For the average American working for a paycheck, May Day — a pagan spring ritual where you dance around a Maypole — marks yet another, less festive occasion.
From the first of January until around the first of May, all the money many of us will earn goes to pay our share of income tax to the US government.
Kiss those months — that money — goodbye (the present tax stimulus package is really just a refund).
We followed the advice of our parents, as most children do: get a good education, go to college and get a job — a nice, secure, well-paying one, with great fringe benefits, stock options or profit-sharing. But the bimonthly paychecks — after the government gets its share for income, Social Security and Medicare taxes — aren’t enough to keep up with the bills. Even with raises and promotions, many of us feel that we keep getting further in the hole, since the more we earn in earned income, the more it’s taxed. The reality is that the system is largely devised this way, not to tax the very rich but to exact a fee on the middle class and poor to keep these wage earners on the treadmaster of a job — or “promising career.”
When you’re earning wages, you’re making money for someone else or, often, something else called a corporation and its shareholders. For your job, you get a paycheck, from which income taxes are withheld to pay for an ever-expanding governmental bureaucracy of the size that even the Romans or Greeks would envy, according to William Bonner and Addison Wiggin in their exhaustive and provocative book, Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis.
Besides buying a new car to commute to your job, usually purchased with bank financing, many people acquire a mortgage from another bank to buy a house or condo. Now you have property taxes on top of income and payroll taxes. So you’re earning wages to pay taxes to the government, interest payments to the banks that hold your car loan and house mortgage, and insurance premiums to cover yourself if anything sours.
All the while, you help make more money for the company you work for and the shareholders of the business. You’re working so you can afford to keep paying the bills to keep your house, your car and your life. Meaningful work — working passionately for something you care about — is relegated for those retirement years, increasingly elusive thanks to rising energy, food and healthcare costs. Anyone you know putting off “retiring” because their stock portfolio didn’t deliver enough returns for them to feel comfortable enough to try living off interest and dividends? Either they’re still working or had to get a job to make ends meet.
It doesn’t have to be this way, as many ecopreneurs are discovering. In our unconventional business how-to book ECOpreneuring, my wife and I write about how small business, especially a green business that operates in a way that restores nature and values human life (not exploit it), can be a one-way ticket to keep more of the money you earned while doing good for the planet. Forming your own business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), C Corporation or S Corporation are among many options to garner the greatest return on your investment of life energy into a project and increase your savings, allowing you to do the things you want to do, not have to do. These ecopreneurs, in how they manage their green business, leverage the power of their business to make the world a better place. In so doing, they may earn less income but power their business with renewable energy, operate carbon neutral (or carbon negative), and focus on serving all the stakeholders of their business, including their local community, by operating a diversified portfolio of enterprises that fill niches.
Many ecopreneurs make a life, not earn a living. Today, I planted 30 trees in addition to caring for my son. The tree planting didn’t add much to GNP (a topic for a later blog), but it will help address climate change, help stabilize the soil on the edges of my family’s small farm, provide a future revenue stream for my son if he mindfully stewards the land. I even broke a sweat doing it, burning off a few calories to boot.
This May Day, perhaps it’s time to think about launching the green business you’ve always wanted — either a for profit or non-profit. Isn’t it time to put your life energy toward something greater than just paying off mounting and unsustainable US government debt this May Day (including the cushy retirement packages politicians seem to end up with, while we end up with little or nothing)?
This May Day, we’re celebrating: our wind turbine spinning our meter backwards; our gardens planted to provide about 7o percent of our food needs without the use of chemicals (or a tractor); our good health; and our business that provides enough revenue to support our family and a quality of life that doesn’t have to come at a cost to the Earth.
We’ll dance to that.