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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why I Like the Amish, Green Irene Updates-Free Fundraisers

Bruce’s Poor Man Recession Bulletin
Your choice for usable information!

In This Issue:

· Gold Vending Machines
· I like the Amish-their fight against Social Security
· May is National Bike Month-making energy
· Green Irene Updates
· No Cost Recreation Ideas

“Insanity: doing the same thing over & over again & expecting the same result”
--Einstein, commenting on how US fiscal policies are
running America

My Follow-Up on Green Irene

Readers have already noted our site and weekly bulletin devote attention to the green movement and how to be eco friendly while saving money. Indeed, one of my primary reasons for getting involved with alternative energy savings programs is to save money and to beat ridiculous government and utility rate hikes.

If you’ve read the Poor Man Recession Survival Kit you may recall one of the PDFs it contains is called 45 Ways to Make a Living Without a Job. Part of the philosophy it contains is to develop several circles of income within each family and Green Irene makes sense in that regard for our site and weekly bulletin – it might for you too.

In the previous two issues you learned about our free Poor Man’s Guide to Low Tech, Low Cost Eco Friendly Ways to Save Money…written in large part to continue my war against price gouging and to do our part to help the planet (old hippies never die). I’ve been a subscriber to Green Irene’s newsletter for several months and made a recent test purchase. Products arrived VERY quickly and ALL of the products ordered worked and were easy to install (a big plus for weekend mechanical dummies like me) and they were all reasonably priced.

Another important element I like about Green Irene – easy, free fundraiser for your school, church or group – get a free site, choice of length of time and 20% of sales. See more about this wonderful opportunity to generate funds at the site below.

You can spend a lot of time going to Home Depot and other places (and waste a lot of fuel in the process) to seek out energy saving devices but it’s doubtful you’ll find so many under one roof. So I signed on to become an EcoConsultant – beats trying to keep up with my book suppliers and it’s a service and product list which will only grow in need and popularity…Green Irene offers an energy tune-up for small businesses as well as homeowners (get my free ebook for the basics) which will save money and energy. Check it out at:


Getting Rid of Smell & Mess…
Composting may be the right thing to do for the environment, but it can be hard to get around the smell and the mess—particularly for urbanites without expansive yards. Trendspotter Springwise reports that Compost Cab is a new service about to launch in Washington, DC, that can be called upon to handle all the dirty details.
DC-area consumers begin by signing up online. Once it launches, Compost Cab will then provide them with a standardized bin equipped with a sturdy, compostable bag liner. Each day clients will fill the bin with their organic material, and once a week—on a reliable, fuel-efficient schedule—Compost Cab will pick up the bag, leaving behind only a clean bin with a new liner. The cost is simply USD 8 per week per bin; no long-term commitments are required.
At least as interesting is that clients who have been with Compost Cab for nine months or longer can claim some finished soil in return. Specifically, for every 50 pounds of organics the company collects from them, they can receive five pounds of fresh compost and one pound of worm castings in exchange. Those who choose not to claim their share, meanwhile, can ask Compost Cab to donate it on their behalf to ECO. Compost Cab is a production of Agricity LLC, a Washington, DC-based company focused on sustainability.
The average American family produces more than 500 pounds of leftover organic material every year; composting not only keeps that waste out of methane-generating landfills, it also produces nutrient-rich, fertile, natural soil. Looks like another win-win-win—for eco-minded consumers, the environment, and companies like Compost Cab that make it all happen.

