NEW YORK – Jessica Morton stopped. “Please – give me a few copies of your leaflet. I want to give them to the folks in my office,” she said to Ruth Benz, a member of the War Resisters League’s (WRL) Tax Day picket line at the Internal Revenue Service office in midtown Manhattan.

Morton said she thought “something more” than demonstrations are needed if the “Democrats I helped elect are going to hear those of us who are opposed to war. So I’ve decided to hit them in the pocket book and refuse to pay the part of my taxes that go to finance war. It may not be much, but it is a tangible way of protesting this war and this administration,” she told the World before hurrying off down 44th Street.

The action here was one of more than 50 Tax Day protests that spanned the country from Andover, Maine, to Yreka, Calif. About 65 people took part in the 4th Annual Death and Taxes protest at the IRS offices in Andover to protest the use of tax dollars for war instead of people’s needs. The group then marched to the Raytheon plant where Patriot missiles are made.

In New York Wendy Schwartz said she had refused to pay “war taxes” since 1968. “I became a ‘tax resister’ when they slapped a special tax on phone bills during the Vietnam War. I could not avoid the phone tax but I could refuse to include a check when I filed my Form 1040,” she told this reporter.

Schwartz said she had seldom been harassed by the IRS for her actions. “They did take money from my bank account once and on another occasion an IRS agent came to my apartment looking for anything of value.”

Literature distributed by the WRL compared what money wasted in military spending with what could be done in providing for the educational and health needs of the American people, beginning with the fact that the recently-passed $80 million down payment on the Iraq war is enough to wipe out the entire 2004 budget shortfall of all 50 states.

Other comparisons show that $50 spent for 11 hand grenades could pay for a like number of blankets for refugees; that the $145,000 cost of a bunker-buster guided bomb would provide 29 RNs with an associate degree and that the annual $16 billion expenditure of the U.S. nuclear weapons program would pay for health care coverage for 7 million children.

Noberto Esteves, shop steward for Communications Workers Local 1080 in New York City was one of the demonstrators at an after-work rally in front of the city’s main post office.

When asked the meaning of the “Rudy gave tax cuts, Mike wants budget cuts” slogan on his sign, Esteves said, “When he was mayor, Rudy Giuliani got drunk on tax cuts for the rich. Now the bill is due and Mayor Mike Bloomberg wants to pay it by laying off nearly 15,000 city workers instead of getting the money from those who were invited to the party.”

Bloomberg’s 2004 budget for the nation’s largest city projects a shortfall of $3.8 billion, which he proposes to close by laying off as many as 14,000 city workers, including teachers’ aides; closing a dozen children’s clinics; closing two smaller zoos and closing as many as 40 fire stations.

Local 1080 represents many of these workers. Luella Payne, who works in children’s services, says the city’s unions have their work cut out for them. The mayor has demanded that Local 1080 and other unions agree to $600 million in wage and benefit concessions. “If Bloomberg thinks we are going to bail him out he’s nuts.”

Other city union leaders voiced similar objections. Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers union and head of the Municipal Labor committee, called Bloomberg’s proposal insulting. “Maybe it’s hard for a billionaire to understand that asking people for a month’s pay is really hard for people to accept,” she said.

President Bush, who suffered an important setback when the Senate cut his proposed tax cut of $750 billion to $350 billion took advantage of Tax Day to renew his call for major tax cuts for the rich, saying such a cut would stimulate the economy and create jobs.

But, instead of asking for the original amount, Bush scaled back his demand to $550 billion over ten years, a cut that has already been approved by the House. But even that amount faces serious Senate opposition with Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, saying he will not permit any tax cut larger than $350 billion to reach the Senate floor.

Jose Cruz contributed to this story.

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Fred Gaboury
Fred Gaboury

Fred Gaboury was a member of the Editorial Board of the print edition of  People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo and wrote frequently on economic, labor and political issues. Gaboury died in 2004. Here is a small selection of Fred’s significant writings: Eight days in May Birmingham and the struggle for civil rights; Remembering the Rev. James Orange; Memphis 1968: We remember; June 19, 1953: The murder of the Rosenbergs; World Bank and International Monetary Fund strangle economies of Third World countries