The worst thing about Trump isn’t that he’s a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” (and that’s from fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who’s so conservative he initially fought removing the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s Capitol). It’s that he falsely claims to be a “self-made man”—then also wants to prevent other Americans from achieving their own dreams.
Trump’s father started him out in real estate in the 1970s by loaning him several million dollars—worth tens of millions today. Nothing wrong with getting a hand up from dad—but don’t pretend you did it on your own. When Fred died, Trump inherited almost $100 million!
My own father, in contrast, came to this country with nothing more than $60 and a medical degree from China. Note this is not the proverbial “twenty dollars in his pocket” because I once said that, and my always-meticulous father corrected me: “No—it was $60!” After completing two residencies he still couldn’t find a job. Finally invited to work for a local physician in Montana, he looked at every listed apartment, only to be told that they had “no vacancies”. He reported this back to his sponsor, who picked up the phone, said some choice words, then said “go back and they’ll rent you an apartment.” Only then did he realize he had been discriminated against.
Trump’s American family tree has similar superficial American roots. His father’s parents were both born in Germany (although he worried about negative connotations after WWII, so said they were “Swedish”). But Trump never mentions this, because it would make “building a wall” and banning Muslims look hypocritical.
By the time my father retired he was Clinical Professor of Radiology at Columbia and a Division Chief of Neuroradiology. My parents had moved from a small apartment in Jackson Heights to Tenafly, one of the nicest suburbs of New York, and put all their three children through both college and graduate school—truly, the American Dream.
Working in academic medicine, my father never was “rich”. My mother got her master’s degree in social work from Fordham, but stopped working to raise her family—like most women of her generation. With their “immigrant mentality” they always lived frugally, and never bought a fancy car or designer clothes. This allowed them to set up the Chynn Family Foundation and endow it with $1 million to fund medical research and education. This represents a large portion of their net worth—the equivalent would be Trump giving away over a billion dollars.
Trump however is “one of the least charitable billionaires” in America, donating only $3.7 million to his foundation. If his claim that he’s worth $10 billion is true, that’s only 0.37% of his net worth. Like a middle-class American donating $100.
James Dobson, a leading evangelical, this summer claimed that Trump had been “born again.” Incredibly for a thrice-married man who’s an admitted adulterer, Trump has the support of 62% of white evangelicals. If this support came with the condition that Trump would tithe 10% of his income to the church, one can imagine how quickly he would disavow this constituency.
Trump’s candidacy hinges on his continued support from working class, high school educated white men. What if they knew that he was taking their hard-earned money and small donations, and using it to pay him, his company, and his family back millions in “expenses”? Trump refuses to donate even his resorts for campaign events—instead charging them to his campaign.
All this would be somewhat less appalling if Trump would permit others the same chance at the American Dream that his family received. Instead, having reached the financial promised land himself, he’s determined to slam the door behind him. Banning Muslim immigrants would be unconstitutional by violating the First Amendment’s religion clauses. What people don’t realize is that eliminating immigration—even illegal immigration—would be bad for the economy.
The reason is demographics. While Japan and Western Europe face an aging population and shrinking workforce, the U.S. has uniquely avoided “demographic senescence” because its population is continuously replenished by immigration. Immigrants tend to be not only young and hardworking, but also have larger families—which is actually a blessing for America.
“Give me your tired, you poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” This quote, by Emma Lazarus, a Jewish poet and native New Yorker, is proudly inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, as she stands watch over New York Harbor, where my parents began their American Dream. Hopefully, these words, and the noble intentions behind them, will inspire enough Americans to defeat this latest challenge to our ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—for all.