The 116th Congress is comprised of 535 members. Some are famous, some are infamous, and many can find ways to drive home their points with a sensational flourish. Members include three radio talk show hosts, one mixed-martial-arts fighter, one whiskey distiller, seven ordained ministers, six social workers, and a rodeo announcer. In many ways, Congress represents the diversity of America, and its discord can become our discord.
More than ever, the polarization of America means CPAs need to be stronger advocates for positions that protect the public – one of the basic tenets of the CPA profession and a core value. This is where we must rely on our professional judgment.
We’d all like to think of ourselves as objective. Still, nature, nurture, and experience determine how we think the world should work. But there is a basic commonality to our profession: its very nature is grounded in capitalism. Among our primary objectives is to help our clients grow their businesses, create wealth, and be successful. This does not mean we are immune from differences of opinion.
The 535 members of Congress determine which business practices are unsavory enough to become illegal, and every CPA has the ability and right to have a hand in influencing that process. Many of us have forgotten what we learned in grade-school social studies, and we may not be clear as to what can be done at the individual level. At a bare minimum, collaborating with colleagues to support candidates that espouse similar views and values is a way to start.
PICPA’s government relations team and CPA-PAC, our political action committee, work to encourage the changes necessary to protect the public. The group is nonpartisan and doesn’t require that you dust off any old schoolbooks to know how things work. This is the only PAC in Pennsylvania that represents the interests of CPAs. A current area of concern is Pennsylvania’s aggressive tax collection tactics. General state tax reform is a primary agenda item, and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers look to the PICPA for input.
People, in general, are not hardwired for objectivity, but staying informed helps us make better decisions on identifying and prioritizing the most compelling issues and areas that need action. Trust is the currency that gives our profession value, and, as such, it is our duty to proactively exercise objectivity. A three-dimensional understanding of the issues at hand is a key component of effective policy, politics, and progress.
Alyzabeth R. Smith, CPA, is a senior associate with Siegfried Advisory in Wilmington, Del., and a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.