By Steven Clyde
The struggle to fund World War II led to the most desperate attempts of persuading the general public, from FDR’s fireside chats speaking of how paying taxes is a “privilege”, to the introduction of the withholdings tax in which Americans would have the taxes they owe siphoned off from the employers to the government throughout the year to avoid paying a lump sum on March 15th.
The third tactic?
After what happened with World War I and the doubling of prices from a military budget constricted to a limited amount of taxes, the government came up with these seemingly foolproof schemes. To even our current dismay in the 21st century where over 90% of people file their taxes on average, it was heavily effective at getting people to file taxes. With a dramatic increase from 13.6% having filed at the beginning of the war to 84.6% having filed by the end of the war, the propaganda was indeed successful.
But alas, brainwashing kids is wrong, correct? It couldn’t be possible that say Walt Disney Productions had a knack for getting the “patriotic” message sent through in the form of a cartoon. In fact, by 1942 over 90% of Disney’s staff were devoted to pumping out propaganda films for different sectors of the government and military. The Navy alone had ordered over 50 films to be produced. To those who may have noticed how our society and media can somewhat be cartoonish, it’s no surprise that much of our history is riddled with misinformation in the form of cartoons.
“But you must save for tax time…this is your war!” says the patriotic duck!
“I’ll show you how to spend your dough” says the Nazi duck!
At first glance, Disney didn’t leave us with too many options here. On one hand, we could save for taxes to fund the war which we may or may not support, but the other option is we spend our money and essentially support the Nazis and starve our soldiers! That’s a tough one!
“Spend for the axis, or save for taxes!”
“Every dollar spent on something you don’t need, is another dollar spent helping the axis!”
You read that right: when you spent money on yourself you were spending it for the axis meaning you were essentially funding your own death if the Nazi’s attacked! How terrible!
But it gets worse!
“Our taxes run the factories, working day and night making guns, machine guns, heavy range guns, guns all types of guns to blast the aggressors from the seas!”
“Taxes to bury the axis!”
“Taxes for ships, battleships, battlecruisers, destroyers, all kinds of battlewagons!”
At least they eventually got to the truth, which is that what we really needed the tax money for is the military industrial complex, or in other words the massive weapons contracts from the government.
But these weren’t just ANY weapons factories of course. They were America’s weapons factories, and to underfund them would be to shoot yourself in the foot really!
“Taxes will keep democracy on the march!”
And indeed they did, yet democracy seems too nice of a word to describe imperialism, as it implies whatever the government does is the will of the people, and whatever they spend the tax money on is the will of the people.
Disney, incredibly, was an extremely efficient conveyer of the message that the federal government wanted to give to the American people which was essentially:
“Pay your taxes to bury the axis…or else!!!”.
 This was thought to be the first appearance of Scrooge McDuck