In honor of Tax Day, the National Priorities Project has released a new breakdown of how the federal government spent the average household’s 2006 tax payment. In Michigan and around the United States, nearly 40 cents on every dollar goes to pay for future and past military expenses, while social spending on issues such as education, housing, and nutrition receive pennies.
According to a breakdown on how the federal government spends tax dollars from Michigan, spending on military, health, and interest on the debt consume two-thirds of every income tax dollar spent. Of the $3,936 in federal income taxes paid by the median income family in Michigan, $1,069 went to the military and $358 went towards interest on the debt for military related expenses. A further $132 goes to pay for veterans’ benefits and healthcare. Non-military interest payments accounted for $405. Money spent on health accounts for $821, not because of an abundance of health-related programs, but instead because of “rising medical costs and increasing benefits for seniors” even as “the number and percentage of uninsured Americans continues to rise” according to the National Priorities Project. Spending on preventive health measures such as nutrition programs, accounts for only $103 of the federal income tax dollars paid by Michigan residents. “Income Security” (SSI, tax credit programs, TANF, and other spending aimed at families) received only $236 while spending on Education accounted for $179. Housing, Natural Resources, and Job Training all accounted for under $80. In addition to this statewide breakdown, the National Priorities Project offers an “Interactive Income Tax Chart” that allows taxpayers to determine how much of their tax dollars have gone to military spending.
Highlighting the amount of income tax money spent for military purposes has been an approach used for years by groups challenging the militarism, including the War Resisters League. The War Resisters League releases a pie chart each year outlining the percentages of tax dollars that go towards military spending and offers it as an educational resource. Many groups have used the pie chart flyers in leafleting actions on Tax Day. Groups such as the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee have encouraged more significant forms of resistance and have provide counseling and support for individuals that chose not to pay taxes out of opposition to militarism. The movement cites Henry David Thoreau, who refused to pay taxes as a protest against the Mexican War and slavery in the 1840s, as one of its most famous proponents.
This year, antiwar activists are once again using the connections between tax dollars and military spending as a way to challenge the ongoing Iraq War. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, has written a widely circulated column titled “Hang Up on War,” that outlines the history a telephone tax first instituted in 1898 to pay for the Spanish-American War. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has since decided to drop the tax, and this year is offering a “telephone tax rebate” of between $30 to $60 dollars, which Goodman urges people to claim as a way of helping to “defund the war.” In addition, the antiwar group Code Pink is taking advantage of Tax Day as an organizing tool to promote their “Don’t Buy Bush’s War” campaign and is encouraging activists to distribute “receipts” to taxpayers for the war on Tax Day.