Who are the Voices for Small Business?

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter And author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published on 6/2/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business

Source: When the small business owner needs a voice, where do they go? We provide a host of some of the largest organizations that advocate for the small business community.

Small Businesses are the life blood of the US economy, and account for half of the total number of jobs and persons employed. Small businesses account for the majority of local economic engines. When Small Businesses need support or a voice to stand up for their concerns, there are a number of organizations they can rely on to advocate on their behalf. Here are a few organizations that have received positive rankings from small business owners:

Association of Washington Business: Since its formation in 1904, Washington’s oldest and largest business association continues to serve as the state’s chamber of commerce as well as the manufacturing and technology association. AWB advocates on behalf of businesses of all sizes and from all industries, working to unify and find solutions to issues facing Washington employers, their employees and communities. AWB is located at: 1414 Cherry St. SE, Olympia, WA 98501, toll free number: 800-521-9325, e-mail: members@awb.org. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.awb.org.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization: Founded in 1987, EO is a global business network that enables business owners to learn from each other by providing numerous resources to assist in educating and inspiring personal and professional growth. EO has international locations in Singapore, Belgium, Panama, and Canada, EO’s global headquarters is located at: 500 Montgomery Street, Suite 700, Alexandria, VA 22314, telephone: 1-703-519-6700. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.eonetwork.org.

Minority Business Development Agency: Minority Business Development Agency is an agency of the US Dept. of Commerce. Their focus is to assist in the development and growth of minority-owned businesses, utilizing private and public sector programs, policy, and research. Additional information can be found at: https://www.mbda.gov.

National Association for the Self-Employed: Since 1981, NASE – the National Association for the Self-Employed, has been the nation’s leading resource for entrepreneurs, utilizing publications, media relations and a foundation with which entrepreneurs and their small businesses can benefit from. It is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan association of its kind in the US. NASE is located in Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0241, telephone: (US) 1-800-649-6273 and (AK & HI) 1-800-232-6273. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.nase.org.

National Business Association: The National Business Association (NBA) has been working alongside small business owners for 35 years, providing resources and benefits needed for business owners to succeed. The NBA can be reached by telephone: 1-800-456-0440. Additional information can be found on their website: nationalbusiness.org.

National Federation of Independent Businesses: Founded in 1943, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), is the largest small business association in the US, working to defend the right of small business owners to own and operate their businesses without undue government interference. NFIB has offices in all 50 state capitals, including Washington, D.C., with its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. They can be reached by calling: 1-800-NFIB-NOW, or 615-872-5800. Additional information can be found on their website: www.nfib.com.

National Minority Supplier Development Council: National Minority Supplier Development Council is a non-profit organization that advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members, building long term strategic partnerships which encourage economic commerce between large corporate interests and locally developed small businesses owned by minority men and women. NMSDC also assists minority owned small businesses to obtain their certifications. NMSDC is located at 1359 Broadway, 10th Floor, Suite 1000, NY, NY 10018. You can also call NMSDC at (212)-944-2430 or through the NMSDC website: www.nmsdc.org

National Retail Federation: The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing retailers from over 45 countries, including the US. Their mission is to use advocacy, communications and education with which to promote the best interests of the retail industry. The NRF is located at 1101 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC, telephone: 1-800-673-4692, or 1-202-783-7971. Additional information can be found on their website: https://nrf.com.

National Small Business Association: Since 1990, the National Small Business Association, Inc. has provided small business owners, their employees, and retirees access to innovative services, resources, and benefits, such as collegiate scholarship awards to eligible NSBA members and their families. The NSBA is committed to small business advocacy and public awareness. Telephone: 1-888-800-3416, and email: contact@nsba.net. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.nsba.net.

Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association: Starting in 1973, the international Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association represents the interests of independent owner-operators and professional drivers on every issue affecting truckers in all 50 states and Canada. OOIDA seek to ensure that truckers are treated with equality and to ensure highway safety and responsibility among all highway users, as well as improve the business climate for all truck operators. Located at 1 NW OOIDA Drive, Grain Valley, MO 64029; telephone: 1-800-444-5791. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.ooida.com.

Small Business Administration: Founded on July 30, 1953, the US Small Business Administration focuses on four main venues with which it works: assistance to capital, entrepreneurial development, government contracting and advocacy for small business across the United States. The SBA provides millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and various other forms of resource and assistance to small businesses. The SBA has several key locations, with a toll-free number: 1-800-827-5722. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.sba.gov.

Small Business Association of America: Since 1964, The Small Business Association of America has provided insured benefits, discount benefit plans and services to its members, who included small business owners, those self-employed, individuals and families. Monthly dues are required. SBA is a non-profit organization located in Washington DC. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.sbaamerica.com.

Small Business International: Small Business International provides guidance and resources when a small business entertains the possibility of connecting with international partners, including matching products and services with over 80,000 other members. Business can find out more information about importing or exporting, trade laws and compliance, and more. Visit Small Business International at www.smallbusinessinternational.com

Small Business Owners & Professionals Association: Small Business Owners and Professionals Association of Canada is a non-profit organization founded with the mission to provide small business owners, their employees and retirees access to a wide variety of services, programs, information and benefits, such as sponsorship activities, networking opportunities, scholarships, and advocacy, all to aid in the success of their businesses. Additional information can be found on their website: http://sboapa.org.

United States Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship:  The US Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship is an organization that seeks to assist the entrepreneurship community through teaching, scholarship, and practice opportunities. The USASBE includes members who are teachers, researchers, program directors and practitioners. Located at: 1214 Hyland Hall, 800 W. Main St., Whitewater, WI 53190, telephone: 262-472-1449. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.usasbe.org.

US Chamber of Commerce: Founded on April 22, 1912, The US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing the interests of over 3 million businesses with 3 main areas of focus: advocacy, community, and leadership. Members include mom-and-pop shops, local chambers, large corporations and leading industry associations. The USCC is located at: 1615 H Street, NJ, Washington, DC 20062-2000, telephone: 1-800-638-6582. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.uschamber.com.

