|I meant what I said.
I stood before a group of voters in Massachusetts last year and talked about what it would take to move forward as a nation. I laid out how we all needed to invest in our country, to build a strong foundation for our families today and make sure the next kid with the great idea has the chance to succeed.
But too often that kid can’t succeed because the system is rigged against him.
Small-business owners bust their tails every day. They’re the first ones in and the last to leave, six and often seven days a week. That’s how my Aunt Alice ran her small restaurant, where I worked as a kid. My brother and my daughter both started small businesses. And I’ve visited and talked with small-business owners across Massachusetts. From the insurance agency in Brockton to the coffee shop in Greenfield and the manufacturing plant in Lawrence — all started and run by people with good ideas and a determination to succeed.
I believe in small businesses. They’re the heart and soul of our economy. They create jobs and opportunities for the future.
Washington politicians line up 10-deep to claim they support small businesses, but they avoid talking about a harsh reality: The system is rigged against small business. These owners can’t afford armies of lobbyists in D.C., but the big corporations can. It’s those armies of lobbyists that create the loopholes and special breaks that let big corporations off the hook for paying taxes. While small businesses are left to pay the bills.
We’ve got to close those loopholes and end the special breaks — so small businesses have a level playing field and a fair chance to succeed.
When small businesses grow and flourish, we should applaud their success, and the companies should benefit from their hard work and clever ideas. But here’s my point: If a business makes it big, the reward shouldn’t be the ability to rig the system to stop the next guy.
If a business takes its profits to the Cayman Islands, ships its jobs overseas or finds a loophole to avoid paying its fair share of taxes, then that business now has a leg up over every small business and start up that can’t take advantage of those loopholes. Sometimes the big can get bigger not because they are better but because they can work the system better. That’s bad for every small business in America.
Asked recently about news that Mitt Romney had money in offshore tax havens, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “It’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally…. It’s a game we play. … I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game.”
Graham is right about one thing — it’s a game for some. It’s a rigged game that benefits big corporations and billionaires who can deploy armies of lobbyists and lawyers to create those tax loopholes and then exploit them.
The game is rigged to work for profitable oil companies, who made $137 billion in profits last year — and still collected billions of dollars’ worth of government subsidies. The game is rigged to work for big multinational corporations, which get tax breaks to ship U.S. jobs overseas and park investments abroad. The game is rigged to work for hedge fund managers and billionaires, who pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Meanwhile, their Republican allies are making sure the rules stay rigged in their favor.
But for the tens of millions of working families and small businesses left holding the bag — it’s not a game. For the small businesses that can’t spend millions of dollars to hire lobbyists who get them special deals or hire armies of lawyers to move their money overseas or restructure their operations to take advantage of every loophole, it isn’t a game.
Washington is rigged to work against their interests with real-life consequences. They compete against the big companies, working hard to hold on to the American dream of providing a better life for their kids and grandkids. They see how the game is rigged.
We face a real choice in this country between the Republicans’ “I’ve got mine,” approach and the belief that, as a nation, we reward success and hard work — keeping the playing field level so that everyone with a good idea, a dream of making it big and plenty of determination has a chance to make it.
We must be committed to the American dream, the approach that made us the most prosperous and strongest country in the world and built a future of opportunity for our children and grandchildren.
The choice is ours.
Elizabeth Warren is running as a Democrat for the Senate in Massachusetts, against Republican Sen. Scott Brown. She served as chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel for TARP and as assistant to the president and special adviser to the treasury secretary for the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.