No Taxes for War by Julia Butterfly Hill
US Nobel Laureate Calls Bush the 'Worst' President in US History by Prof. George A. Akerlof / Der Spiegel
October 24, 2003
No Taxes for War
By Julia Butterfly Hill
On Wednesday, October15, 2003, Julia Butterfly Hill stood on the steps of the San Francisco Federal Building and announced her decision to resist Washington's wars by redirecting her $150,000 federal tax bill to projects that serve social needs. Here is her statement:
| Julia Butterfly Hill. When a Butterfly refuses her war taxes in California, can a hurricane of resistance spring up around the world? ©Earth Films. www.treesit.org |
Annual US military spending far exceeds that of China, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Libya combined. Yet, for all this spending, we as a nation are not safer, only more brutal.
We live in a time of profoundly devastating war -- a war that threatens our democracy, human rights, free speech, education, health care, social security, environment and of course, there is the murdering of an unknown tens of thousands of innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq who we dare to marginalize as "casualties."
US soldiers are being killed nearly every day. And what is this war for? To protect the big-money, oil interests of the elite. Now the Bush Administration is demanding $87 BILLION DOLLARS to rebuild a country that was destroyed by our bombs on the exaggerated pretense of Iraq's alleged possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Meanwhile, the greatest accumulations of weapons of mass destruction exist right here in the United States. These weapons of death are funded by citizens' tax dollars stolen from the basic necessities that better our society such as social services, education, health care and the safeguarding of human rights and our environment.
For example, under the Bush tax cuts, Medicaid benefits are cut by $93 billion; Food Stamps will be cut by $13 billion; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families will be cut by $8 billion and (in a move that reminds us who truly benefits from war and who loses) $14.6 billion is being cut from benefits for Veterans, including money for disabilities.
Furthermore, our tax dollars are not only being spent to build the largest death machine humankind has ever known, but also the largest prison industrial complex in the world. We seem to be able to come up with endless billions for war, yet we have children without textbooks in schools that are falling apart, where it is statistically more likely for a child of color to end up in prison than to get into college, where the laws that protect air and water quality and biodiversity are being destroyed, and health services are not equally accessible to all citizens -- as is the case in every other civilized nation on earth.
I was raised by Christian parents who taught me about the Ten Commandments, the first of which is 'Thou Shall Not Kill.' Paying for the murder of innocent people with my tax dollars is something that I cannot do in good conscience. It goes against every moral fiber of my being to support this cycle of uncontrolled madness, especially at the expense of such critical human necessities.
I find it especially disturbing to see the Bush administration having blatant ties to convicted corporate criminals such as Haliburton, which formed 35 offshore tax shelters when Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO. While Haliburton has been avoiding paying untold millions of dollars in federal taxes, it was awarded a closed- door, no-bid contract from the Bush Administration to secure the oil supply of Iraq. Unfortunately, this is just one example of the many instances where a corrupt system allows politically connected, mega-corporations to avoid paying taxes while the working class is forced to pay subsidies for big business with their hard-earned tax dollars.
Thousands of others before me have taken this stand. I am not avoiding paying taxes. I have thought through this very carefully, and with a clear mind and heart I am humanely re-directing my tax payments to where they belong, because our current federal government refuses to do so.
For more information, contact: Northern California War Tax Resistance, (510) 843-9877, www.warresisters.org or the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (800) 269-7464, www.nwtrcc.org
US Nobel Laureate Calls Bush "Worst" President in US History
By Professor George A. Akerlof / Der Spiegel
BERLIN -- In July, American 2001 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics George A. Akerlof lashed out at the government of George W. Bush in an online interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel. "I think this is the worst government the US has ever had," said Akerlof, an economics professor at the University of California in Berkeley. "Now is the time for people to engage in civil disobedience. I think it's time to protest." Akerlof's comments have gone virtually unreported in the US media.
| Nobel Laureate George A. Akerlof on the UC Berkeley campus. |
Text of Der Spiegel interview by Matthias Streitz
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Professor Akerlof, according to recent official projections, the US federal deficit will reach $455 billion this fiscal year. That's the largest ever in dollar terms, but according to the President's budget director, it's still manageable. Do you agree?
George A. Akerlof: In the long term, a deficit of this magnitude is not manageable. We are moving into the period when, beginning around 2010, baby boomers are going to be retiring. That is going to put a severe strain on services like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This is the time when we should be saving.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So it would be necessary to run a budget surplus instead?
Akerlof: That would probably be impossible in the current situation. There's the expenditure for the war in Iraq, which I consider irresponsible. But there's also a recession and a desire to invigorate the economy through fiscal stimulus, which is quite legitimate. That's why we actually do need a deficit in the short term -- but certainly not the type of deficit we have now.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because it's not created by investment, but to a large extent by cutting taxes?