Young Entrepreneurs Council: Young Entrepreneurs Council provides all the tools needed for its members to become successful business entrepreneurs. The YEC staff utilizes their extensive knowledge, networking opportunities, media exposure, and personal branding development to bring their members from novice to polished professional. YEC is located at: 745 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02110, email: info@yec.co. Additional information can be found at: https://yec.co.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

 

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The World’s Demand for Alternatives to Traditional Currency

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 2/5/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Barter, Business, Community, Currency, Economy, Finance, Free Enterprise, Small Business

Source: With technology ten steps ahead of the market, even more options for paying bills have become readily available for both the consumer and for the merchant. We explore the many options payment options a business may choose to accept.

Two factors have changed the way we conduct commerce and financial transactions in the world over the past fifty years. The leading factor is the faith that people now have in traditional currency. Many countries, their money supply is based on one factor: faith; the belief that the value of the piece of paper or coin is a true representative of the value of good and/or services they wish to purchase.

Prior to what is known as “fiat currency,” money supply that is backed by no hard good, commodity, or tangible asset, that is widely accepted as a mark of trade, such as precious metals like gold or silver; Most countries would back their value of their currency on tradable commodities which had a real market value.  In recent years, crude oil and petro chemical fuels were used to support currency, while these same currencies were used as the preferred measuring stick against oil. Such is not the case anymore, now that even tying the US Dollar to fossil fuels has become volatile.

With such conditions changing, more individuals are sharing their concern, vocalizing how they have less faith in a piece of paper, which is backed by nothing.

Another trend that is leading people to explore other currency options is the development of technology. Today there are more options on how to make a financial transaction for a good or service. Beyond credit and debit cards, e-wallet and electronic paying systems such as Pay Pal, Apple Pay, and Android Pay. Crypto-currencies are also on the rise. Bitcoin and One Coin have become the top ranked electronic currencies, and merchants are racing get their business into the fold into accepting these new forms of payment.

However one form of a financial transaction that is as old as men and trade itself, is also still on the rise. Barter is growing at a faster pace due to advancements in technology, organizational set ups, wide spread networking, and oversight from two leading barter-industry trade organizations.

With the improvements into accountability and infrastructure, barter has never been so much easier. Traditionally one business or individual would trade services or products with another party that may too have a product or service to offer in the actual exchange. This limited barter, because if one party did not need the other party’s offering, then the exchange could not take place. Today the use of a credit system has widened up the scope in the barter arena. Barter exchanges have made it easier to use barter for many business to business purchases.

Exchanges such as Badger Barter, located in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Badger Barter offers a barter exchange that includes well over 600 business; range from auto repair to graphic design; from legal counsel and services to website creation. These types of exchanges have evolved over time to include many member benefits in which traditional barter did not offer.

As a small business, you should be exploring all payment options, in addition to traditional payments of debit, credit, cash, and check. Barter is a viable way to conduct business to business transactions and opens the door for new business relations to develop within barter exchange networks. Some retailers are now accepting Apple Pay, Android Pay, Pay Pal, Bitcoin, and Onecoin. However barter is considered one of the best options since most barter exchanges offer a credit system, allowing you to use the barter on a wider selection of products and/or services.

Barter is not only a form of payment; it is also a marketing tool. There are businesses that seek out other businesses that offer Barter payment options. You should notify your clients about all of the payment options you offer in multiple touch points. Including but not limited to a placard at the cash register/counter; logo of the barter exchange on your website, social media, and e-mail newsletters; logo on store front window, print advertising, business cards, invoices, and other forms signage a client may see at your establishment.

Bloomberg Business had researched and found that over $12 billion dollars in goods and services were traded without any currency changing hands in 2012. Research showed that not every transaction conducted was on business essentials however the barter was still utilized. Even when the most obscure product or service was offered, the bartered item eventually would find a relative home. Another part of the study revealed that Small Businesses mainly spent their barter in exchange for: marketing and advertising; legal and professional services; facilities maintenance; office supplies; and construction/renovation services; which are many of the same expenditures a small business might use proceeds from a working capital loan for.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

History of the Barter System

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) ResizedWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 3/2/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Barter, Business, Community, Currency, Economy, Finance, Free Enterprise, Healthy Living, Small Business

Source: As the world of commerce changes, and businesses look to keep up with the vast menu of developing electronic payment systems, one form of payment between small businesses has made a comeback; its called barter.

Barter has been around well before national or worldwide currencies. Prior to organized economic systems that instituted paper money as the representation of the value of one’s goods or services, under the control of banks and governments, there were only a few ways to purchase products. One of the most common practices of commerce exchange was to trade goods and services for ounces of gold, silver, copper, or precious gems. Not everyone had these commodities at their disposal, and so barter became very popular with the common man.

Barter is the exchange of a good or service directly for another good or service of that of equal or greater value, without using a formal method of organized exchange such as money. This simple process allowed for merchants, farmers, hunters, fur traders, transit providers, and traders along the ancient spice routes, to conduct business for items they needed yet could not afford with gold or silver. This exchange was extremely popular in trading for goods from Far East versus goods which were popular in the west, since the exchanges were immediate, and each party could then return to their respective homeland to sell their new rare commodities for more localized needs.

Barter has also assisted to keep economic trade afloat during times of financial crisis. When either money was valued as to low (deflated) or to high (inflated) individuals would trade product for product, depending on their own agreements between them. When currency was unstable, barter always became the preferred method exchange since goods and services were always available when money was not. In times of hyperinflation the commoner could not afford to keep a money supply in “savings” so barter became the best way to get the things you needed.

The earliest of barter was the “silent barter” which occurred between individuals from separate nations which did not speak each other’s native language. The silent barter where simple volumes of goods and services were used as the measuring stick for working out the value of the exchange. Eventually, language barriers were broken down via the consolidation and unification of lands, making barter even more effective and precise during the times of the “old world.”