“Free Trade has killed America-Repeal NAFTA Now!”
LOW & NO COST family recreational ideas…

· Learn a new language, hear an author, get a free DVD and more at your local library.
· Get cheap concert & event tickets by checking with your local Visitors Bureau for the best deals; use your membership privileges at AAA, AARP, or warehouse club to find good deals, check your credit card provider to see of they offer promotional deals, volunteer at theatres to get a ticket – check
· Win a Red Roof getaway - $400 pass, $400 giftcard & a $400 gas card. Register at: Woman’

May is National Bike Month and this is Bike to Work Week, why not consider cycling as a way to get in shape -- and produce energy?
In Detroit in January, the non-profit Cass Community Social Services opened what it says is the first green gym specifically meant for the homeless. The gym, located in a warehouse, has 10 stationary bikes that generate electricity. More gyms in the United States are retrofitting equipment to produce electricity. Among them is a homeless center in Detroit, where residents work out on 10 stationary bikes that help power the building and an Arizona jail where female inmates take turns on a bike to power the TV on which they watch soap operas.
Florida-based company ReRev has found a way to convert the DC power created by exercise into AC and then send it to the grid. A 30-minute workout on an elliptical cross-trainer generates about 50 Watts of power, enough to run a laptop for an hour.
Its elliptical machines at the University of Kansas powered the basketball court during a recent game, reports Inhabitat, an environmental website.
During Earth Hour in March, a man in Hiroshima, Japan, generated electricity by pedaling a bicycle at the Peace Memorial Park. Pedal power is not limited to gyms. "You can get inspiration from a New York vendor who makes smoothies with a bike blender or actor Ed Begley, Jr., who pedals to toast bread," reports the Sierra Club's The Daily Green blog.
"People worldwide are using bikes to wash clothes, pump water, mill grain and even power computers," says the blog, adding that you buy a modified bike or make your own.
While more gyms and individuals are producing power through cycling, this concept has yet to become mainstream, CNN reports.
"Nobody is coming out with the Prius of exercise equipment," Adam Boesel, owner of Green Microgym, a human-powered gym in Portland, Ore., says in the story. He adds:
"I think it's because big companies move slow. I liken it to the hybrid car. Five years ago, there were only a couple electric cars, now everyone wants to do it.
The way we look at it, you can waste energy or not waste energy. Anytime people exercise, that exercise is being wasted in terms of heat. We're trying to save a little bit of energy."
How to Annoy Politicians…it’s gratifying to see many Americans finally coming to their senses about lifelong politicians such as Arlen Specter. No one needs to spend 30 years in Washington and perhaps the Tea Party Movement is taking hold as many career politicos are finally running scared – what, no more greasing the palms?

News of the odd - Gold Vending Machine
There’s no mistaking what’s in this vending machine. The well-heeled in the Gulf can now grab “gold to go” from a hotel lobby in the United Arab Emirates, when the need for a quick ingot strikes.
On Thursday, a day after its inauguration, the shiny machine attracted spectators of many different nationalities who gathered to watch whenever an enthusiast was struck with the urge to splurge on a bar of the precious metal.
Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace Hotel became the first place outside Germany to install “gold to go, the world’s first gold vending machine,” said a statement from Ex Oriente Lux AG, the German company behind the vending machine.

Amish, Independent Living & Social Security

I like the Amish. They grow their own food ... help each other build their houses ... and use horse and buggies instead of gas guzzling vehicles. They were "green" before the term became fashionable.
I’ve often hired Amish carpenters and farriers… the workmanship is top-notch.
Amish have a strong sense of self sufficiency. Amish do not typically participate in our nation's Social Security system.
Here’s an interesting story that takes place in New Wilmington, PA

Is It a Tax or an Insurance Premium?
The Social Security Act — which marked the beginning of the system we know today — passed Congress in 1935. But for the first 20 years, it didn't cover farmers. So it was only in the middle of the 1950s when the mostly rural Amish first confronted the prospect of paying into Social Security in any meaningful way.
As it was explained to them at the time, Social Security was a tax and it was the Internal Revenue Service's job to collect this tax.
Amish routinely pay property and income taxes just like everyone else.
But Social Security also clearly contains the name "Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance" ... which meant those "tax" payments could really just be looked at as mandatory insurance premiums.
(it’s worth noting that even now the Amish do not take advantage of government-sponsored programs such as unemployment insurance or welfare.)

