Your Tax Dollars At Work
According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, growth in military spending due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a run-away Pentagon budget outpaced even the rapid growth in spending for the huge Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid entitlement programs in the last fiscal year (FY03), the year for which we recently filed our tax returns. An estimated 41.9 percent of our federal income tax dollars were spent on past and present military activities. This is an increase over federal outlays in FY02 when roughly 40 percent of our federal income tax dollars were spent for military purposes. According to the War Resisters League, for Fiscal Year 2004, 27% ($459 billion) of Federal Funds Outlays will be for current military expenses, and 20% ($345 billion) will be for past military expenses, for a total of 47% ($804 billion). The Center for Defense Information (CDI) states that, with respect to Fiscal Year 2004,
The administration of President George W. Bush is requesting $399.1 billion for the military in fiscal year 2004 ($379.9 billion for the Defense Department and $19.3 billion for the nuclear weapons functions of the Department of Energy). This is $16.9 billion above current levels, an increase of 4.4 percent. In all, the administration plans to spend $2.7 TRILLION on the military over the next six years - and this as both the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office project a federal deficit as high as $200 billion to $300 billion next year.
CDI has some very detailed and comprehensive information about the US military budget for Fiscal Year 2004 on their Web site, including links to government figures from the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Defense.
How the Peace Tax Fund Bill would work
The Peace Tax Fund Bill would affect the "current military" portion of the U.S. budget. The Peace Tax Fund Bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to permit taxpayers conscientiously opposed to participating in war to have their income, estate or gift tax payments spent for non-military purposes only. The Bill excuses no taxpayers from paying their full tax liability.
Where the Peace Tax Fund money would go
The full federal taxes of conscientious objectors would be placed into a special trust fund in the Treasury, called the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund. The Treasury would be allowed to spend this money on any governmental program that does not fulfill a military purpose.
Advantages of a Peace Tax Fund
The Peace Tax Fund Bill is a matter of conscience. While it would not immediately impact the level of military spending, passage of the Bill would have these distinct advantages:
- The Peace Tax Fund Bill would restore freedom of religion as protected in the First Amendment to those taxpayers whose religious or moral convictions forbid participation in war, whether physical or financial. This "first of the freedoms" is the cornerstone of a democratic society.
- Each publication of instructions accompanying income tax forms for 160 million taxpayers would include information about the availability of conscientious objector status. This would be a tremendous educational opportunity. Just as provisions for conscientious objection cause those in the military to weigh their consciences, so too would the Peace Tax Fund.
- The Peace Tax Fund Bill would be a meaningful step towards raising the national consciousness about misplaced military priorities. The level of usage of the Peace Tax Fund would be reported by Congress each year, and would serve as a measure of the nation's conscience regarding the inhumanity of war.
- It will be a watershed event for religious and civil liberties when a major military power acknowledges its citizens have a just claim to freedom of conscience which has been denied. In addition, it will greatly facilitate the passage of similar legislation in other countries.
- The Peace Tax Fund Bill is a win-win proposition. Conscientious objectors would be guaranteed the current military percentage of their income tax would be used only for life-affirming purposes. The government would receive more revenue from increased participation in the payment of income taxes and would spend less on the cost of forced collections.
Conscientious objection to killing in war holds a historically and legally unique place in our nation. It is like no other issue. The plight of those who object to military taxes on the basis of deeply held and universally recognized teachings is on a higher moral plane than objections based on mere political, social or economic preference. As such the Peace Tax Fund Bill would not open the door to other exceptions.
No witness for conscience is ever lost.