The Problem:Trickle-up economics
Trillions of US dollars have steadily trickled up and out of towns and cities across America as national and global businesses have taken increasingly larger chunks of the average American's paycheck. Drive down the main drag in any town in America and notice the businesses - McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, Pep Boys, AutoZone, Dollar General, Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples, Ross Dress for Less, Walmart, etc. While some fraction of the dollars these businesses collect are recirculated within the town as employee compensation, a larger fraction of collected dollars go back to the corporate headquarters wherever that may be to pay the substantially higher compensations at the corporate headquarters. Profits from those corporations - the accumulated trickle-up from thousands of towns across America - and corporate employee retirement dollars then reside in the global Wall Street investments that provide the best rate of returns.
Dollars that trickle-up to corporate employees and stockholders do nothing to help the communities the dollars were gathered from. This continual drain of dollars over the past thirty years or more has left most American towns and their citizens struggling to survive with fewer and fewer dollars. In an attempt to fix that problem, city and state elected officials are willing to low-ball any other city or state to lure new industries to setup in their town to provide an influx of new dollars - promising tax breaks and state investments that shortchange the entire community in an effort to get new dollars back into town.
After a lifetime of seeing a town crumble before your eyes, is it any wonder that everyone with money to spare also invests in Wall Street in the hopes of winning enough dollars to eventually retire and escape their crumbling hometowns for some place better to spend their final years?
How do we repurpose the trillions of dollars of investment currently in Wall Street back into our local communities?
How do we help grow our local businesses, encourage new businesses, instill innovation in new generations of Americans and have experimental capitalism take root all over our country?
The solution:"local community mutual funds"
As an entrepreneur I know well the struggles of coming up with a business idea but not having the funding to pursue it. Or worse, gaining initial funding but then being unable to get further funding when your business has an opportunity to grow. While there are trillions of dollars flowing through the stock market, none of those dollars reach entrepreneurs and small business owners out here in the real market.
I'm proposing that we incent people to invest in the entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses in their own backyards and put that money to use making their local communities healthier and more innovative. Let's create a new type of tax-free local-only investment vehicle which pools the investment of local people and distributes that pool of dollars to local start-ups, established businesses, non-profits and even individuals, in the form of equity or debt financing, or grants. Investors in the funds would be share-holders, receiving either dividends or just increasing value of those shares which could be traded locally.
While these local community mutual funds would make only wise investments which are likely to yield a financial return or at least break-even, the goals of the funds would not just include a financial return. The fund managers would seek investments which would provide good jobs, good infrastructure, good creativity, good culture, and be sustainable in the long run to the local community. While those things are of no importance to people investing in the stock market, they are all of high importance to citizens of a community. Using a model similar to online crowd funding, investments for the fund, whether equity, debt or grants, could be decided by online votes from the fund investors - the local community. It's conceivable that a local community mutual fund in Charleston alone could eventually represent billions of dollars of investment.
People saving for retirement often find their retirement funds full, but the communities they live in completely empty. Let's ensure retirement investments aren't just in dollars, but are in the health and economic sustainability of our local communities. By allowing people to annually invest into their local community mutual funds - tax deferred, like a 401k - we could quickly see a local renaissance of innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship in a new generation of people, and a rebirth of many communities ravaged by the departure of local capital investment dollars.