Written on the side of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building here in Washington, D.C. is a quote from our Unitarian forefather, Oliver Wendell Holmes. “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society”. However, In 2008, I think a quote from Benjamin Franklin is more appropriate. “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

While I proudly pay my taxes—I need roads, and police, and libraries and schools and I am willing to contribute to them—there is a part of my taxation that frustrates me. War. Here in the United States, Death is inextricably tied to Taxes.

If you have filed your taxes, you may be familiar with this little chart which shows the projected federal budget for fiscal year 2006.

As you can see, the IRS claims that the largest portion of spending goes to “Social Security, Medicare and retirement (36%)” followed by “National Defense, Veterans and Foreign Affairs (23%)”. The other half is an amalgamation of health and community development (12%), social programs (21%) and Net Interest on the Debt (8%).

But what does that all really mean?

Thanks to the National Priorities Project, we now know.

Here we see that 20% of our Federal budget earmarked for National Defense is directly for the Dept. of Defense. And the nice, big, 21% slice for all social programs is actually mostly Medicaid. So, all spending for our non-Medicare social programs is actually 8% of the annual budget.

23% of our national budget goes to making war. On the other hand, 8% goes to all the other departments: Energy, Homeland Security, NASA, Housing/Urban Development among others. But don’t forget, the departments of Energy, Homeland Security, NASA, and Housing/Urban Development all put part of their budgets toward national defense—nuclear weapons, coast guard, satellites used for military efforts, and veteran housing, respectively. The functions of our government agencies are not always transparent.

What different departments contribute to the military machine is hard to estimate. The Department of Homeland Security’s budget gives massively to military expenditures (70%). However, the Department of Education does not. Even if we were to add a very conservative 5% of the total budget from social programs to the original 23% given by the IRS, we bring the military spending to 28% of total national spending.

As for that 8% of the budget that goes to net interest on the debt, we must ask, “Where did that debt come from?” Well, most our debt came from previous wars, mainly WWII and Vietnam. But how much of the debt belongs to previous military spending? Depending on which advocacy organization one chooses to look at, analysts divide that 8% differently. War Resisters League estimates a much higher percentage than our friends at the FCNL. If we use the FCNL’s conservative estimation, we add another 4% to the total percent of our budget’s military spending.

We now have reached 32% of your tax dollars going to military spending—past, present and future. Although, if we use War Resisters League numbers, that brings us up to 36%.

At our conservative estimations, 36% of your 2006 income taxes went to paying for war.

With the taxes you filed today, your payment for the war will be even higher than last year.

And the percentage of taxes coming out of your paycheck to fund war this year will be even higher!

An estimated half of your income taxes in 2008 will go to paying for war. Even with a new President in the Oval Office in January, your taxes will be paying for this war. Even if all troops were to leave today. You will still be paying for this war.

While it is still fresh in your mind, enter the amount of money you paid in taxes in 2007 and this pie chart will show how much you paid to support the war, health care, and social programs. I was shocked to find out that I paid over $1220 to the war in 2007. I was especially shocked by this number compared to the mere $29 that went to peaceful International Relations.

If taxes are the price to pay for a civilized society, why is it that half of it goes to war? What is so civilized about that?

About the Author
Alex Winnett

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