by Michael W. Stowell

April 14, 2003


That placard held high by America's founders, "No Taxation Without Representation," is now lost among the billboards of neocolonialism and those former days of revolution have faded from our collective consciousness, overshadowed by the specter of scarcity conjured by human avarice. Predictably, "democratic governance" founded on the backs of indigenous people and imported slaves cannot survive the test of time, it is naught but a falsehood.

So much for institutional memory.

What ever happened to the U.S. Constitution? Did we misplace it while cataloging the receipts of our wealth and power, or has it been refinanced for low-interest, long-term, minimal payments?

Not that the Constitution was ever 'perfect,' though it was amended several times, and there was a moment when America realized that the idealistic principles of democracy cannot be fully explored and discovered by any length of discussion or fully contained in any document or volume. While the measure of our Constitution's character is determined in fairness, flexibility and inclusiveness, its durability corresponds with the uninterrupted flow of its evolution.

In the days when integrity meant keeping your word, our Constitution represented the hopes and dreams of people intent on justice, equality, dignity and peace -- and harmony with all life. Once upon a time, in the hearts of many, an assault on our Constitution, for any reason, by any person, was treasonous.

Though perhaps it is only a legend, or just an old warship that fell into disrepair, gradually reclaimed by the seas of injustice over which it sailed, finally sunk under the burden of our collective greed.

For what is a constitution if not a concord, an agreement of each with all others? There can be no unity of purpose in our country if there is no concurrence based on the principles engendered in our nation's constitution. So when those empowered to represent our common good betray the trust we place in each other through mutual pact, we deem them tyrants. When they give of our common treasury support for open, violent racism and religious preference, whether here or abroad, they are traitors to our cause.


Eight million dollars of American taxpayers' money is spent each day in support of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. How many billions spent on the cleansing and colonization of Iraq, and Afghanistan, and of what was once Yugoslavia? Moreover, what is next on the Empire's agenda? If you are an American who pays taxes, it is your tax money and you should know.

"Let them march all they want, as long as they continue to pay their taxes."
-- Gen. Alexander Haig, U.S. Secretary of State, June 12, 1982

The entire military budget for fiscal year 2003, minus the cost of the war in Iraq, comes in it at about $390 billion, so far. Sometimes I wonder how the 'average' American would feel about a neighbor on welfare who spent most of his money and went deep into debt for weapons and ammunition, while allowing his kids to go hungry, without adequate healthcare or an appropriate education.

"If a thousand [people] 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."
-- Henry David Thoreau, during the Mexican-American War of 1846-48

Want to get personal with your resistance to the insidious war-making of your own government? An occasional tax resister will not end the Empire's rule; however, if those hundreds of thousands of American anti-war demonstrators were to get serious about their commitment to justice, peace and dignity, if the United States Constitution were upheld by the withholding of tax money by revolutionaries of character and spirit, the foundations of capitalism would be shaken.

I've not paid income tax to the federal government for many years, and I don't intend to until I see a return to the democratic standards represented in the U.S. Constitution. It is a matter of principle. I am, after all, a citizen. If you are interested in clearing your conscience and withholding your money, consider the War Resisters League website.

Of course, I have paid taxes in the past, unlike a few people I know who have never paid income tax, but I consider the portion I have contributed to be my payment for the few good things funded by our government. I hesitated to withhold for a number of years because of my fear of reprisal, but now I find myself in agreement with Philip Berrigan: "the only way you can get at the state is by dealing with its laws. That's why Thoreau would say, 'Dissent without resistance is consent.' A very worthy statement. If you take it apart, you find that if you dissent without breaking the law then you are legitimizing the system that allows this kind of latitude. You have to break the law to touch the state."

I also believe the only way you can get at the capitalist Empire is by dealing with its money. Give it as little as possible and cost it as much as you can. Finally, it is only fair that I admit how long I struggled with my decision. In the mid-1960s, I heard a song that awakened me; it was written by George Harrison and recorded by The Beatles in 1966:

   Let me tell you how it will be
   There's one for you, nineteen for me
   'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

   Should five percent appear too small
   Be thankful I don't take it all
   'cause I'm the taxman,
   yeah, I'm the taxman

   If you drive a car, I'll tax the street
   If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat
   If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat
   If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet

   'Cause I'm the taxman,
   Yeah, I'm the taxman

   Don't ask me what I want it for (ha ha Mr. Wilson)
   If you don't want to pay some more (ha ha Mr. Heath)
   'cause I'm the taxman,
   yeah, I'm the taxman

   Now my advice for those who die
   Declare the pennies on your eyes
   'cause I'm the taxman,
   yeah, I'm the taxman
   And you're working for no one but me

· · · · · ·

Resources and Related Internal Links

An Interview with Philip Berrigan, "I Was a Good Young Killer and Only Woke Up Later On" - http://www.progressive.org/webex/wxdb121202.html

The War Resisters League

"Taxman," by George Harrison - http://www.stevesbeatles.com/songs/taxman.asp

"War Tax Resistance Made Simple," by Matt Wheeland, AlterNet - http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=15593

Actions & Ideas to NOT play the Game, on Swans


Michael W. Stowell is a local activist in Northern California.

Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number. If we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.

Please, feel free to insert a link to this article on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting a few paragraphs or providing a summary. However, please DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work on the Web without the expressed written authorization of Swans. This material is copyrighted, © Michael W. Stowell 2003. All rights reserved.
· · · · · ·

This Week's Internal Links

Simplicity: The Absence of Complexity - by Gilles d'Aymery

A Letter To Margaret Atwood - by Eli Beckerman

They're Building A Pipeline - by Scott Orlovsky

Heresy! - by Richard Macintosh

Will The Favorite Go The Distance? - by Philip Greenspan

What? Me worry? - by Milo Clark

Naguib Mahfouz, "Midaq Alley" - Book Review by Louis Proyect

Iraq's Economic Problems - by Barrett Brown

The Lost America Of Love - Poem by Kahnupad Haider

War Sestina - Poem by Alma A. Hromic

Hidden Hearts And Blood-Flecked Minds - Poem by Richard Macintosh

Letters to the Editor


Published April 14, 2003
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Main Page]