With the possible changes we are looking at to our tax code, and the effects they would have to our health care in the state (ACA, Medicare and MaineCare), I would like to speak quickly about small business and our congressman. I run a small shop over on the coast together with my wife. We’re primarily a wine store, but sell cheese, coffee, tea, tobacco and cigars as well. It’s a small town, so you have to do a bit of everything to get people in the door. My wife even runs a simple restaurant one night per week in the off-season to help keep our employees busy when the season dies down.
We look a lot like most other small businesses in the Second District. Aside from my wife and myself, we have two regular employees, plus more in the summer. Most people I know in my area are contractors of some sort: self-employed carpenters or fishermen, piecing together bit work or several part-time jobs to put a living together. For places like the Second District, getting access to the individual insurance market was essential, since there are so few employers large enough to offer insurance plans.
We first started trying to get in contact with Rep. Poliquin’s staff in February or so, when talk began of people trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. That program — with all its flaws — allowed me and many of my employees to get real health insurance for the first time. So we put a lot of effort into communicating our concerns about repeal with the congressman’s office. He likes to say he only meets with “job creators.” We’re not big, but small businesses like us are what the great majority of employment looks like in this district — businesses with, say, under 20 employees. Put us all together, we are the job creators. We made several efforts, together with the other small businesses in my town, to schedule meetings with staff at his Bangor office and never heard from them. And evidently we and others like us went over there too much, because they moved the office from right downtown to somewhere I have still not been able to locate.
Of course, we were disappointed when Mr. Poliquin voted for the House version of the ACA repeal bill. It was a pretty tight vote, and not on a straight party-line. There were plenty of Republican members of Congress around the country who, like Sen. Collins, saw the damage to their districts as too great to support the bill, and put their constituents before their party.
With all of the different attempts to repeal the ACA, combined with the administration’s attempts to sabotage the health care market, and now the congressional budget plans, it can be hard to remember that all of this has really been about cutting taxes for the very wealthy. The funding cuts to the ACA that would have left 39,000 or so of us in CD2 without coverage actually were going to fund a huge tax cut that only went to people in the top income brackets, very few of whom live in Mr. Poliquin’s district. This has come up again, because the budget proposal that the congressman has just voted for is looking to do the same thing. There are mammoth cuts proposed to both Medicare and Medicaid in order to pay for not only tax cuts for wealthy individuals, but new ways for corporations to move money offshore and banks and bankers to hide their income and avoid paying their fair share. Maine is the oldest state in the union and certainly not the wealthiest. Neither my business, nor any other Maine small business that I know sees any benefit from these tax breaks, but we would suffer from the cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other life-saving programs.
Basically, it’s understandable to me that the congressman should have the perspective he does. His money was made in the investment world and the bulk of his campaign donations come from insurance, investment and banking firms. Those are his peers and colleagues; it is natural that he should see the world from their point of view. What I understand less well is why our congressman here in the Second District won’t meet to hear the concerns of the business owners who support the economy of his district. Or, if there wouldn’t be other districts with more intensive activity in those fields that would take greater benefit from his representation.