Thoughts upon Doing My Taxes

Ben Franklin never thought an American president would be a tax dodger.

What taxes do

When Ben Franklin remarked that “nothing is certain except death and taxes” he didn’t anticipate the spectacle of a soon-to-be U.S. president bragging in a national debate about being a tax dodger. Donald Trump asserted that he was “smart” for not paying federal income tax. To my mind, that’s not smart at all, especially for someone who is supposedly a great business person.

Taxes make it possible to be a great nation. To hold elections. Conduct commerce. Make laws. Taxes pay the heating bills in the House of Representatives. They provide schools to educate workers for Donald Trump to hire. Taxes build roads and subways so people can get to Trump’s job sites. Water and sewer systems to keep Trump’s golf courses green.

Public servants v. public spectacle

Taxes pay the salaries of public servants, whom Trump derides as “career politicians.” George H. W. Bush (R) had an outstanding public service career, serving as a congressman, ambassador, director of the CIA, vice president, and president. So did Gerald Ford (R), who served in the House for 25 years before becoming vice-president, then president due to the scandals of Richard Nixon, whom Ford pardoned at the expense of his own legacy because it was the right thing to do for the country.

Franklin Roosevelt (D) served in state and federal positions for 35 years. He was elected president a record four times, created the economic miracle that dug us out of the Great Depression, and navigated our nation through the heinous Second World War. Jacob Javits (R-NY) served in Congress for 30 years; Everett Dirksen (R-IL) for 34 and Robert Byrd (D-VW) for 51.

Well, you get the idea. And I get the point that Trump is trying to make, albeit artlessly. But there is a difference between public servants and careerists, just as there is a difference between smart businesspeople and a scofflaw huckster. And, sadly for America, Mr. Trump is the latter.

How’s Your Cultural Competence?

 

Cultural competence helps in herding cats.

We’re all in this together.

My friend Milly jokes, “You’re the last white person I’m educating.” She’s referring to her role in developing my cultural competence. While this is funny, consider the serious issues that underlie her statement. Many people like me, who grow up white and privileged, make assumptions based on our own experience, or the lack thereof.

By “privileged” I don’t mean wealthy. I mean being able to walk into an expensive shop without worrying that the clerk will think you’re shoplifting. Or being able to assume your teenage son can come and go without being shot by police. People of color, on the other hand, don’t have this kind of privilege. Many grow up navigating two different worlds, the world of white privilege and the world of their less privileged, direct experience. They understand our world better than we understand theirs. This is a major handicap if we are unconscious of our privilege.

People of privilege sometimes make assumptions, attribute motivations, or come to conclusions that are inaccurate and possibly detrimental to our teams, projects, and organizations. I was lucky. I worked with people like Milly, who took the time to talk openly with me about issues of race, class, and privilege.

What’s more, we both worked in an organization–the Girl Scouts–whose leaders had the courage to offer safe, structured spaces for this kind of talk to take place. It was the early 1980s, when few workplaces made cultural competence a priority. We didn’t always get it right, and not everyone was on board, but many of us made an honest effort. It paid off for me, not just professionally, but in all aspects of my life.

Make it a point to educate yourself about how best to operate in today’s multicultural workforce. Whatever your racial, ethnic or cultural background, cultivate colleagues who can help you become a more effective teammate and manager by creating a work environment that values diversity. Cultural competence is no longer a skill that is nice to have. It is an attribute that is essential for success in a global economy, even if you never travel beyond the place you were born.

Sustainable Marketing: How We Got Here

1) In the beginning marketing was a simple exchange between two or more people. Beaver pelts for salt and nails. Wild berries for a bolt of calico cloth. It took place in a physical market: the big rock over by Joe’s cave or, later, the bazaar at Samarkand or, later still, the

Police protect profits

Traditional marketing is about generating and protecting profits

Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

2) Once humans learned to produce excess stuff for trade, marketing came to include luxury goods for the elite. The place of exchange was the known world, reached via the Silk Road or the sea routes to ancient Britain.

3) Marx came along and said those who owned the means of production (capital) had all of this extra stuff that they had to sucker the masses into both creating (the workers) and, eventually, consuming (See Henry Ford).

4) Having to sell excess stuff begat advertising. Don Draper created clever ads that seduced us into consuming more and more stuff. Some countries got rich and consumed even more stuff. Eventually, even poor nations became consumers.

5) Philip Kotler made marketing seem scientific with his 4 Ps. More marketers with more stuff to sell used the Ps to create more demand and bigger markets.

6) Mass media fueled a lust for stuff by many rather than just a few. More stuff was produced and consumed by more people. Everything was growing except Earth’s ability to support all of us and our stuff.

Plastic in tree tops

Sustainable marketing keeps plastic out of tree tops.

7) Now, with our backs to the climate change wall, anyone with any sense (that’s us, folks) needs to figure out a kinder, gentler, more sustainable marketing system that is focused on only 3 Ps — people, planet, and yes, profits. But profits can’t come first any longer.