By DAVID MEINERT
I’m a small business owner. I work hard. I take risks. I create jobs. And I’m part of the 99 percent.
Widespread outrage over growing income inequality and a political system that puts the financial interests of Wall Street banks, large corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans ahead of the needs of middle-class and poor people has sparked protests around the country – a burgeoning “99 Percent Movement.”
As a small business owner, I am compelled to do what I can to support this movement because their struggle for an economy that works for the 99 percent is also my struggle. It’s a shared struggle that small business owners must embrace if we hope to get our country back on track.
Shortly after Occupy Seattle started, my company Big Mario’s sent 100 slices of pizza to the occupiers in Westlake Park. Our customers have also been quick to pitch-in. We now make two deliveries per day from people calling in from all over the city donating pizza.
This month, as part of national Bank Transfer Day, I moved our business accounts from Bank of America Corp. to a local community bank — both a practical business decision and a broader political statement.
The same Wall Street banks responsible for collapsing our economy are sitting on taxpayer financed bailout money rather than reinvesting in loans to small businesses to fuel job growth, even while continuing to engage in risky behavior and paying massive bonuses to executives.
When I applied for a small line of credit from Chase last year, I was turned down within 12 hours, with no explanation, despite good credit and a profitable business earning more than $2 million in revenue.
If elected leaders are serious about supporting small businesses and fixing the economy, it’s time to change the terms of our political debate.
Small businesses don’t need more tax giveaways for the rich. We don’t need more money spent on bank bailouts, subsidies for oil companies, corporate agribusiness, and the wars. We need money reinvested in American infrastructure, education, health care, and people.
My businesses wouldn’t exist without these reinvestments. No business makes money without the infrastructure our taxes pay for.
Investing in the 99 percent economy means more customers for small businesses. And, contrary to what Congressman John Boehner might have you believe, small businesses create jobs when we have more customers, not when a wealthy CEO gets yet another tax break.
Corporations are paying lower taxes than ever, raking in all-time high profits, yet instead of making investments or hiring new workers, these companies are hoarding trillions of dollars of cash, and paying obscene wages to a small group of executives at the top.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “corporations have a higher share of cash on their balance sheets than at any time in nearly half a century, as businesses build up buffers rather than invest in new plants or hiring.”
When state budget writers convene next month in Olympia for a special legislative session, they should take note. Close corporate tax loopholes. Raise revenue. Abandon the failed policies of reckless cuts to education and health care that destroy jobs and keep our economy stagnant.
It’s the same fight in Washington, D.C. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) grew up working the cash register in her family business on Main Street in Bothell. She should bring these Main Street small business values to her role co-chairing the deficit reduction supercommittee, because if the supercommittee achieves a “grand bargain” only by slashing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid – the most successful programs to strengthen the middle class and combat poverty our nation has ever produced – it will be a slap in the face to the 99 percent.
I’m proud to join other small business leaders in support of The 99 Percent Movement. Let’s do what we do best and support the protesters through our businesses, whether it’s feeding them, clothing them, or helping them get their – our – message out.
Enough is enough. It’s time to reinvest in the 99 percent economy.
David Meinert is the owner of Big Mario’s Pizza and The 5 Point Café in Seattle.