Today, barter platforms and systems have become very sophisticated and offer much more variety then the days of the old world. During the era of the old world, one would have to search specifically for another individual whom had what you needed, and in turn, they would have to have a need for what good you had to offer. This made barter very limited since if you did not have some good or service that was high in demand, you were often left without an ability to purchase other goods and services.

Today’s barter platforms and systems have organized groups and genres of businesses, products, and services, assuring that one would have a high probability of barter exchange. Barter has one of the most comprehensive working models, a prime example of how trading services or products in an organized system can still be very highly effective in a world dominated by so many other choices of exchange, especially when it is an exchange between two businesses.

Barter is gaining in popularity since it is immediate upon the exchange. With faith in other national or electronic currency begins to dwindle, barter becomes a great alternative to exercise purchasing power.  With the help of modern exchanges for barter, your barter offering has the potential to reach a wider range of audience, a far cry from the old days of trading on the old spice roads in the old world.

According to the International Reciprocal Trade Association, more than over 450,000 businesses transacted near $10 billion dollars globally in 2008 based on barter. This continues to grow, as it was estimated that in 2010, over 450,000 businesses in the United States alone participated in barter trade, with an estimated 400 barter platforms and companies operating around the world.

If you’re a small business in search for a strategic business advantage, barter can provide options to share your businesses products or services without additional risk to your working capital.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Comprehensive Tax Code Reform That Will Work

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 2/22/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Banking, Business, Community, Economy, Finance, Government, Healthy Living, Small Business, Tax

Source: As the House, Senate, and Executive Branch of Government look to bring closure and pass a tax code reform into law; key areas of the tax code reform must be considered. With a system of piece meal laws layered over three decades, where does the government begin to streamline the tax code; simplify it; and remove burdens for most of its citizenship? We review some of the alternative answers to help shape up tax code reform.

Whenever government takes up the challenge of tax code reform; it becomes one of the most heated and contentious debates between the political parties; and between law makers and policy enforcement.

On one side of the aisle, Democrats say tax reform aimed at elevate burdens on corporations and business owners push the tax paying burden to the working class to have to pay more; leaving out those that have to pay more than their fair share; the wealthy.

Republicans are quick to respond with proposed policy that if you burden corporations and small business owners with the majority of the tax liability, they will be sure to cut jobs, which means a decrease in payroll and income tax contributions by both businesses and workers alike.

However, during the long drawn fight to parcel together a tax code reform bill; both sides miss many important targets that can have a drastic effect on how tax code reform can shape for the better.

One area of focus is when addressing CAFÉ and GHG standards; tax incentives and credits for fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. Every consumer of a new vehicle pays a gas guzzler tax as part of the overall window sticker price of the vehicle. This fee is paid by the engine-vehicle manufactures themselves then is passed along to every new vehicle purchaser. In the past there was a designation for multiple tax credit set asides, allowing for a consumer or a business to make specific deductions for their purchase of a specific vehicle, or technology.

What has been proposed is a change in the way this tax credit is even awarded. Instead of being vehicle or technology specific; awarding only a few of the specially selected vehicles or technologies; is to make the tax credit performance based. Having this tax credit performance based means that instead of just a few special items allowed to fall under this exemption, more technologies and market solutions could be considered by the auto industry if the tax credit was given based on performance of the technology or vehicle achieved above and beyond current CAFÉ or GHG environmental standards. It has been proposed that one could structure a performance based credit could be awarded if a technology or vehicle product provided over 10%, 20%, or even 30% improvement in engine fuel efficiency, and in lowering harmful vehicle emissions beyond the current benchmarks. This would allow for more technological advancements to compete in the market place, give the auto industry to search out more grass roots ideas and concepts; and be a better deal for consumers.

Another area of tax code reform important for consideration is the Made in the USA tax credit. Until they have reached their economies of scale in their production, small to medium manufacturing businesses cannot compete against similar goods made for far less overseas which are imported and sold by big box retailers. This proposed tax credit would allow for more small to medium businesses to deduct start-up cost and ramp up cost; allowing these smaller domestic manufacturers to price their goods competitively against cheaper goods imported from outside the country and sold at large chain retailers. As a sidebar, reevaluating tariffs on foreign made goods and increasing tariffs on items that are made in the USA of better quality would allow for these small businesses and manufacturers the ability to have some domestic market advantage.

The Affordable Health Care Act; also known as Obama Care, has been a train wreck for many. Small businesses owners have seen their premiums and deductibles skyrocket; while seeing a decrease in the coverage they were once afforded. This expense, which was also passed along to small businesses as a way to make small business provide health care to their employees has done just the opposite. Many small business owners no longer can afford to offer health care benefits; which has resulted in some businesses losing some of their most qualified and productive employees to larger competitors who can afford the mandate.

This policy has also affected workers. Employees have found themselves paying more to health care insurance premiums, while receiving less benefit of coverage. The official poverty line, is anyone making less than $1005 per month ($12,060 per year). As the goal post moves for how much money it takes to support a family (including rent, utilities, food, transportation, education, and other necessities); families are forced to choose between food on the table or health care. In some cases, wage earners could not afford health care insurance prior to the Affordable Health Care Act. Now those same wage earners still cannot afford health care, and are penalized or taxed for not having health care insurance.

There are really only two alternatives in solving this issue…the first is to eliminate the AHCA all together and start over with a new slate that provides wage earners to either participate in a public system or to opt out for their own private policy and get health care on their own. In the event the wage earner wants neither, they could contribute to their own private health care savings account, setting aside a portion of their money each pay period for a rainy day. This savings account can travel with the wage earner just the same a 401k plan would when the wage earner switches jobs or careers. The other alternative is to create a single pay system, also known as universal health care, which many socialist and some free nations have employed.

