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Peter Barnes is what one could call a consumer-side, entrepreneur. In 1903 he helped start a socially responsible money market fund by the name of Working Assets — to provide an “easy way for people to make an impact with the money they save.”

In 1986 he launched the Working Assets VISA Card — “an easy way for people to make an impact with the money they spend.” Every time members charge a purchase with this credit card, five cents goes to “non-profit groups working for peace, human rights, economic justice and a safer environment — at no cost to the consumer.

Now Mr. Barnes has launched Working Assets Long Distance. If you switch, for example, from AT & T or Sprint to Working Assets Long Distance, you make the same long distance calls at equal or cheaper rates AND you get opportunities to be what Barnes terms “a Five Minute Citizen.”

In addition to 1% of your charges being donated to progressive citizen groups, every month you get background information on contemporary public issues, such as national health insurance, or recycling legislation, along with names of key politicians and business leaders you may wish to contact.

On the first Monday of each month — Free Speech Day — you can call free of charge one of the designated numbers to key Senators or business leaders, depending on the issue. Should you call on any other day, you receive a 10% Citizenship Discount.

Let’s say you prefer writing a letter. Then just check a box on your phone bill and Working Assets sends a well-argued Citizen Letter on your behalf, at a fraction of the cost of a Mailgram.

Barnes’ plan has been written up recently in Newsweek and the Washington Post. He already has 50,000 people who have signed on to his system. As on enthusiastic homemaker put it: “It’s a little cheaper than the regular long distance companies and it gives me a chance to have a voice on matters that concern me.” She got a free long distance call to the White House on the need to support legislation to protect the nation’s old growth forests.

Who chooses the issues that are described in your phone bill envelope? The Working Assets management. It reflects their values which they describe as pro‑environment, pro consumer progressivism. If you do not share their viewpoints, you can always phone with the opposite message to a Senator or CEO. Or you can forgo the service and stay with your present phone company. Or help start your own kind of thinking telephone service.

How could such a phone service crop up? Because there is available space on the new fiber optic cables built by such large carriers such as AT &, T and US Sprint. Working Assets rents the cable space, buying wholesale and selling retail. Without the need for large capital investments, overhead or lots of salaries, Working Assets can provide competitive or better prices for telephone consumers. It started this whole service with just $1 million raised from investors.

If all this intrigues you, call toll-free 1-800-708-8588 for more information about Working Assets Long Distance.

Be sure to ask for a copy of their free booklet titled the Five Minute Citizen. The introduction to this booklet by populist Jim Hightower says: “If all us ‘outsiders’ start talking back to government and corporate ‘insiders’, we can give the Powers That Ought to Be a new, fighting chance against the Powers That Be.”