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OK, I admit it. I really do hate paying my taxes every year. I am self-employed, so I have the joy of paying taxes four times a year. I remember my granny telling me, “Only two things you can count on in life, death and taxes.”

I always pay my taxes. I pay my fair share. My taxes are not that bad, but I feel the pain each month when I pay my bills and my checking account is no account.

But I remind my grumpy self that my taxes help pay for roads, power grids, health care, education and much more. I want our nation to invest in building better roads, better schools, better energy systems and more affordable health insurance.

Here’s the thing: My granny was wrong on this one. Taxes are not a sure thing for all Americans. What really gets my goat is that lots of billionaires and corporations do not face an inevitable tax bill. Lots of really rich folks and corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes, or any taxes at all.

Last year, 55 hugely profitable corporations, like Nike and FedEx, paid zero federal income taxes.

A billionaire can pay a lower tax rate than a teacher or truck driver. Most people make money from working, but the rich are different — they make money from their money. And a lot of that investment income is taxed at a lower rate than the wages of West Virginians who get up and go to a job every day.

For decades, big corporations and the rich have made sure politicians punched the tax code full of holes so they pay less than they should. An example is that corporations get big tax discounts on profits they make offshore. That sure doesn’t help bring jobs home to America.

Granny was right when she said, “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.”

But this must change. It is time for Congress to:

  • Make sure that the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Eliminate corporate tax breaks that encourage corporations to shift jobs overseas.
  • Close tax loopholes that allow big corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and help small businesses compete with big corporations.

Fixing our broken tax system that favors billionaires and corporations could add hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue to the federal budget. And, in turn, that revenue could be spent to help to working families struggling to make ends meet.

One example of how Congress can spend money to help working families: lower health insurance premiums. One of my biggest bills every month is my health insurance premium. The Affordable Care Act has helped lower my premiums a lot. I really do thank my lucky stars for the ACA.

But, like many working West Virginians, the cost of coverage remains a financial challenge for me, even with the ACA’s premium subsidy. In March, when Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act, the ACA premium subsidies were temporarily increased.

That helped me and has helped millions of Americans by lowering health insurance premiums. In West Virginia, the rescue plan raised the proportion of West Virginians who can buy insurance at healthcare.gov for $50 a month or less from 36% to 64%.

But this extra help will disappear at the end of 2022. Congress must act to make these lower premiums permanent.

Our nation can afford to make this change, and provide other help to working families, too.

I know West Virginians believe in fairness, in justice and in helping those who struggle even though they work hard and do their best. And my West Virginia neighbors and family agree that corporations and billionaires should pay their fair share of taxes.

Corporate tax breaks won’t help West Virginia’s working families. We need Congress to pass legislation that helps working West Virginians. We need Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to stand up for fair-share taxes and investments in working families. Yes, Manchin should do his best to bring along his Republican colleagues. But if they won’t join him — if they insist on putting politics before people — Manchin has to do what he must to stand up for working West Virginians.

Kathleen Stoll is policy director for West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and operates Kat Consulting, a policy and economic consulting business.

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