Traditionally, there have been five income brackets for determining how much tax each wage earner must pay based on their income; which is a sliding scale ranging from 25% of your income (usually lower working class) to over 50% of your income (higher middle and wealthy class) must pay on their income. Granted there are a number of deductions and tax credits which have been adopted over time to help tax payers on all levels pay less; however to eliminate the debate of who is to pay their “fair share,” there is one singular solution that would solve this argument; the creation of one flat percentage income tax percentage rate. If everyone paid the same percentage on their income; each tax payer is equal in the eyes of the tax code, regardless of their social economic scale. This would also eliminate the need for special deductions by each constituency in order to posture their position.

A flat sales tax can also be implemented which could be shared between the states and the federal government. This tax and what is taxed could be standardized across state boarder. Usually those that have more income spend more, and as they spend more, they pay more to sales taxes on their purchases.

A reform suggestion to unemployment that would spur off the creation of jobs comes from across the Atlantic Ocean. In Italy, they have a program for wage earners who lost their job. If they and nine other people want to form a business, they can collectively withdraw their unemployment in a lump sum, and use that money to create a new entrepreneurial venture. Since each wage earner would own a piece of the business, the new business is driven by the performance of the group collectively; focusing their efforts on success instead of just doing enough to get by. Though in Italy, over half of these ventures fail; the other half that succeed, generate enough job opportunities to keep people from having to re-enroll for unemployment benefits.

The same program can be created here in the United States. A set aside can be created within the unemployment tax contribution; where employees are given the option to either collect unemployment over time; or take a lump sum and start a business with a group of other unemployed individuals that may have complimentary skill sets for a future business idea.

Ultimately, tax code reform means that the government needs to get its own house in order so it does not rely on more of its citizenship’s earnings to pay for government’s functions, but less of its own people’s money. Once government can control and lessen its spending to under its means ( in this case revenue from taxes) then real tax code can be considered, as tax code previsions can be eliminated, and allowing for the people to keep more of its own hard earned money.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

 

Who are the Eco-Warriors?

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) ResizedWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative, Reporter And author Published on 1/30/18 a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Farming, Finance, Government, Healthy Living, Small Business

Source: As there is more public awareness and public education about environmental concerns related to fresh drinking water supplies, air pollution, and what occurs on land, local advocacy continues to grow to protect our communities from these threats. So, who is fighting for the planet? We take a look at some of the non-profit groups that fight on the side of a cleaner environment.

We know they are out there.  Occasionally, one of their spokespersons are quoted for an article related to a battle with contributors to water, air, or soil pollution. They are photographed and filmed during their rallies and events, as the opposition to big energy, big oil, big industrial machine, and bad political policy. Their fight is beyond the newspaper headings and court rooms. They fight for the environment, for clean water, clean air, and land conservation. So, who are they? They are the Eco-Warriors, a category of organizations that from around the world stand up for environmental justice and the people whom which pollution affects.

The Sierra Club is one of the first environmental working groups ever established to tackle threats to our land, air, and water. Based in Oakland, California, the Sierra Club has extensions in every state. The Sierra Club was originally founded by the legendary conservationist John Muir in 1892. They are one of the largest of the Eco-Warrior Organizations, having a membership reaching over three million people. They lay claim to some of the most important environmental legislation including their assistance in the passing of The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The Sierra Club is currently led by Executive Director Michael Brune, and his Executive Team.

Friends of the Earth are led by Erich Pica, President, who has been working on behalf of the environment for decades. Friends of the Earth utilizes a mix of strategies in their mission to fight on behalf of the environment, including advocacy campaigning, instigating lawsuits, rallies and events, and organizing members on the ground. Friends of the Earth have been around for almost fifty years. With offices in both Washington, D.C. and Berkeley, California, Friends of the Earth campaigns on local, state, and federal levels, on issues related to fossil fuel use reduction, standing up for the Rain Forest, advocating for organic and chemical free farming, and advocating for protection from corporate and industrial polluters.

When the political policy does not match the needs of the environment, the first in Washington, D.C. to take notice is the Natural Resources Defense Council, or the NRDC for short. The NRDC is on the front line of the environmental policy making debate. Combining the power of skilled and trained law professionals and its one million plus membership, the National Resources Defense Council leverages their knowledge, capital, relationships, and membership to speak up and act on behalf of the environment, clean water, clean air, and proper use of the ground under our feet. Since 1970, the NRDC has addressed concerns in the areas of climate change/global warming, clean air, energy and transportation, food and agriculture, health and environment, environmental justice, urban solutions, and sustainability, while also having an eye to the worldwide stage in international environmental battlefronts. Rhea Shu is currently the NRDC President.

Earth Justice headquartered in San Francisco, California, is led by Trip Van Noppen, the organization’s President. Earth Justice puts the tool of the law in the hands of its membership and advocacy groups; in challenging private, commercial, and government entities accountable to the law when they infringe on the rights of mother earth. They believe in standing up for the wild (animals and plants); healthy communities and the people within those communities; clean energy (including renewable energy sources) and a healthy climate. Earth Justice began their journey in 1965 when a group of attorneys, passionate about the environment, began to challenge the courts in the rights of the people for a clean and healthy environment. In many cases, Earth Justice will partner with other environmental working groups to address issues of coal ash, fracking, pesticides, salmon, and wolves. With over 400 cases on deck, Earth Justice is currently leading the way to bring justice to the planet

Water.org is the non-profit organization founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, who’s main purpose is to provide access to clean drinking water, sanitation and education for impoverished communities, villages, and in developing countries. Water.org partners with local organizers on the ground to establish new freshwater wells and provides education to communities on how to better manage their new-found resources. Based in Kansas City, Water.org has contributed to the improvement of lives of people around the globe including in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean Islands. Water.org has been able to provide over 9 million people with access to safe and clean water and sanitation, while helping communities institute practices that lessen their environmental impact. Water.org prides itself on the fact most of its work and impact is conducted and seen in the field where people need the most help.

