Monday, August 31, 2015

Donald Duck and the Income Tax Return of 1941

It's a long, long way from the War of 1812 to World War II. Many people who are interested in the one have no desire to delve into the other. The United States of 1942 is such a very different place from the United States of 1812. The biggest difference is the existence of the war machine, fueled by the income tax. And in case you don't think that the purpose of the income tax is to engage in war, listen to Donald Duck. Acting as the mouthpiece of the Federal government, he explains this very clearly.

In this film, an ominous looking radio represents the government, and Donald Duck stands for the ordinary citizen. When Donald hears that his help is needed to defend the country, his first thought is that he should join the militia. using the weapons he has around the house.

But the government explains to him that it does not want his puny weapons. It is planning to build much better weapons using the military industrial complex, and all Donald needs to do is pay his taxes. And it will be easy, because now there is this new simplified form.

Then the government reminds Donald Duck of all the freedoms his tax dollars and the weapons they buy will protect, among these the freedom to worship, and freedom of speech, but notably absent are the right to bear arms or the right to be free from searches and seizures. Economic freedom is not mentioned at all. The government wants to save democracy, but it does not seem to remember that the United States is not a democracy, but rather a constitutional republic. The radio voice lists a new "freedom" unheard of by the Founding Fathers: "the freedom from fear and want."

On April 27, 1942,  President Roosevelt said to Congress: "In this time of great national danger, when all excess income should go to win the war, no American citizen ought to have a net income, after he has paid his taxes, of more than $25,000 a year." (Bank, Stark and Thorndike 2008.97)

Is there any doubt that we had a communist in the White House? And why exactly did Walt Disney collaborate with him? The Secretary of the Treasury had wanted the movie short to feature a generic taxpayer. It was Disney who insisted that the average citizen would find it easier to identify with Donald Duck.

Despite the new spirit of Donald Duck, Congress did not quite go along with President Roosevelt's plan in 1942 to put at cap on income at twenty-five thousand, but it did set the tax rate on the highest bracket at 82%, which is pretty close.

A government-financed military and a standing army go hand in hand with the loss of the majority of the rights secured by the constitution and in the bill of rights. The question is: when did the average American citizen become Donald Duck?


Bank, Steven A., Kirk J. Stark and Joseph J. Thorndike. 2008. War and Taxes. Washington D.C.:The Urban Institute Press.


  1. Disney actually decided to go to Latin America to make some cartoons because he said the government kept insisting he make war propaganda cartoons. He said a few were okay by him, but after awhile he did not want his characters meerly representing fighting. So if you ever look for some classic Disney cartoons, there are a few where they went to Latin America, which was also around the time Latin music became popular in the US. It was a bit of escapism as this was part of the world that was not as impacted by the war.

    1. Hi, Julia. I did not know that! I will look for those Latin American Disney cartoons. That is very interesting and useful information.

      It seems as if freedom of speech was very much impacted by the propaganda machine, if Disney had to leave the country to avoid being a mouthpiece of the government.

    2. They talked about it on a Disney documentary years ago. Actually, a lot of Latin music because popular in the 1940's because people were tired of constant war talk, and wanted some escapism.

    3. That is good to know. Do you happen to remember the name of the documentary?

    4. So long ago, unfortunately I do not. You can always search to see if this is accurate.

    5. Hi, Julia, I don't doubt that it's accurate, I am just interested in seeing it myself. Since you told me about this, other people have shared Donald Duck war propaganda videos with me that I had not seen before.