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Innovation Is Key

September 27, 2017

History will show that every time the United States’ free market system was met with economic crisis, innovation and technology was ushered in at the 11th hour to save the day. Our great nation and its free economy have faced over forty-seven recessions since its conception. Advances in farming technology allowed us to overcome the challenges an economic engine, which depended on agriculture production in the late 1700s. After the Civil War, it was the race to connect America coast-to-coast that spurred on the age of the railroads. Evolutions in manufacturing processes and the spread of available electric power allowed for hard goods to cost less and be readily available on demand in the late 1800s.

After World War I, it was the ignition of the automobile industry that transformed the way we travel. Globalization was a result of World War II, which followed the aches and pains of the Great Depression. The airline industry age of the 1960s and the computer age of the 1980s—all heroes which save our nation from the brink of economic disaster. The Information Age of the 1990s and today’s Digital Age provided significant employment opportunity and replaced many of the lost jobs of yesteryear, allowing for those that lost their previous career position a chance to transition to new employment. Behind each revolution was technology and innovation; conveniences that allowed us to do things better, faster and at a lower cost.

Today, our country faces yet another critical fiscal crisis. Economists that provide statements that were are not in a recession are dead wrong. Our nation’s debt is the highest in history, with the U.S. Debt Clock now showing a U.S. National Debt of just over 17 trillion dollars in the red, and a total U.S. debt just over $61 trillion dollars in the red, it does not take an economist to realize that we need innovation and technology once again to step up to home plate and hit a home run. While Wall Street might be on fire, experiencing record highs and seeing peak profits, it is a very different picture on Main Street U.S.A. In order for our national debt to be cleared today, each U.S. citizen would have to cut a check for $56,000, and each taxpayer would need to shell out another $151k for us to clear the slate.

The White House and advocates on the hill are calling for a national increase to minimum wage, raising the current hourly rate from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour. Participants in the “Minimum Wage Economy” labor force want $15 per hour. Skeptics and the opposition to the minimum wage hike argue that such a large increase will slow down the even slow economy and deter small business owners from expanding their operations or hire any additional help. Advocates for the minimum wage hike say that the majority of the available jobs are minimum wage low paying entry-level jobs, jobs that cannot sustain the very households that provide the labor. Both sides of the argument are still missing the bigger picture . . . even by raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is not going to make an impact on paying down $17 trillion in national debt.

My question is this, if we demand a higher standard of wages or revenue, then why are we settling for mediocrity? Are going to undermine the value of a tradesman or professional who spent years refining their craft or expertise so that we can feel good about giving everyone and “equal” footing? What about demanding a strong national industrial policy that breaks all the barriers that are holding back new job creation from industry sectors relating to technology and innovation? Why are we not considering sun setting regulation that stifles small business and deter them from hiring local employees instead of penalizing them for frivolous victimless civil matters? Why don’t regulators sit down and coach small businesses on how to navigate through the regulatory landscape instead of crushing their dreams with over-burdened enforcement action? Why are we not revisiting trade policies that allow for the balance of fair trade instead of free trade? Most of all, why are incentives provided to companies that take jobs off U.S. soil and we over tax and over regulate the companies and businesses who choose to stay behind, because it the right thing to do?

I could go on and on about policy and the regulatory landscape, but in the mist of it, we need innovation to swoop in like Superman and save the day.

Technology and innovation that creates hard goods, hard goods that need to be manufactured, can provide employment opportunities for skilled workers who have had to settle for a minimum wage job. No other industry can provide for such saving grace than the green industry and the tech arena. With public policy mounting in line with the available selection of product lines aimed at environmental mitigation, energy conservation, and efficiency, are products and market segments which not only provide jobs, but economic benefits to consumers, if they embrace them. Early market adoption of community based, value creating technology will allow for yet another wave of local and regional job creation to take hold. In addition to skilled labor for manufacturing, the green industry provides a platform for accountants to provide energy audits and surveys. We have already seen the transition of construction workers who have become trained and readied to install solar and LED technology. Retrofit technology and innovation in the emissions industry and fuel economy movement offer jobs to technicians who lost their jobs during the General Motors and Chrysler dealer consolidations.

