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.

Worst Companies in the US: The Final Four

The Consumerist has released the results of its annual poll to find the Worst Company in America. This year the “Golden Poo” award goes to cable giant Comcast, which narrowly beat out GMO agriculture behemoth Monsanto for the title. Comcast also won the title back in 2010.

Protesting against Monsanto

Protest photo courtesy of and used under CC license 3.0

The Comcast victory will be of particular interest to Time Warner customers, since the two firms are hoping to merge in the near future. Read more about this problematic pairing on the HuffPost blog of Letitia James, NYC Public Advocate.

PETA uses this SeaWorld of Hurt logo for its website

Logo for PETA’s website

The other two corporations (or, “persons,” according to The Supreme Court) to make the Final Four are those beloved marine animal abusers at SeaWorld and everyone’s favorite wage-miser, Wal-Mart.

And you thought there was no justice in the universe!

What would you say is the single most important thing that affected the nonprofit sector in 2013?

2013 events

Ann Whitman, Director of Communications, The Dana Foundation
I am interested to see how the new IRS and Treasury rules on nonprofit political spending will affect voter registration efforts and funding of political activity.

Alex Gleason, Policy Associate, New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
The election of the most progressive mayor and council in New York City history gives me immense hope that for the first time in 20 years municipal policy may actually put people before profits (or at least try.) More important, income inequality has been placed at the epicenter of popular political discourse.

Gloria Feldt, Co-founder and President, Take The Lead, Women’s leadership parity by 2025
As a women’s advocate, I default to the news in January of 2013 that the White House Project (tagline “Add women, change everything.”) had closed its doors. In recent years, I have been honored to speak at national meetings of numerous women’s groups, and have noticed their ranks trending fewer and older. The loss of groups whose missions have been rooted explicitly in social justice for women is troubling. My goal for 2014 is to be able to say that we have reversed the trend and are forging ahead.

Jason I. Osher, Chief Operating Officer
, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)
For sure it was the government shutdown. This breakdown in government demonstrated how squarely divided the country is and how the representation in Congress reflects this great divide in ideology, economic strategy, globalization, health care access, and other divisive issues.  It was a stalemate until one side blinked.  And the only ones who suffered were the American people.  This is why the work of nonprofits is so vitally important to the sustainability of our national infrastructure.  When government fails (which it often does in a variety of ways), national, state, and local organizations ramp up.

Eric Van, Internal Communications and Web Coordinator, MetroPlus Health Plan

If there was any single thing that affected influence, I would have to say the need to respond. Respond to disaster, to a heart-warming video or to a call for help.

Nicky Penttila, Web Editor, The Dana Foundation
The speed of social change. For example, Twitter’s recent change in its blocking policy and how it prompted activists and others to swarm the stream, many noting that the change would endanger people’s safety. Not hours after I started seeing it in my stream, Twitter had stepped back and said it would leave things as they were.

Eric Dubinsky, Dubinsky Consulting
Bitcoin is my choice for 2013’s biggest potential impact on the nonprofit sector. While we are only at the beginning stages of exploring this largely uncharted territory, this year will mark the start of what may have huge ramifications on the industry. Some NGO’s have begun to experiment with the unknown, yet exciting and promising, world of virtual currency. I believe this should be a topic of discussion in every development department that is heavily invested in social media and online fundraising.

What’s your choice for the biggest nonprofit issue/event in 2013? Please comment below.