Saturday, January 7, 2017

SINS OF THE FATHER


In 1978 I began working for the Social Security Administration in Lynn, Massachusetts. Lynn is an old industrial city along the shore north of Boston. In the 19th Century it was a centre of shoe and leather goods manufacturing. In more recent years its main industries have been the General Electric aircraft engine plant and crime. Along the shore front there are a number of seafood restaurants one of which was a largely take-out place at a traffic rotary not far from the water.

Not long after I started my job a well-dressed, balding man of about 65 came in to file for retirement. He was the owner of the seafood place at the rotary. He was certainly of retirement age but there are some special requirements for business owners who retire. Those requirements all centre on whether or not the person is truly retired from operating his business. The point of those regulations being that retirement from business should actually be retirement from business because if Social Security is going to pay you for not working you should not actually be working. It quickly became clear that this was about the third time this gentleman had filed. On each previous application he'd been denied benefits because he was actually still running his business.

I'd only just begun this job. My family was still living in Connecticut. I would hitch a ride back home with a friend from the training for this job we'd both just been through. Each Friday after work she would pick me up and then we would drive to our respective homes in Connecticut. We would then reverse the process and she would drive me back up to Lynn on Sunday evening. On the drive back to Lynn this one Sunday I was telling my friend about this guy without revealing any names. As we neared Lynn I asked, "Mae, are you hungry?" She answered that she was a little. "Would you like to get some clams?"

We stopped at the seafood place at the rotary. We went to the counter and ordered fried clam dinners from a fellow who looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s and waited for our food. While we waited the gentleman who'd filed for retirement was puttering about the kitchen area which was fully visible from the order counter. He had a clipboard and appeared to be completing a checklist of some sort. Two younger men, the one who'd taken our order and another who was a little taller though about the same age, kept after my retirement applicant with questions.

"Dad, how much of X should we order for next week?"

"Dad, when should be pay Y bill? Within the 30 days or 45?"

It was clear by the time we'd eaten at the array of tables in the dining room around the corner that my retirement applicant was running the business still and that his sons depended on him for the substantial decisions for the business. He left before we did. With a nod toward us, the only customers in the place, he shouted to his sons, "You can close up for the night in a few minutes!"

The next morning I denied his retirement claim. Lest you think I was being overly harsh this man could well benefit from the denial because, if he was filing relatively honest tax returns, his monthly benefits from Social Security would actually increase until he reached age 70, when his work or lack thereof would become irrelevant, or at some nearer point at which 0he actually did retire from running the business.

What brings this to mind nearly forty years later is Donald Trump's refusal to liquidate his business holdings and the claim that he's turning their running over to his sons. If you believe that then you are still looking up the chimney for Santa Claus, waiting for the Easter Bunny and believe anything you hear on Fox News.  The idea that Uday and Qusay...I mean Donald, Jr. and Eric...Trump are going to run the Trump businesses is laughable on several counts. The most important reason why that will not happen is that no one seriously believes that Donald, Sr. is going to relinquish control of anything to anybody without being forced to do so. The second is that there is no evidence that either of the adult Trump boys have any head for business at all given that they have spent their lives dining out on their father's name.

Of course, there is one member of the Trump family who does seem to have some business sense, Ivanka, his daughter. She, however, is in a very odd position. Donald, Sr.'s many sexual references to Ivanka have been the butt of comedians' jokes for the last year or more. Those intimations of incest are gaining a bit more of a serious look because Trump has relegated his wife, Melania, to Trump Tower in New York and is bringing Ivanka to Washington in the role of de facto First Lady. Such an arrangement is not unprecedented. President James Buchanan's niece acted as his first lady. Kate Chase fully intended to fill that role for her father, Salmon, if he'd ever become president and Alice Roosevelt was the effective first lady for her father, Theodore. So far as we know Buchanan, Chase and Teddy Roosevelt never called those women "hot", claimed that they would date them or that the thing they most had in common with one another was sex. Whether Donald, Sr. has more than inappropriate thoughts about his daughter no one knows but placing her in a position normally held by the president's wife unquestionably feeds into a narrative that ratchets his lascivious remarks about his daughter up a notch or two.

Regardless of the president elect's relationship with any of his children the point here is that Donald Trump's allegation that his sons will be running his businesses while he is president is a fairy tale and a fraud like most of what Trump has perpetrated on friends and enemies throughout his life. The voters who put this con man in the White House elected the swamp itself to drain itself. How likely is that?