The new-found riches in natural gas, light sweet crude and advances in propane for auto gas (even with the controversial practice of fracking) have giving the United States the ability to replace foreign fossil fuels with domestic supplies. Other local businesses have been stimulated as a result of domestic energy exploration, such as trucking, construction and real estate. With massive reserves of natural gas waiting to be extracted, the U.S. now has a value export besides consumer goods to offset trade balances and debt. Coal still used in other parts of the world can still be mined from high yield areas such as Pennsylvania and Kentucky and can still keep these traditional mining jobs alive, yet again creating another commodity ready for export.

The digital media age still yields vast opportunities. Content creation and content management focuses on targeted users within a specific geographic and/or demographic audience. These jobs are jobs that can be filled with folks that base skill sets derived from journalism and traditional media backgrounds; marketing and advertising professionals, communication and cable industries; as well as workers from the computer era, retrained and updated on new technological delivery devices that give direct content to consumers. Behind the scenes I/T networking jobs are still in high demand; this time instead of tying together the web of desk top computers, it is become a job of mobile device management, integrating the thousands of apps and connecting tens of millions of end users. Design and functionality will continue to thrive as we the consumer asks for style, convenience, and information at the very tip of our fingers when we want it.

No matter the technology, innovation is the key to jump starting Main Street again. These jobs can fill local store fronts and vacant space. Main Street is counting on us to believe in it again. Micro industries and micro economies are a valuable tool to reinvent ourselves. With unemployment at an all-time high (sorry but the statistics do lie), all options to create free market free economy jobs need to be on the table. Who will step up to the plate and be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, or who will be the next Elon Musk? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, as history will demonstrate, innovation will prevail just in the nick of time.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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Moringa Adds a Healthy Kick to Home Cooking

February 20, 2018

I love all aspects of food—cooking, trying out new foods, but mostly sharing recipes and food prepared by me. Preparing food for oneself, in my humble opinion, is the ultimate act of self-love. And preparing food for others is an expression of your love for them.

As a holistic doctor, I quickly realized that cooking for oneself is going to become an important aspect of my patients’ healing and recovery. However, I found that as a society, for decades, we have devalued the time and effort one needs to spend in our kitchens. For millennia, the main goal of any species, including ours, was centered around food procurement. But this seems to have changed, especially with industrialization of food, where we have been led to believe that ‘Franken-foods’ can replace the natural foods that our species depended on.

So without further delay, let me share a couple of recipes using the humble, yet versatile and very healthy newest superfood on the block—moringa. Growing up in India, moringa leaves and pods were featured regularly in my mother’s kitchen.; not only because we all loved it, but because we had a tree in our courtyard. When in a pinch, I would go to our terrace, lean over the 3-foot parapet wall, grab a branch and pluck the vegetables (green, slim pods that are typically 12 to 18 inches long) or the fresh, green leaves. The pods need to be just ripe. The overripe ones become too hard, dry and stringy.

Thankfully, local Indian stores carry both the leaves and pods, although seasonal.

Moringa is nutrient-rich, with antioxidant and tissue-protective properties. The leaves and pods are rich in nearly all the vitamins, including fat-soluble A and D – rare in the plant kingdom. Hence, the pods were also known as the “vegetarian’s marrow”. It is also rich in various minerals and amino acids, essential for the health of most body systems. The leaves are rich in vitamin A and considered essential for good eye health and a healthy immune system. Moringa leaves are now packaged and sold as teas. But it cannot compare with the benefits of consuming fresh leaves and pods. Here are two of my favorite Moringa dishes.

Moringa Leaves and Pigeon Pea (split yellow lentils) Stew:

Ingredients (all ingredients are available in most ethnic Indian grocery stores)

1 cup dried, split pigeon pea (also known as ‘Toor dal’) Soak for 30 min, drain the water. Then pressure cook with 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil and ½ tsp turmeric powder. Once done, remove the pan and mash the lentils with a potato masher to make a smooth, semi liquid paste. Set aside.

1 bunch mooring leaves Pluck leaves from the branch and stem, rinse in water, air dry on a towel to absorb excess moisture. (Engaging your kids in meal preparation is a great way to tickle their curiosity and interest in the kitchen. Kids can help with plucking the leaves.)