The World Green Energy Symposium, directed by Professor Robert Gallagher, takes a different approach to solving environmental issues. The WGES gathers together many of brilliant minds together in one hall, including innovators, policy makers, financiers, community activists, educators, inventors, elected officials, green enthusiasts, and eco-warriors, to discuss the issues at stake and share solutions in mitigating problems related to mother earth. From energy generation and usage, to green tech innovation; from regulation and policy, to new ideas and rule-making, the World Green Energy Symposium has offered this cross-market dialog, resulting in real-time solutions being put to work in the field. Each year, the WGES honors one entity that stands out among the rest for their work, innovation, and achievements on behalf of the environment. The NOVA Award has been deemed the Oscar of the Green Community, and has been awarded to schools of thought, companies, and government agencies that have championed their ideas from concept to finished product in making a difference.

Clean Water Action, with chapters in over fourteen states, is one of the leading advocacy working groups in pitching for clean drinking water, and aims to protect natural water sources, land, and air. Since 1972, Clean Water Action has championed for the environment, cleaner communities, and regulation that puts mother earth back at the helm. In recent history, Clean Water Action has focused their efforts on fighting the practice of fracking for oil and gas, to keep toxic chemicals and pollutants out of waterways, lakes, streams, and rivers, and to build a future of clean energy and water usage. Clean Water Action has been aggressive and very vocal in the State of New Jersey, which is highest on the EPA’s list for having the most superfund or brownfield sites. Led by Robert Wendelgass, Clean Water Action has their main office in Washington, D.C.

Green America, based in Washington, D.C., is led by Alisa Gravitz, which has been on the side of the environment for decades. Green America’s mission is to harness economic power, the strength of the consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Green America focuses on climate change, food production, finance and green investments, labor, social justice, and green living. Green America has gotten some attention in the last six months, as Green America has brought to light the infringement of the Back Forty Mine, which is beginning to threaten the sacred Menominee River, a vital source of clean fresh drinking water to over 35 million people, as it feeds into the Great Lakes.

There are many more Eco-Warriors out there, which look to protect nature’s wildlife and national treasures, working on behalf of the planet. Remember, we only get one planet, so we must help mother earth win the fight.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

8 Ways to Improve Your Health and Wellness

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Published by Natural Awakenings Magazine-Central NJ, Natural Awakenings Magazine-North Central NJ, Written by Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and Author, http://www.SamBurlum.com

There is no doubt that we are living in a fast-paced society. We can receive communications in seconds, order a meal in minutes, and travel cross-country in a matter of hours. However, we pay a price for this lifestyle full of modern conveniences: our health. In order to fulfill all of the day’s demands, we ignore our bodies and minds when they need our attention the most.

One common excuse for ignoring our health and wellness needs is a lack of money. Healthcare can be expensive and it may be that certain options seem out of reach. Another reason is lack of time, which many will relate to given that everyone seems busier than ever before. However, with commitment and a little creativity, there are some small steps that each person can take to reinvest in their own health.

Leave the car at home. If your destination is not too far away, elect to take a walk or ride a bike, and combine exercise with the handling of the day’s tasks. If you will normally walk a couple of blocks, stretch it to a mile.

Eat healthier on the go. Sometimes our schedule does not allow us the time to cook a healthy meal. Try instead to pack a bag of healthy snacks such as fruit or salad for those times that you will be traveling a lot. If you must stop for fast food, consider ordering a salad and water instead of a burger and soda. An increasing number of restaurants also offer organic food selections.

Drink more water. The human body consists of between 60 to 70 percent water, which needs to be replaced throughout the day. When we consume water, our body disposes of water that carries with it the toxic influences that we have ingested or absorbed. In addition to making the choice to drink more water, also pay attention to its quality, for not all options are the same.

Switch to non-toxic chemicals in the home. Many of us enjoy a clean environment free from dirt and grime, resulting in any number of chemical cleaners filling cabinets and closets. When we use these products to clean, the chemicals are also released into the air, so select non-toxic cleaners for maintaining your home. Reducing the number of chemicals used will result in fewer being inhaled.

Take time out from screens. People are exposed to digital screens all day, including phones, mobile devices, tablets, computers and televisions. They bombard our lives with news, information and advertisements. Take a break from screens in order to give the mind a few minutes of clarity. Choose instead to enjoy an activity outside, or pick up a book and read a chapter.

Commit to crushing bad habits. They say too much of anything can become a bad thing. Smoking is one the leading causes of lung disease and cancer, so look for alternatives to picking up a cigarette or tobacco product. Alcohol has also been connected to many health issues, so make an intention to reduce your consumption of it. Commit to having one less drink at the bar, reducing the alcohol you purchase for your home, or attending happier hour less frequently or for less time. To really pack a punch, replace a bad habit with a more productive or healthier one.

Slow down the clock. Many of us schedule every minute of every day with an activity, imposing additional burdens and stress on our minds and bodies. Instead of filling the day with activities, prioritize the day’s goals and focus on doing the best job you can for each task you perform. Slowing down will not only increase the quality of the outcomes achieved, it will decrease stress levels as well.

Take a rest. It is commonly believed that we need around eight hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period. Life gets in the way, and many of us do not get the sleep we need to allow our body to rejuvenate and heal itself. After lunch or mid-afternoon, take time out for a 20 to 30 minute nap, allowing your mind and body a break to refresh itself.

Many of these suggestions only require a bit of extra attention and time. These low- and no-cost practices may help encourage you towards better health and wellness practices for your body and mind. The first step is making a choice to commit to your own health, for no one can make that choice for you.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Comprehensive Tax Code Reform- Where We Really Need to Begin with the Reform

Source: As the federal branches of government push for comprehensive tax code reform, some critical areas of focus have been overlooked. We shall examine the other side of the coin which include government revenue and spending.

As the Senate, Congress, and the White House push the agenda to bring a new comprehensive tax code reform bill into law, it is important to know that there has not been a restructuring of the current tax code since 1987. Since that time, tax code reform has been a layered process, with changes introduced in a piecemeal fashion, as the market, economy, and government spending changed. These updates have been added one layer at a time, with little or no removal of former rules.