Akerlof: A short-term tax benefit for the poor would actually be a reasonable stimulus. Then, the money would almost certainly be spent. But the current and future deficit is a lot less stimulatory than it could be. Our administration is just throwing the money away. First, we should have fiscal stimulus that is sharply aimed at the current downturn. But this deficit continues far into the future, as the bulk of the tax cuts can be expected to continue indefinitely. The Administration is giving us red ink as far as the eye can see, and these permanent aspects outweigh the short-term stimulatory effects.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: And secondly, you disagree with giving tax relief primarily to wealthier Americans. The GOP argues that those people deserve it for working hard.
Akerlof: The rich don't need the money and are a lot less likely to spend it -- they will primarily increase their savings. Remember that wealthier families have done extremely well in the US in the past 20 years, whereas poorer ones have done quite badly. So the redistributive effects of this administration's tax policy are going in the exactly wrong direction. The worst and most indefensible of those cuts are those in dividend taxation -- this overwhelmingly helps very wealthy people.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The president claims that dividend tax reform supports the stock market and helps the economy as a whole to grow.
Akerlof: That's totally unrealistic. Standard formulas from growth models suggest that that effect will be extremely small. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has come to a similar conclusion. So, even a sympathetic treatment finds that this argument is simply not correct.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: When campaigning for an even-larger tax cut earlier this year, Mr. Bush promised that it would create 1.4 million jobs. Was that reasonable?
Akerlof: The tax cut will have some positive impact on job creation, although, as I mentioned, there is very little bang for the buck. There are very negative long-term consequences. The administration, when speaking about the budget, has unrealistically failed to take into account a very large number of important items. As of March 2003, the CBO estimated that the surplus for the next decade would approximately reach one trillion dollars. But this projection assumes, among other questionable things, that spending until 2013 is going to be constant in real dollar terms. That has never been the case. And with the current tax cuts, a realistic estimate would be a deficit in excess of six trillion.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the government's just bad at doing the correct math?
Akerlof: ...The government is not really telling the truth to the American people. Past administrations from the time of Alexander Hamilton have on the average run responsible budgetary policies. What we have here is a form of looting.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: If so, why is the president still popular?
Akerlof: For some reason, the American people does not yet recognize the dire consequences of our government budgets. It's my hope that voters are going to see how irresponsible this policy is and are going to respond in 2004....
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What if that doesn't happen?
Akerlof: Future generations and even people in ten years are going to face massive public deficits and huge government debt. Then we have a choice. We can be like a very poor country with problems of threatening bankruptcy. Or we're going to have to cut back seriously on Medicare and Social Security. So the money that is going overwhelmingly to the wealthy is going to be paid by cutting services for the elderly. And people depend on those. It's only among the richest 40 percent that you begin to get households who have sizeable fractions of their own retirement income.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is there a possibility that the government, because of the scope of current deficits, will be more reluctant to embark on a new war?
Akerlof: They would certainly have to think about debt levels and military expenditure is already high. But if they seriously want to lead a war, this will not be a large deterrent. You begin the war and ask for the money later. A more likely effect of the deficits is this: If there's another recession, we won't be able to engage in stimulatory fiscal spending to maintain full employment. Until now, there's been a great deal of trust in the American government. Markets knew that, if there is a current deficit, it will be repaid. The government has wasted that resource....
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why is it that the Bush family seems to specialize in running up deficits? The second-largest federal deficit in absolute terms, $290 billion, occurred in 1991, during the presidency of George W. Bush's father.
Akerlof: That may be, but Bush's father committed a great act of courage by actually raising taxes. He wasn't always courageous, but this was his best public service. It was the first step to getting the deficit under control during the Clinton years. It was also a major factor in Bush's losing the election.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: It seems that the current administration has politicized you in an unprecedented way. During the course of this year, you have, with other academics, signed two public declarations of protest. One against the tax cuts, the other against waging unilateral preventive war on Iraq.
Akerlof: I think this is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. It has engaged in extraordinarily irresponsible policies not only in foreign and economic but also in social and environmental policy. This is not normal government policy. Now is the time for people to engage in civil disobedience.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Of what kind?
Akerlof: I don't know yet. But I think it's time to protest -- as much as possible.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: [T]he term civil disobedience... was made popular by the author Henry D. Thoreau, who actually advised people not to pay taxes as a means of resistance. You wouldn't call for that, would you?
Akerlof: No. I think the one thing we should do is pay our taxes. Otherwise, it'll only make matters worse.
(©SPIEGEL ONLINE 2003
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