The Amish sent a petition to Washington with 14,000 names on it. Their primary message to Congress: They didn't want to cause problems, but they didn't want to go to Hell, either.
When that petition went unanswered, some Amish farmers decided to close their bank accounts down ... giving the IRS no easy way to collect money owed.
And ultimately, Uncle Sam had just one last measure available — seizing property.
Of course, it's pretty hard to seize property from a group of people who don't believe much in worldly possessions. Which is why the IRS had to settle for farm animals.
Giving a New Meaning to the Term "Milking the System"
This is where a man named Valentine Byler, from western Pennsylvania, enters the picture. In 1959, he owed the IRS four years worth of taxes and interest — $308.96 all told.
Like many other Amish, Mr. Byler explained to the IRS precisely why he couldn't make the payments.
Their response? According to The Amish News website, here's the IRS press release from April 18, 1961:
"Since Mr. Byler had no bank account against which to levy for the tax due, it was decided as a last desperate measure to resort to seizure and sale of personal property.
"It was then determined that Mr. Byler had a total of six horses, so it was decided to seize three in order to satisfy the tax indebtedness. The three horses were sold May 1, 1961 at public auction for $460. Of this amount, $308.96 represented the tax due and $113.15 represented the expenses of the auction sale, including feed for the horses, leaving a surplus of $37.89 which was returned to the taxpayer.
"The Byler case, like all others in the same category, presents an unpleasant and difficult task for the Internal Revenue Service... We have no other choice under the law."
That's right. The IRS took half his horses.
Remember, these weren't show horses or pets. They were Mr. Byler's livelihood because he used them to plow his fields.
The implications of the seizure were clearly lost on the IRS, with the Pittsburgh IRS Chief of Collections reportedly saying, "Plowing never occurred to me. I live in an apartment."
Nor had Uncle Sam thought through the fact that auctioning the horses off in the largely Amish area would fall flat on its face.
In the end, yes, the government got its money ... along with a lot more than it bargained for.
Media outlets all over the place picked up the story, and were largely supportive of Mr. Byler. Meanwhile, the Amish put additional pressure on Washington through meetings, letters, and threats of legal action.
By 1965, their point had been made. Because when the amendment to the Social Security Act establishing Medicare and Medicaid was passed that year, it contained a clause that exempted the Old Order Amish from paying into the system. In fact, it covered any religious sect that objected to the idea of insurance, as long as they had been established before December 31, 1950. All monies owed for the years leading up to this change were also forgiven.
Here's the story of that amendment according to "The Riddle of Amish Culture" by Donald B. Kraybill:
"More than a dozen bills seeking to exempt the Amish from Social Security were sponsored by legislators from heavily populated Amish states in the early 1960s. A Social Security exemption was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on 30 July 1965 as an appendage to the bill that established the national Medicare program. According to an Amish negotiator, Lancaster Bishop David Fisher told House Ways and Means Chairman Wilbur Mills that 'we take care of our own people and if we start paying in, the next generation will collect and we don't want no government handouts.' Mills replied, 'There's nothing wrong with that.' And, according to an observer, 'Mills just hung an exemption rider on the Medicare bill and it sailed right through the Congress.'"
Of Course, the Story Doesn't End There.
Nor Are Relatively Small Religious Groups
The Only Americans Who Don't Pay Into Social Security ...
It's worth noting that another Social Security scuffle took place between the Amish and Washington in the early 1980s.
The battleground? Western Pennsylvania.
The crux of the matter: Whether Amish employers needed to pay into Social Security for their workers.
By the 1980s, some Amish found themselves operating more mainstream businesses such as furniture factories and construction outfits. That posed a problem on whether they were required to pay into Social Security for their employees, especially those who were also Amish.
A man named Ed Lee became the face of the issue. According to a Time magazine story from April 19, 1982:
"Ed Lee is one of 5,000 Amish in Lawrence County. He differs from his neighbors for reasons other than the fact that he is not a Byler or a Swatzentrooper or a Hofstader or the bearer of some other traditionally Amish name. Lee is different because he has done something that the Amish rarely do. He has ended up in court. His offense: refusing to pay Social Security taxes for 30 Amish men who worked for him over an eight-year period as carpenters, building houses. The Internal Revenue Service claimed that he owed the Government $27,000. Lee challenged the IRS ruling in federal district court in Pittsburgh. To prove his good intentions, he offered his farm as security in the event he lost. As it turned out, he won, but the IRS then appealed to the Supreme Court."
After that story was published, the Supreme Court found in favor of the IRS, saying:
"A comprehensive national Social Security system providing for voluntary participation would be almost a contradiction in terms and difficult, if not impossible, to administer."
But Lee kept up the fight — writing to President Reagan, gathering signatures, and pursuing other legal avenues. And again, the Amish ultimately prevailed. By the end of the decade, Amish employers were no longer required to pay into the system for their Amish employees.
Today, Amish families quickly fill out IRS form 4029 after their child is baptized. This document exempts them from the Social Security system entirely…how many of us would choose to forego our little “tax exemptions” and not get them a socialist slave number?