With over 30 years of piecemeal methodology, this Congress, Senate, and Executive Administration has an opportunity to strip away the layers of irrelevant or dated regulatory policy, and streamline the tax code to be more effective, precise, and quite frankly, easier to understand for trained tax attorneys, certified public accountants, and the seasoned layman who prepares their own tax return documents. But how can any branch of government effectively and responsibly make changes to revamp the tax code without taking time to deeply examine the other side of the tax code coin?

Besides borrowing, taxes are the only source of the government’s revenue stream. Taxes fund the government’s operations, and the services it provides to its people, including infrastructure (highways, tunnels, bridges, and airports); public education; protection to our nation (hence the military); and other emergency services (police, fire departments, and EMS services). Taxes also pay the many people who work for the government, in managing the public trust, including but not limited to civil servants and elected officials to public office.

Now, let’s look at the vast number of areas in which government spends money, your money, including providing foreign aid to other countries and special projects in the name of public interest. As more programs and projects are added to the list, more people are needed to oversee and manage these operations. This means the government needs to spend more to do more. When the government does not have more revenue than what it is spending; it then borrows the money, and pays a premium in interest to its debtors. The government is responsible for covering the interest plus principle, just the same as if you or I obtained a mortgage from a bank to purchase a home.

In an attempt to juggle and balance its debt, the government may sell off its debt to other countries, or will borrow from other countries at a discounted rate; in exchange, the lending country will get special privileges. Some of these special privileges include lower tariffs on goods imported into the United States, or in some cases, exceptions that allow for businesses from the lending country to bypass regulations and rules; thus giving those selected businesses a strategic market advantage in a free market economy.

One can just imagine the layers of free passes lending countries and foreign business interests have gotten, when we have a national debt that is teetering on $20 trillion dollars. And how can we even think about comprehensive tax code reform when we still have an issue that started before income tax was even mandated? This problem began when the government first started to borrow money. The amount of compounded interest has accrued over decades in favor of the lender; and the government has no real plan to pay off the debt. This can has been kicked down the road for over a hundred plus years. Our government, made up of representatives elected by the people, know this issue yet fail to do anything about it.

Before government can figure out how to streamline a tax code, they must take a deep look in the mirror. First, it must make major cuts into its spending before it can revamp the tax code, which in essence is the rules and regulations in which government dictates how much revenue it will bring in by imposing taxes upon the producers within its citizenship, which also includes businesses.

After reviewing the thousands of pages of line items that could possibly be the new tax code, let’s take a look at where government could become more efficient in its spending without cutting essential services to its people:

Payroll for the government: Currently the average congressman or federal senator will make an average of $175k per year for their service to office. If they are on a committee, it’s another pay increase. If they chair a committee, it’s another pay increase. If they become a speaker, it’s another pay increase; in addition, they receive complete health care benefits package, a retirement package, and other perks that come with the job for life. There are 435 seats in congress, and 100 seats in the senate.  In addition, the average federal employee in a management position receives a salary that is over $100,000 per year. And this is just at the federal level. We have not even taken a look at the state, county, or local level payroll. With numbers like these, a person can understand why elected officials do what they can to protect their seat once they are in office. Our founding fathers never intended the elected to profit from their position.

So how do we positively influence the national debt and tax code? Roll back payroll. If you take just the 535 seats that represent congress and the senate, it would equate the average payroll north of $93 million dollars per year which is paid to just 535 individuals. If we rolled back the yearly compensation to half of that, where an individual congressman or senator would earn just $87,500 for each year they are serving in office, the people would begin to save $46.5 million plus per year. Over ten years, the American tax payer collectively would save almost a half of billion dollars. Over 100 years, we the people would save $4.6 billion dollars. Now extend that to every branch of government where employees (in management positions, at agencies, are elected or appointed officials,) are not a part of essential services i.e. police, firemen/EMS, military, and the overall impact could make a major dent in government spending. This is not likely to happen, because the one thing that will make any congressman or senator have their own fellow colleagues turn against them would be the proposal of rolling back the compensation that they receive.

Elimination of Agencies which are no longer effective: A pure example of this is the agency of Veteran Affairs (VA). The VA was established to serve the interest of our nations heroes, whether it be health care, housing, or education, which each veteran earns when they commit their lives to defending our nation’s freedoms. The VA has become a large bureaucratic agency slow to serve its constituents. The average wait for a veteran who is in dire need of exercising their right to health care needs (including mental health care and well-being) is almost two years before a case worker can hear the concerns of the veteran. Also, veterans are relegated to only use health care facilities which are managed by the VA when seeking health care. This creates higher administrative cost and lesser quality in the services provided.

So, how do we solve this issue? The answer has multiple benefits, and it is simple: Each veteran should be transferred from the VA health care system into an accelerated Medicare/Medicaid program that allows for the veteran to access health care at any clinic, hospital, or physician of their choice. This will allow for the elimination of layers of administration who are trying to manage our veteran’s interests while allowing the veteran to access health care at the moment they need assistance. Also, due to the regulations that make up the Medicare/Medicaid programs, costs are more closely regulated and capped, so the free market has to look for how to provide better care with less money, which spurs off better competition that serves the interest of their consumers. Now, expand this concept to other agencies and programs that were designed with the intent of serving a selected constituency and you will find areas where the government could save hundreds of millions of dollars.

Limiting or Cutting Foreign Aid: There is a deep-rooted moral issue with giving away the people’s money to other countries to distant communities when there are so many in need on our own home soil. The United States government must begin to examine how much of the people’s money it is giving away. This rule is very simple. Charity begins at home, and you cannot help someone breathe when you don’t have on your own oxygen mask. There are other ways to solve some of these international concerns than throwing money at it. That is an entirely another article in itself.

Restructuring the debt: The lenders and creditors have made plenty of money earning interest on owed interest and principle (compounded interest). The compounded interest has created wealth beyond what multiple generations of their families could ever spend in multiple lifetimes. Our government needs to stop borrowing money and restructure the remaining debt with lower interest rates, with a plan to pay down the remaining balances over time so that by the time our grandchildren are ready to retire, the debt could be zero. The government needs to understand the moral repercussions and devastating consequences the decisions of the few will have upon the many if government continues to spend what it does not have.

