Opening Hearts and Minds:

We the People, Money and Power

By Suzen Fiskin
Reader Columnist

It probably isn’t a news flash that the middle class is floundering. Between 2007 and 2010, the Federal Reserve concludes that the median American family lost 39 percent of their net worth. On the other hand, the net worth of the wealthiest families increased.

Government policies aimed to benefit we the people helped fuel the explosion of a robust middle class from 1947 to 1979. We truly were the land of opportunity as our economy flourished.

Back in the 1950s a man (the wife was usually at home with the kids) making minimum wage could pay his family’s rent with one week’s paycheck. The balance of their expenses could be handled in the next week to 10 days, leaving 20-25 percent of money earned to become savings and disposable income. Our country was more prosperous than ever!

In 1980, trickle-down economics that favor the wealthy launched the long swing of the pendulum so dramatically to the other side that the richest 20 Americans now have as much as money as HALF the population! This top-heavy income inequality has also stymied our national economic growth and ability to create new, well-paying jobs. We do best when we’re all doing well.

Between huge tax cuts to the wealthy, the consolidation of corporate power, the Citizens United sanctioning for the rich to throw untold riches at legislators who do their bidding and the globalization of cheap labor, the middle class has been cut off at the pass.

Now for some good news!

The internet is the greatest leveler of the economic playing field we’ve ever seen. A savvy and creative entrepreneur can compete with big business in ways unheard of in the past.

Traditional fundraising for a new business is a process of jumping through hoops and giving away control and big chunks of your company each step along the way. It’s kind of a catch 22 where you have to have your act together enough in ways that only an influx of cash can provide before investors or banks will consider you. It is not a system that supports the brainiac entrepreneur with a world-changing concept.

Crowdfunding is one of the biggest game changers in new business creation. Forbes magazine defines crowdfunding as, “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the internet.” Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama funded much of their campaigns in a similar way using social media.

The two biggest and well- known websites that offer crowdfunding opportunities are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. A business or individual can present his or her proposition, usually via a compelling video, to a global general public and offer rewards for the people who donate or invest in their business. The film “Veronica Mars” got funded with over $5 million from supporters. Numerous video gaming and software companies get seed capital for their projects. And many high tech companies like 3D printer maker Printrbot get a leg up.

Crowdfunding is skyrocketing. In 2013, the industry raised $6.1 billion dollars globally; in 2014 that jumped to $16 billion. In 2015 numbers more than doubled again to $34.4 billion.

This weekend, our own homegrown tech company, Solar Roadways, launched their first public installation of solar road tiles in Jeff Jones Square. This was made possible, in large measure, by the company’s 2014 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign during which they raised a whopping $2.27 million dollars through small donations from 165 countries. There are only 195 countries in the world. Talk about an idea whose time has come!

Pebble Time, a company that makes computer-ish watches, set the record for the most money raised by crowdfunding in the least amount of time. They brought in $1 million dollars in a breathtaking 49 minutes! All told, they raised over $20 million for their product launch.

Every dollar we spend supports the recipient of that money. Are we doing business with heartless international conglomerates or with our neighbors? We the people can regain more control over our lives by supporting local businesses. When we do business with local vendors rather than big box stores, we empower ourselves and the people of our community. The Farmers’ Market is a great example of how we can easily support our own.

We the people can change the world with the power of the purse. Buying locally and exploring ways to invest our money with new and innovative businesses that defy the same ol’, same ol’ status quo are a wonderful way to start!

Suzen Fiskin is a Happiness Coach, multi-media marketing wiz, and inspirational speaker. She’s also the author of the book, “Playboy Mansion Memoirs.” If you have any questions or comments, here’s how to find her – (208) 572-0009 or [email protected]

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