We’re not opposed to taxes. Theoretically, the idea that we as a society pool our resources and get to decide what our priorities are is pretty positive. But between the way for-profit corporations are paying less and less — as they get richer and richer — and what our money is being used for, it often makes us feel sick to pay even a penny into the federal system.

This year, thanks to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA — aka the Republican Corporate Giveaway), the number of Fortune 500 corporations paying $0 in taxes, and even getting money back, doubled. According to an April 2019 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, over 60 companies avoided all federal income taxes in 2018. The TCJA lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% (though very few companies paid the 35% tax rate anyway), “while leaving intact most of the tax breaks that allowed profitable companies to zero out their income taxes.”

How much did you make in 2018? What did you pay in federal taxes?

Amazon made $11 billion in U.S. income last year and got a tax rebate of $129 million. Netflix made $856 million in U.S. income and paid $0 in taxes. The drug company Eli Lilly made $598 million in U.S. income and got $54 million back. Oil giant Halliburton made $1.08 billion in the U.S. and received $19 million back. John Deere made $2.15 billion in the U.S. and will get $268 million from the government.

Let’s remember that Maine Senator Susan Collins supported this law. Despite claims made by corporate and governmental leaders, the main use of corporate tax cuts so far has been a $1 trillion wave of the companies buying back their own stocks, rather than more jobs, truly better pay, or any number of other things to benefit the public good. Are you surprised?

If the federal government weren’t so focused on giving out welfare and special deals to the rich and for-profit corporations, we might find ourselves much less constrained here in Maine (and especially here in Rockland, where we are perpetually pinched for funds), as the feds would have more funds to support states and municipalities.

Ironically, the Maine GOP held “A Tax Day Uprising” in Augusta on Monday — ironic considering that Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress’s TCJA will raise the federal deficit to $900 billion this year, and to more than $1 trillion by 2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Believe us, we are no champions of the Democratic Party, but we should all be clear: the recent Republican Party has been a disaster on both fair taxation and balanced budgets. Republican George W. Bush and his mostly Republican Congress grew the deficit enormously and made policies that led to the worst recession since the Great Depression, while it was the Democratic Obama administration and Congress who brought the economy back into a healthier place (while unfortunately maintaining some of the highest rates of wealth disparity in the country’s history).

What does our tax money do? It rips crying infants from their parents’ arms at our southern border. It funds the largest system of mass incarceration in the world and creates a permanent underclass subjugated by poverty. It powers a war machine that, since 9/11, has spent nearly $6 trillion on wars that directly contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. It builds an ineffective, distracting and xenophobic wall.

What could a greater proportion of our tax money be going to? It could support nonprofit health care for all. It could ensure that we all have adequate food and shelter. It could fund libraries, creative, caring schools, clean water, anti-oppression trainings, environmental policies, immigrant support, public spaces, rehabs, and all manner of healing things.

We aren’t only horrified to pay taxes under the Trump administration, although it’s true that they seem to be dismantling so many of the things we care about, and displaying a level of public cruelty we’ve not seen in our lifetimes in the U.S. Under Obama’s presidency, we saw the highest number of weapons sold around the world by an administration since WWII. Obama’s administration deported over 2.5 million people and was ordered to release immigrant mothers and children locked for months in detention centers who, according to the judge, were being held in “widespread deplorable conditions.” It was devastating to know our tax money was going to fund that as well.

We must continue to work for a world where our government is not controlled by corporations, and for a fair tax policy where the primary beneficiaries of our pooled resources are people and the planet, not the wealthy and for-profit corporations.