Protect its profit centers: Government needs to begin to take measures to protect its profit centers. This means the working poor, the middle class, the upper working class, the business owners, and major businesses that create the jobs, trade, and contribute to GDP. Instead of imposing new taxes on a citizenship already burdened with seeing up to 40 percent of their earnings being taken as taxes, the government needs to widen the scope of new opportunities for those that can contribute to the tax paying pool. This means that government needs more new business development. Over 60 percent of today’s jobs are created by small businesses. These locally owned business enterprises rely on the market’s pre-existing conditions and the probability of those conditions to change in the future for the better. Government needs to peel away the obstacles so that small business can flourish, which will spur off the establishment of more small businesses. As these businesses expand, they hire a workforce, which also contribute to income tax. Some state governments eager to solve its shrinking profit centers, have legalized marijuana as a new industry so it can be taxed, or have deregulated the gambling industry. These are only short-term fixes and promote activities which are a detriment to communities, not a boon.

Once the government has gotten its spending concerns under control by living within its means, it can then rethink how it will address its revenue. When government stops spending more than it takes in, and more than it borrows, it needs less revenue to cover the functions of serving the people. Tax code reform then can be simplified to a real standard that sets a pace where each tax paying individual (or business entity) has a pathway of making their reasonable contribution to government’s call for tax revenues in serving the public interest that does not force families and businesses to have to make hard cuts that affect their ability to provide for their own.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

So How Much Do You Really Pay in Taxes?

Source: As the U.S. House, Senate, and the White House bring comprehensive tax reform to the forefront of their policy making agenda, we review the taxes which the average citizen pays out of their income and examine: how much of your earnings do you really get to keep?

Taxes are the government’s form of revenue to pay for all of the programs, services, and protection which it provides to its citizenship. Most working class/middle class individuals will see on average between thirty to forty percent of their earnings allocated toward taxes even before they can cash their paycheck. Most of these commonly known taxes include federal income tax, payment into social security, state income tax, unemployment tax, Medicare tax, and that is just the beginning.

When researching all the taxes in which a wage earner or citizen must pay, I discovered there are four basic categories: income tax (whether its personal income or if you own a small business, business income tax); sales taxes (taxes on goods and services); asset taxes (which place a tax on ownership of assets or acquiring of assets); and fees (charges, surcharges, usage charges, permits, tolls, etc). Some of these taxes and fees we pay directly, while others are layered in the cost of the consumer goods or services we purchase. In all, most of us contribute to paying to over one hundred different taxes, directly or indirectly.

Let’s start by taking a look at our income. If you either earn a salary (paid for your skill sets) or are paid wages (paid for your time); you must pay income tax on your earned income, but this is not the end of the road. Say you take what is left of your paycheck, and you decide to invest some of your money into a stock, mutual fund, or into an IRA account. You are taxed on the earnings your money made for you if you receive a stock dividend, fund payout, or withdraw your own money from your IRA account. The same goes for your savings account. If you have money in a savings account, you are taxed on the interest you earned on your money, which is the interest you earn for allowing the bank to hold and use your money until you remove it from the savings account.

It has long been debated that inheritance should not be taxed, however the other side of the argument is that if someone leaves you money when they pass on, it is either a gift or a one-time income. It has gotten to the point where even perks and benefits are taxed, though they are not cash. They are considered by the IRS as earnings, and so if part of your employment includes health benefits, travel perks, or a personal expense account, you can be certain you will have to pay tax on the value of those benefits.

Individuals who have invested in their home, or precious metals, will hold onto these material things until the value of these items has increased so the owners can make a profit. If you have ever profited from selling a home, a stock, or noteworthy luxury item, you would have been obligated to pay capital gains tax. In some cases, the entire amount is taxed, including the original money invested and the profit, at the point the asset is sold. Currently, there is the debate to tax crypto-currency and the value of barter credits, as people have turned to these platforms to try to reduce the amount of taxes they pay on their earnings.

Sales taxes come in many forms and are vast in their assignment. Most states have a general sales tax that is imposed on every purchase except for food and medicine. This sales tax can range from 6 percent to as high as 9 percent in some states; and is collected at the cash register every time you purchase something.This includes tax on vehicle purchases, cigarettes, liquor/alcohol, gasoline/diesel fuel, soda and fatty foods (snack foods), jewelry, clothing, and more. Not only are products and goods taxed, so are services. In recent years, taxes on hotel stays, lawn care, gas/electric utilities, telephone, paid subscription cable and satellite television, water and sewer have sharply risen; driving up the cost which is passed along to the consumer.

As consumers, the costs of additional taxes are filtered into the bottom line of what the goods we pay for. Taxes on transportation service (via highway use tax) are charged to trucking and freight companies for the use of the highway system, since the majority of the goods we purchase have been delivered by a truck. When we purchase a new car, there is a line item for the Gas Guzzler Tax, imposed upon every vehicle for their lack of meeting fuel economy and/or environmental emissions standards (every car has some form of this tax imposed upon it). As a society, we are driving more efficient vehicles which use less gas, which means less gas tax is collected. In most recent years, some states have transitioned this burden by taxing a vehicle owner on how many miles they drive per year, in addition to tax on gasoline at the pump.

Then we pay tax on what assets we own. One of the largest burdens of home ownership is the responsibility of property tax. In return for property taxes, local and state government are to provide services to communities, including but not limited to waste management; road maintenance; police and first responder emergency services; and public education. In some states, school taxes are collected in addition to property taxes. If you pass away, your estate, and the possessions you leave behind, are also taxed.

And you cannot get permission from government for anything unless you pay your fee. Want to marry your high school sweetheart? You need to buy a marriage license from your state government. Do you want to drive a car? You must pay a fee for your driver’s license and must pay the government to register your vehicle. Want to go fishing or hunting? Yep, you guessed it—you have to buy a permit for a license from the government. What about fixing up your house? Yes, that too, you must pay a fee to obtain a building permit from your local municipality. And when your home improvement is complete, your local tax assessor decides to charge you more tax for taking ownership pride in improving your own property.

