BANGOR, Maine - Opponents of the Iraq war spent Tuesday, the deadline for filing income tax returns, working to educate Mainers about the costs of war.
More than half of each federal income tax dollar paid by Maine taxpayers now goes toward past and current military expenses, according to Larry Dansinger, coordinator of the Maine War Tax Resistance Resource Center.
The group, camped outside the Bangor U.S. post office, was one of at least two Maine organizations that spent Tax Day handing out fliers they said "show where our tax dollars really go." The other group, the Maine People's Alliance, handed out fliers in Portland.
Though Dansinger noted that most Mainers now file their tax returns electronically, he said the resistance planned to hand fliers out to those who still do it the traditional way as a "symbolic" gesture.
"April 15 is a significant day for a lot of people in the U.S. because it's the day their taxes are due," Dansinger said.
According to data from the War Resisters League, with headquarters in New York City, 54 percent of the federal budget for the 2009 fiscal year - or $484 billion - goes toward past and current military expenses, including an estimated $200 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan war spending.
Dansinger said "the vast majority of Mainers," based on informal polling, would rather see their tax dollars being used to support such things as health care, education and other public services.
"It's Tax Day and we feel that it's really important for people to realize there are two different value systems out there," said Ben Chin, federal issues organizer for the Maine People's Alliance.
"One is a value system of war and the other is investing in Americans - health care, education, social services," Chin said. "What we're basically trying to do is educate the public because right now I think we're running dangerously close to getting used to something that we shouldn't be getting used to."
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Chin said the MPA also planned to call upon Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to "take a leadership role" against the war and bring U.S. troops home.
Also on Tuesday, the war tax center awarded grants funded with federal income tax dollars being withheld by some Mainers who don't want their taxes used to support a war they neither support nor believe in.
"I will not pay our government to threaten and kill in my name," Dansinger noted in an announcement leading up to Tuesday's activities. "That would make me an accomplice to murder."
On Tuesday, the center presented $500 grants of withheld tax money to individuals and to state, national and international groups the resisters say are working to counteract harm being done by the U.S. presence in Iraq. Several of those grants were given out during a brief gathering at the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine:
- Simon Beckford, 18, of Clifton, to help cover education costs. Beckford, who is being home-schooled by his parents, Peter and Julie Beckford, has decided not to register with Selective Services, required of males ages 18 to 25, a decision that likely will render him ineligible for financial aid for college and some kinds of jobs.
"I've always been interested in the truth behind things and where money goes and why people are in which political positions, and so I've been pretty aware of the realities of war and what militaries do to each other and to other countries and the environment," Beckford said Tuesday.
Though he said he has made no decision about college, he does want to work as a political and grass-roots organizer.
- Iraq Veterans Against the War. A representative from the group was not available to receive a grant Tuesday so the Rev. Gerald Oleson, vice president of the Bangor chapter of Veterans for Peace, accepted it on the group's behalf.
According to Oleson, the IVAW was founded by Iraq War veterans in 2004. The group is calling for the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq, reparations for the human and structural damage Iraq has suffered, and full benefits and adequate health care for returning service men and women.
Dansinger said other grants were being given to the Western Mountains Peace Action Group in Franklin County promoting "truth in recruiting" and the Direct Aid Initiative, an international group providing medical care to Iraqi war refugees in Jordan and Syria.
© 2008 The Bangor Daily News