As 2023 ends, I’ve been asking myself: How much money am I, personally, contributing to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and its attack on Gaza?
The Israeli assault on Gaza launched after the October 7 attacks by Hamas has so far killed more than 20,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including thousands of children and over 100 journalists. Nearly 90 percent of the territory’s residents have been displaced, and it has been called “one of this century’s most destructive wars.”
So how much have I chipped in to create this hell on earth?
The best answer I’ve come up with is $150.
There are two ways of looking at this number.
One is that this is a relatively small amount of money. Another is that the U.S. is so astonishingly rich and powerful that we as a country can mete out overwhelming brutality to others and barely notice as individuals. This is, in part, what makes the dollar amount of my contribution especially horrifying.
What the U.S. Gives Israel
In any case, $150 is necessarily a guesstimate. It could be more or less. Let’s go through how I came up with the figure.
To start with, adherents of modern monetary theory would tell you the government doesn’t need to tax anyone to spend. I believe this is correct. It’s part of why the notion of “taxpayer money” is a dangerous misconception: What we’re talking about really is “public money” — it doesn’t belong only to taxpayers. For our purposes, however, these are distinctions without a difference.
Next, we have to look at how much money the federal government spent in 2023, and on what. The federal 2023 fiscal year ended on September 30, but I’m going to assume the FY2023 numbers are equal to calendar year 2023.
In 2023, the government spent about $6.3 trillion. About $1.4 trillion of that is the cost of Social Security, which has its own dedicated revenue sources, mostly payroll taxes. Then, $0.8 trillion was spent on Medicare, about half of which comes from general revenue. So let’s say the total federal spending that has to be funded from non-dedicated sources is $4.5 trillion ($6.3 trillion minus $1.4 trillion minus $0.4 trillion). This isn’t precisely right for various complicated reasons, but it’s close enough.
The total aid the U.S. will be giving to Israel in 2023 and early 2024 will be about $18 billion. (That’s the $3.8 billion in normal annual aid, plus $14.5 billion in supplemental aid that’s been passed by the House and will surely be passed soon by the Senate.)
If you want, you could argue that Israel uses this for things other than its attack on Gaza and its wider occupation of Palestinian lands. But let’s, in our thought experiment, apply the twisted logic of the U.S.’s laws against material support: All cash is fungible, which is to say that even if Israel doesn’t spend all the U.S. money killing Palestinians, those other expenditures free up money to put toward that purpose.
It’s also true that the U.S. is supporting Israel’s actions in ways other than direct aid that also cost money: shielding Israel at the United Nations, sending the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Groups to the Mediterranean, etc. So let’s call it a wash and just use the $18 billion number.
That $18 billion is 0.4 percent of $4.5 trillion.
What I Give Israel
The $4.5 trillion in outlays comes from various sources, mostly income taxes, corporate taxes, and borrowing.
I’ll pay about $27,000 in federal income taxes for 2023. I also purchased government bonds: the maximum-allowed $10,000 in inflation-protected I bonds.
My 401(k) and mutual funds probably bought some federal bonds too. And surely some of the burden of corporate taxes fell on me, also through my 401(k) and mutual funds. Then, I paid some tax costs that companies were able to pass along to consumers. But there’s no way to calculate all this, and it all was certainly a small amount in any case. So let’s just add the $27,000 together with the $10,000 and say I contributed a total of $37,000 out of that $4.5 trillion.
Four-tenths of a percent of $37,000 is about $150.
There you have it. That’s my monetary contribution to the extraordinary brutality of Israel’s occupation and its war on Gaza.
You can figure out your own contribution if you want: Add your income taxes to any federal bonds you bought this year and multiply that number by 0.004. It’s easy, but not very fun.
At that point, you may ask yourself: What can I do about this, beyond trying to stop this war?
There is a long history of tax resistance in America. However, technology has made it easier for the government to track where all your money is, and if you refuse to pay taxes, it will eventually seize what you owe out of your bank accounts. You will likely also go to prison.
You theoretically can also vote for anti-war candidates in 2024, but there often aren’t any. And even if they win, they won’t take office for more than a year, much too late to make any difference in the current war. Despite the unpopularity of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and cracks beginning to show in the Democratic coalition, the pro-Israel lobby and bipartisan support for Israel remain strong in Washington, where foreign policy is set.
So I don’t know what the answer is. If you figure it out, please let me know.
#Taxes #Israels #Gaza #War