A little clip job, and I'm weeded out of Rose Garden gigs


February 10, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

I have officially notified the White House I will no longer be a candidate for the attorney general's job.

This is a grave disappointment, given my qualifications. Although not technically a lawyer, I have watched countless episodes of Perry Mason. Even the most casual Perry/Della/Paul Drake fan can identify the two most crucial points of law:

One, the defendant is always innocent, particularly if the only people you defend are TV actors with good hair.

Two, if you're patient, and if Hamilton Burger is the D.A., the guilty party will always step forward to confess, meaning you don't really need juries, and, even if you do, you won't need them for more than an hour, including commercials.

Besides, how much do you have to know about the law before you know more than Ed "That E Don't Stand for Ethics, Kid" Meese?

As you can tell, my problem is not any lack of legal training. The problem is a kid named Jason.

Or is it Troy?

Or Bill? Will? Phil?

The thing is, I don't know his name. We call him Lawn Boy. Actually, I think he's Lawn Boy VII, although it may be VIII.

The original Lawn Boy is no longer with us. He either went to college, moved to Tennessee or, like the drummer for Spinal Tap, spontaneously combusted.

Anyway, before he disappeared, he set us up with a new Lawn Boy, who in turn, before he disappeared, arranged for yet another. And so on and so on. The new ones just show up. No name. No resume. No Social Security number. Just a lawn mower.

I would, of course, mow my own lawn except that I am unfortunately machinery challenged. There is an old saying in my family that we trust no machine unless it can be turned on by remote control. Therefore, I'm forced to wait for the kid to come, usually when the grass is just above the first-floor windows. He mows the lawn, I slip him 20 bucks and we make Social Security jokes.

Now it appears this makes me a crook, and, since Bush is in retirement, a pardon is probably out of the question. You can mea culpa all day, but it won't do any good. The new rules say that anyone who didn't pay Social Security taxes on workers who made more than $50 in any three-month period cannot be in the Cabinet.

But who knew?

Before the Zoe Baird scandal, no one knew. If you had a live-in nanny, that's one thing. But a lawn worker? Once-a-week domestic help?

That's the new standard for serving your country. Having smoked pot is no problem. Having dodged the draft is no problem. But if you paid your 13-year-old next-door-neighbor more than $50 over a three-month period to baby-sit your kids (hey, that's the current price for three hours) and failed to pay Social Security, you can't be secretary of state.

Which means virtually everyone is effectively eliminated from office. For attorney general, Clinton is going to have to find a recluse who never interacted with members of society. Maybe he can convince David Souter to leave the bench.

This is not simply a nanny deal. And it's not simply about illegal aliens either. There was a statistic in the paper the other day that 1.5 million people do not pay Social Security to the people who clean their houses. For baby-sitters, it's probably closer to 150 million.

Of course, many women have rightly labeled this a gender issue. Why are only women candidates for Cabinet positions asked about child care? It's an unfair burden. Nobody, for example, ever wondered if J. Edgar Hoover paid Social Security taxes for the person who ironed his favorite black chiffon gown.

But once lawn care becomes part of the mix, everything changes. Clearly, men are in charge of lawn care. Also barbecuing and taking out the trash. That's just the basics. More enlightened men also wash dishes, do the laundry (although few can actually fold) and even occasionally cook so long as there's no sauce involved.

I want to go straight. I called up the IRS and asked what to do to pay Social Security tax. After being put on hold for approximately 12 hours, the "technician" told me I was in deep trouble. I had to have form 942, a W3, a W2 and booklet 926 to explain the forms. If I wanted to do the right thing and pay back Social Security taxes, I had to -- and I hope this isn't too technical -- have my head examined. You have to pay the tax, a penalty, interest and, worst of all, the tax people won't even bag your shredded receipts.

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