The Amish are Great Entrepreneurs

Want to find America’s most successful entrepreneurs? Skip Silicon Valley and Manhattan; head to the rural Amish enclaves.
Amish businesses have an eye-popping 95% success rate at staying open at least five years, according to author Erik Wesner’s new book, Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive.
It’s a statistic he backs up with a variety of academic surveys, drawing particularly on a 2009 report by Elizabethtown College sociology professor Donald Kraybill. Studying several Amish settlements, Kraybill found failure rates ranging from 2.6% and 4.2%; interviews with loan officers, accountants and industry professions in other Amish regions yielded additional anecdotal evidence of closure rates significantly south of 10%.
Resources for Stockpiling and Disaster Preparation

Make Your Own Energy
Step-by-step guide reveals how to
make your own energy for $100 or less.

Terrific site for resources and green, eco-friendly goods

Don’t Get Caught With Your Pantry Down – the all time best book on family preparedness has been updated & now includes an online video segment as well. Highly recommended 11th Edition.

Goodbye Mom
A young man shopping in a supermarket noticed a little old lady following him around. If he stopped, she stopped. Furthermore she kept staring at him.
She finally overtook him at the checkout, and she turned to him and said, "I hope I haven't made you feel ill at ease; it's just that you look so much like my late son."
He answered, "That's okay."
"I know it's silly, but if you'd call out 'Good bye, Mom' as I leave the store, it would make me feel so happy."
She then went through the checkout, and as she was on her way out of the store, the man called out, "Goodbye, Mom."
The little old lady waved and smiled back at him...
Pleased that he had brought a little sunshine into someone's day; he went to pay for his groceries.
"That comes to $121.85," said the clerk.
"How come so much? I only bought 5 items."
The clerk replied, "Yeah, but your Mother said you'd be paying for her things, too."
Parting Shots

EBay continues to become a thorn in the side of many sellers. Non-stop changes along with burdensome rules and regulations (they now remind me of the federal government). Changes to fees, elimination of storefronts, elimination of blogs, and a degenerating customer base is simply helping its competitors - mainly Amazon (I still haven’t completed my account set up on Amazon).

Although I continue experimenting with other sites, I’ve had little or no success with them either. The saving grace for me personally is my Poor Man site, which continues to grow. Here are some valuable insights & rankings from Skip McGrath for selling on sites other than eBay.

Other Online Selling Sites and Auctions
By: Skip McGrath
With all the seller dissatisfaction with eBay and their strategy to drive small sellers from the site, I am often asked where else small sellers can sell their items. The obvious answers are Amazon and Craigslist, but there are many other selling sites as well.
So I spent some time researching alternative selling sites and came up with a list of the best sites. I did not cover Amazon and Craigslist as those sites are very well known. Instead I looked for sites that you may not have heard of. Get the rest of the scoop at:

Yours for better living,

Bruce “The Poor Man”

A Shallow Planet Production

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