War and Peace through Taxes

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August 16, 2012

While studying in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I was fortunate to have work on campus. What I didn't realize when taking the job that I would have an ethical dilemma. If I received a paycheque, I would also have to pay taxes. 

Although I fully support the use of taxes in any country to provide for education, health care, social welfare, and other necessary infrastructure for a healthy society, I also know that the United States taxpayers fund the largest defense budget in the world. 
 
By moderate estimates, 39% of U.S. spending goes towards paying for past and current military or related expenses. Some sources cited higher numbers, but even the U.S. government budget shows that around 20% of spending goes towards discretionary spending of "security," most of which is labelled defense. 
 
This means that for every $100 of tax money, I could consider $39 going towards military related projects or debt. As an international, I am happy to contribute the remaining $61 for creating a healthier society for the friends and community I was a part of in Harrisonburg. But with many of them, I lament the military focus of U.S. spending, and have no political voice in making any change.
 
So what to do? Talking to citizens of the U.S. concerned about the same problem, I heard advice such as using a combination of tax credits and simple living to reduce or avoid paying taxes. Others withheld a portion of their taxes with a letter to the treasury and to their representative. Still others donate extra to organizations that promote peace. Although some options of the above would not be available to me as a non-citizen, I still need to decide. 
 
Returning to Canada, I hear the discouraging news about proposals for increasing the Canadian defense budget. Unfortunately, it seems that the national narrative in regards to military is following our neighbours to the south. Although I've heard stories for years of people doing creative things to channel their tax dollars to peaceful uses, it's time for me to really learn about the movement for peace with taxes in Canada. What creative ways to respond do you suggest?
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