1 to 2 tsp ghee (clarified butter) Extra virgin olive oil can be used instead

½ tsp dried cumin seeds, 2 dried red chilies (broken into pieces), ½ tsp black mustard seeds, and 1 sprig curry leaves – washed and chopped

2-3 cloves sliced or minced garlic

½ tsp dried, roasted coriander powder

            ½ tsp turmeric powder

Salt and cayenne pepper powder to taste

Method: Heat and melt ghee on low-to-medium flame in a heavy-bottomed steel pan. Then add chopped garlic, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, broken red chilies and finally curry leaves. Please note that curry leaves will splutter when you add them, so be careful. Let these ingredients cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Then add the cleaned moringa leaves and cook for a min or two. Stir the mixture to allow the leaves to cook. Now add turmeric powder, salt, cayenne powder, and coriander powder. Stir well. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Finally, add cooked/mashed lentil. Now, allow the stew to simmer for 5 minutes, gently stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust salt/pepper seasoning if needed. Your nutritious moringa leaves/lentil stew is ready. It can be eaten mixed with cooked rice or as a dip for naan bread/other breads.

Moringa Pods Stir Fry

Ingredients:

4 to 5 mooring pods (Must be tender and easy to cut. Pods are 12 to 18 inches long. Wash the pods and cut them into pieces of 2 to 2.5 inches length. Excess, fibrous, outer skin can be removed much like how one strings a bean)

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

2 to 3 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped

½ tsp ginger paste

½ tsp garlic paste

1 to 2 tsp ghee (extra virgin olive oil can also be used)

½ tsp turmeric powered

½ tsp dried, roasted cumin powder

½ to ¾ tsp dried, roasted coriander powder

Salt to taste

Dried Red chilies powder or Cayenne pepper powder to taste

Method: Heat ghee/oil in a heavy bottomed, stainless steel pan. Cook on low to medium heat to preserve the nutrients. Add onions and cook them until they turn light brown. Then add the ginger and garlic paste. Stir often to prevent the pastes from sticking to the pan. Then add tomatoes and cook for a few min. Now add the rest of the powders (turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne). Stir and cook for a few minutes. Finally, add the moringa pods, stir and cook them. Add ½ cup water, close the lid and cook until tender (may take 8 to 10 minutes). If you like, you may garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Turn flame off, and this very tasty dish is ready to be served. This goes well over cooked rice or as an accompaniment to naan bread.

Let me share the way to eat the pods, as it can be a bit tricky: one way is to slit them open length wise and scrape the soft flesh and seeds inside and eat them. The more rustic way (delicious, I would add), is to chew the pod completely until you have sucked all the juice out. Discard the dried fibrous waste.

Integrative psychiatrist Dr. Aruna Tummala shares her love for all things food through monthly cooking classes at Trinergy and Santhigram Spa, 12800 W. National Ave., New Berlin. 

 

 

 

Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse: Giving New Life to Used Items

February 19, 2018

Source: In comparison against most smaller and undeveloped nations, the United States categorically is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. When compared to the average household in other nations, even the poor are not considered so poor. As a nation, we also are some of the world’s most consuming population of material things. Our nation also wastes just as much as it consumes. So how do we lessen our consumer footprint not to be so wasteful?

There is an old saying, “Everything has its place.” Go into any suburban home in post-modern day era, and you most likely will find a basement, an attic, a closet, a garage, or even a shed full of items which have outlasted their initial use. It seems that most households in America will replace their cell phone every six months, a kitchen appliance once a year, and then there is the question of what to do that occasional oddball item which someone may give us as a gift, yet serves no immediate purpose in our household.

So what are we to do with all of this stuff? The obvious answer is if the item is much past its prime, beyond the cost of repairing it, it is time to recycle it. Every year, landfills run out of space because we still do not recycle enough. Glass, plastic, metal, electronics, appliances, wood, paper, cardboard, automobiles, and even some types of concrete cement can all be re-processed and converted into other products. Before you throw something into the garbage can, ask yourself can that item be recycled. Most county governments have a waste disposal and recycling center which you can donor your renewable waste. Salvage yards will accept every type of metal and in some cases, plastic, glass, cardboard, and electronics. Wood items are ground down to make mulch or cardboard.

