while my friends, family, and neighbors struggle at home to keep food on their tables and their utility bills paid to for-profit businesses, who not too long ago stole what was once the commons.
Dogs fight. Roosters fight. Human beings may have once had to fight out of necessity when we were living in caves and resources were scarce, but we are no longer living in caves, and this blue-green planet can provide more than enough for every man, woman, and child to have the basics of life. Human beings have evolved. We do not need war to settle our disputes. We are not at war to protect ourselves; we are at war because it is the most profitable business on the planet. We are at war because we are greedy. We are at war because we socialize our children to see other people as less than human. I have learned that I have far more in common with the average Iraqi citizen than I do with every single member of congress. The Iraqi people do not want war, it has been forced on them just like the American and German made chemical weapons were forced on them in the 1980’s. Saddam Hussein did not in any way represent the Iraqi people. Kim Jong Un does not in any way represent the people of North Korea. Ali Khamenei does not represent the people of Iran. The truth is that Obama, the Bush family, the Clinton family; even the Kennedys do not represent the people of the United States. Yes, day-to-day life is better in the US for more people than it is in any of those countries but you don’t have to dig too deep beneath the surface to see the harm that comes from what the taxes of hardworking American citizens are used for.
Since I do not trust that the tax dollars I pay will be earmarked for peaceful purposes even upon my request, I am instead donating the full amount that I was asked to pay in federal taxes instead to organizations working to improve the human condition. Since I have no problem, as I have said, paying my fair share as a citizen towards the betterment of society, rather than funding war and aggressive foreign policy, I will be donating the hours of my life society deems it necessary for me to contribute to the greater good, to the areas of society that need it most, instead of to war without end:
Healthcare (including mental healthcare & healing)
I am making donations to the following non-profit organizations, totaling the amount I was asked to pay in federal taxes, since these organizations will not be using any of the money to kill innocent civilians or negatively impact the lives of anyone on the planet (actually, just the opposite). They all serve to improve the human condition. Please feel free to look them up on the internet.
-The Arredondo Family Foundation
-Swords to Plowshares
-The Mission Continues
-Food Not Bombs
-Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project
-Iraq Veterans Against the War
-International Rescue Committee
-National Lawyers Guild
-Calling All Crows
-The Prisoners Literature Project
-Delancey Street Foundation
-Partners In Health
-STRIDE Adaptive Sports
-Kokua Hawaii Foundation
-It Takes A Community Foundation
-Earth Guardians: Youth For Global Sustainability
-Red Gate Farm Education Center
-SEED OF LOVE Farm & Garden Education Center
The Bing Arts Center
-Vermont Horse-Assisted Therapy
To quote Dr. King (a man with a federal holiday in his honor, and a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as an FBI file) for the last time, “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home. They destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.” That is exactly what the bombs are doing as they explode in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Yemen and Somalia, in Iraq and Syria, in Libya and in Uganda, but the bombs falling on schools and hospitals in Gaza are also keeping Detroit from thriving. It is not just the bombs that we drop, but the weapons we build and the massacres we make possible. I have had enough. As a human being, I am not going to stand for this insanity any longer. So long my hard earned dollars are taxed away to be spent on violence, on death, on destruction…on war, I will ensure that every penny which I owe is rerouted to fund peace. I love the people of this country, but I love all people. Taxes are not inherently bad when they are used for the right reasons, when they are used to lift up rather than tear down, used to build rather than to destroy.
As Thoreau said, “If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.”
I refuse to be an enabler.
Jason Robert Mizula
Kualapu’u, HI/Greenfield, MA/San Francisco, CA