Anxious New Haven taxpayers gathering their 1040EZ, 1099, and W2 forms received yet another piece of paper Tuesday as they went to mail in their returns: a flier that said the government is misleading the public about how it uses tax money.
Six protesters, mostly over 60 years old, gathered at noon in front of the New Haven post office on Court Street and passed out fliers with the title “Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes.” The pie chart on the flier maintained that the government claims 17.5 percent of tax dollars go to “military discretionary spending,” while, in actuality, 47 percent is spent on military costs — a total of $804 billion, the flier said.
All the while, protesters were chanting “If you want something for your kids, don’t spend it on the military.”
Representatives of Peace & Justice News & Views, the group who organized the demonstration, said they believe that tax money should go to helping people — not killing them.
“We should wonder why we are paying taxes to destroy another country and then to reconstruct it when the U.S. brought about the destruction,” said Sally Joughin, the demonstration coordinator who helped write the leaflet. “On this day, we want people to question the money aspect of our country, and compare it to the needs of New Haven.”
None of the demonstrators said he was withholding tax payments to protest.
Instead of war spending, the group advocates allocating money to education, health care, and housing. One flier stated that for $100, one could buy 11 hand grenades or 11 blankets for refugees. The flier also said one month of the United States’ current military spending could fight infectious diseases and save 11 million lives.
Although Joughin said she is not against taxes per se, she said she disagrees with the current way tax revenues are spent. Taxation is a positive thing when it serves the American people in an appropriate way, she said.
She also criticized mainstream media’s coverage of the war.
“People are misled by the media to make the wrong connections. I think they really don’t understand who’s profiting [from tax dollars]. They’re thinking they’re getting rid of a brutal dictator. They think Iraq has to do with Sept. 11, 2001. We weren’t really threatened by Iraq.”
Most of the people who entered the post office took the fliers and at least quickly glanced at them.
Two women, who would not give their name, expressed frustration with the government’s spending.
“It’s a lot of money to give to an unnecessary place. We just work and they take the [tax] money and do whatever. Everyone doesn’t like it, but what can we do?” they said.
Other passers-by politely disregarded the protesters.
Helmuth Gahbauaer, a Hamden resident who had not yet mailed his taxes, said he refused the fliers because he thought the government is justified in spending money for the purpose of protecting American rights. He added that war guarantees freedom, which then allows for services like education and health care.
“I am sure there is money that is not well-spent,” Gahbauaer said. “I don’t agree with everything I pay taxes for, but it’s a democratic society, and I support it.”
One woman walking by answered the group’s protest by saying, “I don’t work, so I don’t need no things about taxes.”
The group of protesters planned their demonstration at busy times of the day at the Court Street and Brewery Street post offices. They demonstrated for periods of one hour at noon, 5 p.m., and 10 p.m.
Joughin said she liked to catch people at the end of the day, when they were either about to mail their returns or were frantically picking up tax forms to complete.
“They’re really angry about taxes, so they’re really responsive about bad things about them [during the most hectic periods],” Joughin said.
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