If you have children, you will know this scenario all too well; you buy an outfit, a pair of shoes, or a toy for your young child just to watch them outgrow it in a matter of a few months. There are a few options—you can trade up your gently used items for either cash, store credit, or a donation voucher at a local consignment shop that deals mainly with children’s items. One store in mind is called Once Upon a Child, where slightly used items are cleaned up and prepared for resale well below the original sticker price. You can find many name brand items can be found in these types of stores for a fraction of the former sticker price, thus allowing disadvantaged parents to purchase name brand clothing for their children without the high cost. You can also donate your items to your local church or to a family that might have children that might be slightly younger than yours, thus allowing for the children’s items to get a second life.

Just about any household item can be cleaned up and resold at a consignment shop, flea market, an antique shop if the age of the item is correct, or even at a church bazaar fundraiser. There is an old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Your item may have outlived its use with you, however for someone else the item’s life is just beginning. Common items that you can find at flea markets or bazaars include tools, car parts, children’s toys, household decor, and even furniture.

You can try finding a new home for your item online. Craig’s List and eBay are online havens for folks looking to sell and buy slightly used items. Even Facebook offers their version of the local marketplace. The most popular categories to buy and sell used items include used furniture; used cars and trucks; used garden tools and equipment; and children’s items. You will also be surprised at the amount of private sellers of jewelry, collectables, and closeout items from businesses which are liquidating their left over inventory.

Many nonprofit organizations have programs where you can donate your used and undesired car, boat, truck, trailer, or recreational vehicle. The standard previously followed is that the donor would receive a donation voucher that they could write off their taxes in the amount of the lowest retail book value for their donated vehicle. In more current years, the donor gets a voucher for their item that relates to the scrap value of their former item. Then the nonprofit will usually deal with a third-party who would determine whether to scrap the item, or offer it for sale at the higher retail value. The public has no idea how much more the third party makes or how much the nonprofit will actually receive. In this case, its best to sell your item as a private sale to another individual and then donate the cash amount to the nonprofit you desire to assist.

The latest trend is that something old can be made new again. Wooden pallets can be taken apart and remade into shelves, storage crates, or even décor. Metal sheathing can be repurposed into material for walls, shelving, made into crafts and containers, or even used in the construction or renovation of a home or business. Glass bottles and jars are great for making sand art pieces, planter pots for small flowers, or even fill them with candy or treats as gifts. Even old lumber, such as rustic beams, floorboards, shiplap siding, can be repurposed for giving a new home the rustic look, or can be used to replace damaged lumber in a restoration project.

Even some waste products around the home can serve another purpose. Food scraps such as used coffee grinds, egg shells, banana peels and bones from meat, when added to leaves and grass clippings, make for a great compost mixture for the home gardener. Cardboard and newspaper can serve as a weed barrier in vegetable gardens and are safe for the soil. When the cardboard and newspaper break down, they provide contents for earth worms to use to help enrich the garden soil.

Many of us are used to taking former dish and bathroom towels once they are past their prime and put those towels back to work in the garage as wash rags for the car or lawn equipment. Plastic bags from the grocery store can be reused as small garbage bags around the home. Brown paper bags from the grocery store can be made into protective book covers for children’s school books. Gift boxes can be held on to and reused again the following holiday season. Just about any item around the home can be repurposed and reused into something else.

It is our responsibility as stewards of planet Earth to find ways to get the most life out of the consumer goods and material items around us. With limited landfill space, and the need to protect our precious freshwater supplies, the more we can do to recycle, reuse, and repurpose, gives us one less item that makes its way to the landfill before its prime.

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.

Comprehensive Tax Code Reform That Will Work

February 15, 2018

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 percent 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, re-evaluating 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 $1,005 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 percent of your income (usually lower working class) to over 50 percent 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 taxpayer 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 borders. 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.

Sustainability for All of Us

January 25, 2018

Source: Many Fortune 500 companies have a roadmap for sustainability and environmental mitigation.  There is a statistical correlation between economic reward and environmental stewardship. Some major corporations have designed a framework of institutional practices and procedures that limit risk and liabilities while maximizing their employment opportunities and profits. These same practices and procedures are tools that work for everyone.  In tough economic times, every edge to save resources should be a consideration.

