Taxes for a good cause: anything besides the war in Iraq

Two weeks ago I paid my taxes. This is my first time paying any sort of tax, other than sales.

Last year I finally made enough money to merit taxation. This isn’t to say that I made a large amount of money, nor is it to say that I owe an exorbitant amount.

In fact, I only owed $13 to the federal government. Even though I’m a dependent college student with no real steady source of income during the school year, $13 doesn’t really faze me. I normally wouldn’t mind paying $13 or more to a cause that I felt merited my support.

The dilemma lies within the use of that money.

According to various accounts, about 28 percent of federal income tax for fiscal year 2005 (about $3.64 of my money) will be spent on current military interests. Eighteen percent ($2.34) will be allocated for past military interests and a significant percentage of the interest on the national debt.

Three percent will actively fund U.S. activity in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thirty-nine cents of my money is going to support attacking a population and forgetting about it. It will assist a military wing that jumps to conclusions, takes action behind faulty evidence and deceive the very people to whom it’s supposed to answer.

I think Willie Nelson put it best: “What would you do if someone came to your door, cup in hand, asking for a contribution to help buy guns to kill a group of people they didn’t like?”

Well, I certainly didn’t have much of a choice. I’m a 19-year-old college student pursuing a bachelor’s degree, one who relies heavily on federal funding. It’s safe to say that if it weren’t for federal student loans, I would not be attending a university.

This is where the issue becomes upsetting. Were I to keep that $13 for myself, I would be subject to all kinds of fines and threats.

Can they take my house? Well, no, because I don’t own a house. Can they take my car? Probably not; I’m not the official owner. But federal student aid is something they have the ability to take from me.

Of course, that’s bigger than any house or car could ever be. They could take my future. They could take my ability to earn a degree and move on to graduate and postgraduate work. And what would stop them? So now I find myself in a situation where the federal government is willing and able to scratch my back with one hand and clutch my groin with the other.

But where does the problem lay? It’s in the nation’s best interest for taxes to be a requirement. The government needs money in order to better serve its citizens. Unfortunately, misuse of that money is, for the moment, very difficult to protest. Other than electing different officials, the average citizen has no say in how her or his money is spent.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

For example, there is a current movement, and a bill in Congress, proposing and supporting a Peace Tax Fund. The bill would grant conscientious objectors to war, those who do so citing moral or religious conviction, an option out of supporting militarism. The solution is not that these particular people pay fewer taxes; their tax dollars will simply be relocated into a fund and used for nonmilitary purposes only.

Opponents of the bill will suggest that some people don’t prefer to pay for welfare, education or various other expenditures undertaken by the government.

Though this is a valid (and popular) question, there is a significant distinction between preferences and deeply held moral or religious beliefs. To prefer not to pay for welfare is one thing; to honestly believe in nonviolence as a way of living and as a means to conflict resolution is quite another.

The Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act must be passed and immediately instituted because conscientious objection to war and violence need not be criminalized any longer.

Collin Sullivan, Daily Nebraskan, University of Nebraska