Wars and preparations for war are very expensive. It is estimated that the direct costs to the U.S. of the Iraq war so far are over $200 billion (current expenses for the war are estimated to be $5-6 billion per month). FCNL has estimated that 42 percent of our 2004 income tax dollars go for military purposes. In short, we are paying heavily for past wars, the present war, and preparation for future wars. Very few Friends have been able to conscientiously refuse to pay the military portion of their income taxes and succeeded in doing so, including those employed by Friends organizations. The Internal Revenue Service simply does what is necessary to get its monies. The other option for pacifists, living below the taxable income level, is nearly impossible as well. On the other hand the Peace Tax Fund legislation that would allow pacifists to have their taxes used only for nonmilitary purposes is slowly gaining co-sponsors in Congress.
This means most Friends are taxpaying citizens like everyone else, and indeed there is little choice since for most of us, income taxes are taken directly out of our paychecks. But what does this imply? Suppose a Friend is employed and has a federal income tax rate that is approximately 20 percent of his or her income. If we multiply this by the value of 0.42 from FCNL, it means that 8.4 percent of that actual income goes for military purposes.
If we think of this in terms of hours worked and consider a 40-hour work week, it means that about three and a half hours (0.084 x 40 = 3.36) of that time is spent "working for the military," or, more precisely, the income from 3.4 hours of our 40-hour work week goes for military purposes. Can each of us who are earners find three to four hours of time per week to give to efforts to seek peace and end the war in Iraq? Many Friends have found ways to witness for peace at this time. Some of these include sponsoring the national or statewide version of the Eyes Wide Open exhibit; vigiling in a busy public location or in front of a Congressperson’s home office; writing to one’s elected representatives; visiting your Congressperson with others from your meeting; giving campaign help in the 2006 elections to candidates committed to U.S. withdrawal; volunteering with a group working for peace; circulating petitions in your neighborhood calling for an end to the war; arranging to show a movie about the war in your home or meeting; writing letters to the editor; participating in radio call-in programs; assisting counter-recruitment efforts in local schools and in the community; and becoming informed and educating others about the Peace Tax Fund http://www.peacetaxfund.org/.
Some Friends may feel their lives are too occupied with other things to make further time commitments to peace. After all, many middle-class families now almost require two earners to maintain that standard of living. Instead of time, these Friends might contribute the equivalent income (of three to four hours’ work) to peace groups to counterbalance the military efforts they are paying for. But beware, as this is a large sum! (It is about $5,000 in my personal case.) A lot could be done with such funds. For example, if eight to twelve members of a meeting pooled the equivalent funds for their three- to four-hour peace witness to balance their forced contribution to the military, then this funding would be adequate to pay someone full-time to work for peace. Finally, some Friends may not be in a position to donate either this level of time or funds at this stage of their lives.
Although Friends are opposed to the war in Iraq, the bottom line is that we continue to support it via our tax dollars. I believe that if we could give as much in time or money to peace as is taken from us for war, our chances of ending this war and preventing future wars would be greatly enhanced.