To begin with, we have to understand what is true sustainability. Sustainability is the ability to endure and to maintain economically, environmentally, and socially our community in a whole.

I usually view sustainability as the balancing act between positive growth (growth behind economic drivers) and the relationship to preserve our environment for the long-term.  Sustainable modeling in the business community is mostly viewed as a company pulling itself up by its own boot straps while considering the people, community, and environment as a part of smart planning.

So how is it done?  Whether you are a small business, a medium-sized enterprise, or a large Fortune 500 company, the basics are all the same.  We all have an inherent responsibility to address these concerns, and it is only to our benefit to do so. Here are just some of the top 10 concerns to take into consideration both economically and environmentally when addressing sustainability and establishing visionary and profitable policies:

  1. Self-Responsibility and Self Choice. Sustainability begins with us as individuals when we take personal responsibility of our own movements and actions. Even the simplest of steps such as recycling in our own home or office, or limiting the amount of times we turn the ignition key of our vehicle to go just a mile down the street, is a matter of self-choice. It is a lifestyle, and it can be designed to what works for each of us as an individual. This is not a one-size-fits-all by any means; however, it does mean we choose to be aware of our environmental impact on the world around us. Everything that we choose has an impact on someone else, and with that comes the responsibility to choose a lifestyle that is economically and environmentally healthy.
  2. Information, News, and Education. Today, our media has become a three-ring circus of watered-down, smash and grab, shock news/entertainment. Consider the source in where economic and environmental projections and information come from. Many individuals make choices about economic and environmental concerns based on emotion, instead of facts and logic. When we know the score of the facts, we can then properly look at the situation.  What is truly your financial picture and how does that map into your carbon footprint? Internal modeling of your spending habits will demonstrate these liabilities. Where to go for the latest educational forums about how environment relates to economics? More and more news is moving to online, so you can say goodbye to print and hello to the digital media world.
  3. Embracing the Innovation. Innovation that provides an economic and environmental benefit needs to be captured and implemented. Solar and wind powered electric generation equipment, new technology in transportation, and green related products and services that provide a return on investment are everywhere.  Most of these creations are children of local inventors, enthusiasts who found a solution to an issue out of necessity.  In most recent years, home-grown technology spins off to home-grown financial investment, local job creation, and eventually, local community re-investment from profits of product sales. Also by utilizing innovative technology, there is a savings benefit, where businesses can use proceeds from energy discounts and savings for more valuable asset upgrades and employment strategies.
  4. Transportation. Alternative fuel powered vehicles, electric cars, and battery hybrid powered vehicles are a great vision for the future, but let’s face the reality—they just cost too much.  Most small business fleets cannot absorb the cost fast enough. All products and services involve some sort of vehicle and are one of the most common ways we get goods or services from point A to point B.  By incorporating innovative aftermarket technology or sharing services with another like business (who might not be a competitor) will allow for some of the cost of moving product to be minimized.
  5. Energy. Our society just cannot continue the track it is on in energy consumption. Infrastructure in the energy grid is severely compromised, and every inch of power line needed to deliver electric to the consumer is another inch that we have a loss of power on a grid system that should have gone the way of the dodo bird. Localized generation and smart grid technology utilizing software systems can have a profitable impact to mitigate loss, and provide the most energy over longer distances. Fossil fuels also add to the burden since an entire economic system is tied to how much a barrel of oil will cost today on the worldwide market. Take into consideration the small things one can do to save money on energy and fuel. A simple thing like walking one mile instead of the one mile drive, or turning off the light switch when someone is not in the room can have a huge effect if we all partake in those practices.  The majority of our hard-earned income goes to fuel in the tank or energy to run our home or office.
  6. Reverse Logistics and Supply Chain. Take a hard look at the real cost of that head of lettuce from California, from the standpoint of a consumer in New Jersey. The grower used water shipped from reservoirs from out of the state and harmful fertilizers that may have been trucked in from the south. Then it was wrapped in a plastic-sealed package that most of the time does not protect the vegetables’ freshness when it embarks on a three-week journey from the processing plant to the warehouse to the supermarket to your kitchen table.  Think about the cost of all the movements and actions that had to be in place for that lettuce to come to be in your household. Now think about this with every aspect of your business.  There you have it: loss of profit because of a long supply chain that occurs because we don’t study the impact of choices we make.  Buying locally supports local jobs.
  7. Jobs. Everyone climbs to the rooftops and yells the topic of jobs.  Sustainability’s very essence is about localized efforts to minimize negative environmental and economic impacts and increase productivity and profits.  When supply chains are shortened, we begin to add to the local employment rolls.  A study performed by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce demonstrated that if every small business in the state of New Jersey bought from local suppliers on a consistent basis, there would be 90,000 new jobs added to the books.  Buy local, support local.
  8. Community Engagement. Everyone wants the great idea, but not in their own backyard if it is going to disturb their private family gathering on a Sunday afternoon. Most plans of solar or wind power projects or green tech-clean tech manufacturing facilities usually fall victim to the public fear of the unknown.  Excite the community by having them included as a part of the process. The community will welcome your interest if they understand your project and you can clearly demonstrate value, economic impact, and self-policing practices that lessen environmental impact. The community can provide for workforce, marketing, and transit opportunities. It can also be a business’ largest nightmare if public relations and community process is not well thought out.