When you think about it, your earned dollars are taxed far more beyond your income. If it seems like your money is being double and triple taxed, it is. To understand this concept, let’s take a look at just one dollar of your earnings.

If you are like most tax paying citizens, about 30 to 40 percent of your earnings are taken from you even before you get your pay check. So out of one dollar, you might be left with 60 or 70 cents. Then you decide to purchase something; sales tax is imposed upon you, taking an additional 6 to 9 percent of the purchase price from you. Then you must pay property taxes for the house you live in. Say you drive to work; the purchase of your car involved a sales tax; the gas you are putting in the vehicle to power it is taxed, and the road you travel might be taxed by way of a road toll.

In reality, over 60 to 70 percent of your earnings are taken from you systematically by taxing every area of your life. Some government organizations are now trying to tax families according to the environmental footprint they make on the planet. They wish to levy a tax for the clean air you breathe, called a carbon tax.

Abusive and overburdening taxes are the very reasons our Founding Fathers fought England for independence in 1776. It’s the curse that plagued major ancient civilizations such as the Romans, for they taxed their citizenship into total brokenness and poverty. If history has been any indicator, it has shown us that all societies which were overtaxed by their governments and/or by their kings and queens, eventually collapsed. Take for instance the French Revolution—the people overthrew King Louis and Queen Antoinette for over-taxing the people, because they left communities in ruin while the leadership enjoyed a life of luxury.

As current lawmakers decide to overhaul the existing tax code, they should keep in mind that in order to reform the tax code, you must eliminate some of the taxes its citizenship is burdened with paying.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

How the Internet Has Affected the Interstate

Source: Right after World War II, in the 1950s, America was on the move. With the completion of the Interstate Highway System, and more families owning more than one vehicle, families took to the open road to explore, connect, and become educated. Six decades later, fewer families see their vehicle as the expression of their freedom; and find access to the world through the internet.

How amazing it is that in just 60 years, how far we have come in declaring our expression of what gives us the tools to feel mobile and free from the confines of our own zip code?

Six decades ago saw the golden age of the auto industry in America; with the Big Three—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler-Dodge dominating the majority of the vehicle ownership sales; where machines and men made America a country that became completely mobile.

Fast forward 60 years and you find the digital technology revolution is helping families become mobile again, and is changing how people define their mobility.

Now in the palm of your hand, one can access information from almost anywhere in the world. They can learn how to cook a specialty dish on Youtube, or read about historical event by “Googling it,” or even watch their favorite movie or television show on the go via an app on their cell phone. One can even shop for a new pair of jeans, pay for it, and have the jeans delivered to their door in less than 24 hours. The interstate has fallen to the internet.

America use to be completely reliant on their vehicle for everything; to go shopping, to pick up the groceries, to go downtown to see a movie, or to go visit a friend. An entire culture was developed around the premise that Americans identified mobility and freedom to travel with their cars. A variety of business models even developed to cater to the rise of the interstate. Service businesses were built around the idea of a driving culture behind the wheel. Drive-in movie theaters, the drive-through fast food take out restaurant window, the roadside attractions all were a reflection of the pride that many had as vehicle ownership.

Vehicle ownership also allowed for the shaping of modern-day suburbs to flourish. The commuter was born. Individuals were no longer relegated job opportunities as far as their local metro transit system (if any even existed) would take them. Vehicle ownership allowed for a person to live in the countryside where homeownership was less costly; as more people found it more affordable to live outside the city, but yet still work there; the car became a vital tool in developing personal wealth.

The family car, the extra car was also seen as a sign of status. At the top, luxury brands of the likes of Cadillac, Mercedes, Jaguar, or Lincoln, would echo and reflect where on the social economic scale an individual would rank. Today, that hasn’t changed, but the vehicle is no longer viewed as the pride and joy as it once was. Today it is treated and viewed more like an appliance; with an expected shelf life and is disposable.

The new status symbol of mobility is the very mobile device that many carry in their pocket. The digital era and the convenience of the mobile device (cell phone, tablet, kindle, etc.), has allowed for people to stand in their living room access the world. With this tool, the internet superhighway is the road that is most traveled over any other physical road in our current society.

Apple, Samsung, and LG are now the Big Three that offer the vehicles that provide access for people to get information, connect with people, and experience life in a way never thought of. The development of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, allow for people to connect with a click of button without having to put an ounce of fuel in the tank or drive not even a mile down the road. Just about any book once found in the library is now found in a digital format that can be read on a screen.

Programs and services like Skype, Google Hang Out, and Go to Meeting, have given people the ability to have one-on-one communications, seeing each other on a screen and hearing their words, where people can be as physical distant as the other side of the world. These services allow for people to communicate and build relationships beyond the boundaries of how far a car can take them, and are limitless to the boundaries of continents.

New businesses that cater to the new form of mobility include a host of app, ranging from apps that allow you to download coupons and deals from your favorite retailer to keeping track of your steps and physical fitness, are downloaded by the millions each day. There is even the business of add-on hardware to keep your mobile device in shape (cases, ear phones, etc.). Not to mention all of the tech improvements that has made the mobile device more functional, integrating camera, internet, video capabilities.

The internet has most certainly captured the imagination of the youth. They have grown up with the idea that the internet is as much as part of their lives as vehicles once did to our parents. Modern generations don’t know any other life but that of the one in the digital age. With the press of a button they can reach people in other countries, find out information on any subject, and view a video related to any interest.

Such technology has even entered the classroom. Virtual learning, by way of connecting by video over the internet allow for students to attend classes and seminars or view lectures from anywhere in the world. The internet has demonstrated it offers mobility to all those young and old regardless if they qualify for a driver’s license.

It once was said, “Mobility is life,” and so when there is a traffic jam on Interstate 80; remember you could have chosen to route yourself by way of wi-fi.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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