In 1995, I opened Arabica Coffee Co. in Portland’s Old Port. Today, Arabica employs 10 people, including me.

A protester holds a sign that reads “Stop the war on the poor! Tax Amazon!” as he stands outside’s annual meeting of shareholders, May 30, 2018, in Seattle. The company paid a tax rate of 6 percent on the record profits that it took in during the pandemic. Ted S. Warren/Associated Press, File

Portland has changed a lot since I started Arabica; so has the rest of Maine. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that Maine is a uniquely self-sufficient state. Most of our businesses are very small, with fewer than 20 employees. And more than half of us work for small businesses.

I’m proud of my small business, and I feel like it’s an important part of who I am. But no matter who we are or what we do for a living, most of us want the same things for ourselves and our families: health care, good schools and help when we struggle to meet our basic needs.

Most of us do our part for this by paying our taxes. But many superrich corporations and the billionaires who run them aren’t doing their part. In fact, they get away with paying a fraction of what we do. Amazon and Netflix both took in record profits during the pandemic. But their tax rates were 6 percent and 1 percent, respectively. And many of the richest corporations doing business in the U.S. (including Zoom, FedEx and Nike) paid no federal corporate income taxes on their profits at all.

Meanwhile, most small-business owners pay taxes on their business profits as income – which means that they can pay up to 37 percent.

Most Americans believe that tax policies should reduce the wealth gap, not exacerbate it.  But that gap has only grown during the pandemic as these already-rich corporations jacked up prices for essentials like food, diapers and gas on people struggling to make a living, and helped cause the inflation crisis we’re now facing.


Americans want a tax policy that’s not rigged against us, and that doesn’t rob vital resources from our communities. But the privileged few are using their nearly-unlimited resources to keep things the way they are – or make them even worse –  by pouring millions of dollars into candidates and elections to elect people who will rig the economy, and our democracy, in their favor.

They and the politicians they support want us to fight over the scraps left behind after they’ve hoarded the vast majority of this country’s wealth.

They’re experts at distracting voters from the truth by trying to divide us, by railing against any discussion of race and racism; by using debunked arguments blaming people who come to this country fleeing violence or in search of a better life, and by scapegoating workers, low-income people and even entire generations.

Meanwhile, they’re hoarding money that should be used for schools, roads, broadband, clean water, public safety and parks. Those are the things that help communities thrive, and businesses like mine need thriving communities to succeed and grow. We pay our taxes to support those investments – billionaires and rich corporations must do the same.

When we refuse to be distracted and divided, and see things as they really are, we can come together and fight for what’s right. A majority of Americans support making rich people and corporations pay their fair share in taxes, and we’re frustrated that corporations and the wealthy aren’t paying their fair share.

Right now, Congress is working on legislation that could change this. So let’s do what Americans have long done when we have something to say – let’s let our members of Congress know that we want a system that works for all of us. Let’s fight for a system that puts small businesses like mine on a level playing field with the big guys. Let’s fund public schools and universities. Let’s build and repair our roads and bridges. Let’s invest in the parks that make our cities and towns better places to live. And let’s help our friends and neighbors when they need it most.

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