For those who ask, “What’s in it for me?” analysis will show at the end of the day how much money we are really saving. I look to create the win-win, even for people who never purchase a product from our company, or take the time out to understand what it is that we do. By sharing resources, our vendors and neighbors save money and create opportunity. By mass distribution on grass-roots levels, we revert to the good old days when we knew the name of the delivery man who dropped off our purchase from that catalog we got in the mail. The “Me Factor” is savings on the bottom line, with a greener, cleaner tomorrow; beginning with small steps, ending and beginning with the same person; me, the self, the individual.

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.

 

Online Marketing Tools for Small Businesses

January 23, 2018

Source: In today’s multi-media and digital marketing world, small business owners have multiple choices of low-cost/no cost options in promoting their business, in addition to traditional marketing and advertising tools and practices designed to aid the local business in becoming noticed by potential consumers.

Traditionally, before the internet and mobile devices, marketing and advertising options were limited and costly for the small business owner. Most small business owners would look to advertising in the newspaper, on local television or radio, or even handouts and flyers placed on car windshields and in mailboxes. As technology advanced, so did all the methods to stay out front of your competitors and customers. There are several tools online to help a locally owned business promote one’s self which carries little or no cost.

At one time, the standard form of advertisement for a business was to be listed in the Yellow Pages, which was the business-commercial section of the phone book directory. However, times have changed with consumers relying mainly upon their mobile devices more to communicate, and in some cases, not even having a home land line-supported phone. In place of the Yellow Pages are websites and business directories such as Manta, Merchant Circle, and Tap Into.

Manta is a website which lists profiles of local businesses, and allows for consumers to leave a review after their experience of either purchasing a product or service. Manta allows for a business to set up a profile, including spotlighting the services and products a business has to offer. The profile serves as a business card to the digital world. Manta also allows for local ranking of your business based on customer reviews and special awards a business may receive. Manta also has tools which allow local businesses find other resources, and to connect with other small businesses to fulfill operational or vender needs; all this without having to flip through pages of the phone book.

Businesses will benefit from using Manta. A small business can separate itself from the crowd of other similar local businesses by having customer reviews that new potential customers can use as a point of reference in making a buying decision. When new potential clients see a number of positive reviews about a business, they also see local brand loyalty. Repeat customers tell a very different story to the market than having hundreds of one time customers. Manta’s ability for a business owner to see customer feedback and reviews will allow for a business to identify areas of improvement within its business model.

Merchant Circle is another online business listing site. Merchant Circle is a platform that allows for the locally owned business to connect and network with other locally owned businesses, sharing contacts and ideas, while helping to connect the business with potential customers. Merchant Circle had advanced their capabilities beyond just being a local business directory. Merchant Circle has combined the concepts of a local business directory and profiles with the tools of social media and marketing. Businesses can level up and purchase additional marketing services from Merchant Circle, focusing efforts on a specific geographic area.

Local online new sites, such as TAP Into, also offer free business listing directories. TAP Into focuses its hyper-local content in the State of New Jersey and surrounding areas, and is supported by the local business community. Local businesses can list their business contact and location information. Also, businesses can submit press releases to the local editors and publishers, giving businesses the ability to promote an announcement or event.

