I am a small-business owner in Missoula — my husband and I own Tandem Bakery, a very small wholesale operation with five employees — and I’m also the mother of a 2-year-old daughter. Right now I am deeply troubled by the way the recent GOP tax legislation threatens my ability to do either of these jobs.

Over the past few weeks, as I anxiously watched the bill wind its way through both houses of Congress, I have tried to suss out how specifically it might impact my family and our business. I spent evenings and nap times reading about pass-through income, tax brackets, child tax credit refundability and personal deductions. But in the end, I realized that I was missing the forest for the trees.

This legislation wasn’t designed with folks like you or me in mind; it is a bait-and-switch intended to help giant corporations and the richest 1 percent at the expense of the rest of us. This is made painfully obvious by the fact that the only permanent provisions are the drastic slash to the corporate tax rate and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Any meager cuts that regular individuals receive will expire after 2025, or sooner. And those cuts will be more than offset by skyrocketing health insurance rates after the repeal of the individual mandate.

Because I am a small-business owner, an employer and a mother, I am just the kind of person many politicians love to say they want to help. Which is why I am so frustrated with the ongoing attacks on my health care by the current legislature. Healthcare access is a small-business issue and this legislation is just another attempt to put insurance coverage out of reach for folks like me and my family. Because we are self-employed, employer-provided insurance is not an option for us. So when private insurance rates go up, as they will as a result of this legislation, we will be forced to choose between health insurance and our business.

I am also a Montanan and I understand our state’s pride in our individualism and hard work. I know that we want minimal intrusion from the federal government. But as business owner and mother, I need the government to provide some basic infrastructure. I need a well-maintained highway and rail system, so that I can get the ingredients I need for my bakery and so that I can get my products to my customers. I need my daughter to have access to public education. I need my retired mother to have access to health care through Medicare, because I can’t afford to pay for her medical bills as she ages. Because I’m self-employed I don’t have access to a pension, so I expect that the Social Security system I have been paying into for my whole working life will still be there when I retire. I know that an adequate tax base is necessary to pay for these things, and I am truly concerned that this legislation will undermine that.

I am heartbroken to be here scrambling to keep my business open while also making sure my family will not be bankrupted by accident or illness. And I am furious with representatives who pay lip service to hard-working Americans like me and my family while systematically dismantling safety nets and bankrupting programs we depend on. All in order to make the rich even richer.

In the future, when folks like me are casting ballots, we will remember who voted for this tax debacle and who is actually pro-family and pro-small business.

Beth Gherlein and her husband own Tandem Bakery in Missoula. 

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