These sites can help a business in establishing an online content footprint. Businesses that have multiple articles, or key search words or phrases in their business profile description are more likely to rank higher in search engines due to the amount of content. With so many people on the go relying on information at their fingertips from their mobile devices, if your business is not at least showing up on the first two or three pages of search engines, then your business will not be seen by new potential customers. Business listings with Manta, Merchant Circle, and TAP Into drastically change your local small business’s placement within the rankings of search engines. I have even seen businesses that don’t have their own website rank high in search engines because their business profiles are enhanced and provide a lot of detail to potential consumers.

Social media is the place a business should turn to in promoting their business wares and reaching new potential customers. Take your pick, there are many to choose, however, the front-runners for two-way engagement still stands as Facebook leading the way, followed by Linked-in, Google Plus, Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. Each social media platform offers something different and serves a specific purpose.

They say, a photograph is worth a thousand words. That is where platforms like Flickr, Tumblr, and Instagram have specialized in providing a photo journal online to be shared with family, friends, fellow colleagues, and potential customers. These platforms are designed to allow users to load up photographs in the moment and share them with fan base instantaneously, in hopes of creating a real-time feeling of “I wish I was there,” for the person viewing the picture. This emotional trigger also can work well in creating a product demand in the moment. A business can feature a picture of a spotlighted product, and offer to the first hundred people who comment on the photo, a discount on their next purchase with the merchant.

Video content ranks the highest on the internet. Video content is also the most sought after content in the leading search engines. Every smart phone or mobile device is now equipped to film short video. Small businesses can create their own small videos and post them to various video hosting platforms that will help a business establish a wider internet presence. The most popular of video social media sites is YouTube.

Videos created with the purpose to capture the attention of a new potential customer needs to grab the attention of the viewer within the first 15 to 30 seconds, or you will lose the attention of the viewer. Your video content should also be unique and have a different hook. There are tens of millions of videos posted between You Tube, Vimeo, and Daily Motion, so you will need to be creative in order that your video can be searchable and stand out among the crowd.

If your business does not have a website yet, you need to get one. You can acquire a domain name from Go Daddy for just a few bucks a year. Create-it-yourself website platforms Wix, Word Press, and Web.com, provide several pre-existing templates. The most important pages to have for a very basic website are: a home page or landing page which is the first introduction to visitors about your business and its products/services, a contact us page, which includes the hours of operation, information about your products and/or services, as well as a list of the most popular or unique products/services you provide, and lastly, the about us page, giving visitors a little more information about the business and you as the owner.

Monthly e-newsletters are another way to stay in front of your customers. Email newsletters should not be a large book or difficult to read. It should inform the reader on two or three key areas you desire your customers to focus on about your business. Maybe you’re going to have a product or service sale or host a special event; email newsletter is a great way to keep your customers reminded of your business updates. You can also offer up an informative article (about 200 to 400 words) that will help educate your audience on how to make a better buying decision or create public awareness about a cause your business supports. The online tools and services of Mail Chimp or Constant Contact offer a variety of low-cost options to reach your current clients.

It may seem overwhelming at first that on top of all your other business responsibilities you now must spend time in front of your computer marketing your business, and yes, there are many options to employ. There are tools to help you manage your online efforts. Two tools that will help you measure and manage your online presence are Google Analytics and Hoot Suite. Google Analytics can help you measure your marketing ranking and efforts online, so you can eliminate online marketing that is not the most effective or does not provide a return on investment. Google Analytics will also give you the data you need to enhance the online marketing that is helping create customer flow for your business. Hoot Suite is a digital dashboard that you can use for managing and posting content to multiple social media sites at one time, thus saving you time having to make daily posts to each individual site.

The choice is yours. You can choose to spread your marketing efforts over multiple digital platforms or you can choose to stick to one or two tools. Local businesses that employ multiple online channels to promote their business are usually the businesses that have the most physical foot traffic in their door. Once they are in the door it’s up to you to provide the best experience to keep them coming back and tell their friends and neighbors about you and your business.

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.

 

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

January 15, 2018

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 author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water.

So How Much Do You Really Pay in Taxes?

January 8, 2018

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.