osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Solving Social Security Through Immigration Reform

Remember last year's burning issue of social security reform and how, if we didn't do something right away, our social security system would crash and burn?

Happily, circumstance now allows us to kill two public policy birds with one stone!

Granted political memory makes early stage Alzheimers look positively eidetic, but perhaps folks can stretch their minds back to 2005 when the White House pressed social security reform as the critical issue on its domestic agenda. As the President explained, we face a demographic bulge in our workforce (faced by many industrial nations) that will, in some twenty years or so, leave us with more people taking money out of social security than puting money in to social security. A few years of that, coupled with the fact that payments are made with a cost of living allowance and are not just annuitized payments of what you put in, and the social security trust fund will run out of cash.

Sadly for the President, no one understood how paying a couple of billion dollars to move social security to privatized accounts would solve this problem. In particular, no one understood how you could (a) not cut benefits, (b) not add more people to te system, and (c) solve the problem by shifting some money to investment funds. The President couldn't even get support from key members of his own party. So the issue disappeared and, in the most recent State of the Union address, the Presidet barely gave it a mention.

Mind you, many folks agree the problem the President described is real. The national birthrate is barely at replacement level. We have a serious dip in the demographic curve (us "notch babies" born between the Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers), which is why I've never expected to get much out of social security. But the problem isn't "privatization." The problem is numbers. If only we could magically jack up our young, working population by a few million people, we could solve our social security problem.

You see where this goes, don't you?

So now we turn to 2006. The hot issue suddenly becomes immigration and the belief of folks that illegal immigrants are stealing our jobs and sucking up social services. I confess I find this difficult to believe, nor do I understand why the good folks at Wal Mart and in the construction business keep hiring these illegals, but hey - what do I know.

So Congress takes up immigration reform and, out of the woodwork, come a couple of million young folks wanting to augment our workforce. They want to become citizens, pay taxes, pay into social secuirty ---


Pay into social security.


So here's my suggestion. We grant immediate amnesty to all folks living in the country subject to criminal background checks and physical exams (no importing Ebola!) If we want to be real hard cases about it, we can deport everyone illegally in the country over 50 or who has some medical condition that makes them an economic loss, but I'm inclined to treat these folks as loss leader for the good workers. Then we reform our immigration laws to make it ridiculously easy for workers under 40 to enter the country. We ecnourage integration and permanent residence by allowing them to bring in their families (I'll settle for blood relatives only and no one with infectious diseases).

The usual objections boil down to (a) a belief that such a flood will depress wages, suck up social services, and lower our standard of living; and (b) we shouldn't reward illegal behavior.

WRT (a), the evidence seems damned mixed. Especially in a post-industrial society, we see fewer native borns wanting to take low-wage jobs that require intense physical labor. Traditionally, in the Great American Dream Scheme, immigrants fill these jobs while native borns move up the ladder. Most of the good manufacturing jobs have vanished. Many construction jobs are alread filled by day laborers who, being illegal, depress wages.

Besides, the view of the economy as a static pie that gets divided into smaller pieces based on population has pretty much vanished. A sudden influx of immigrants can have stimulating effect on the economy. The genius of America has been to upgrade to another version of the American dream wherewe define "American" in increasingly diverse ways. One hundred years ago, it was those awful Slavic people from Europe diluting our pure American stock. 150 years ago, it was those damned Irish -- nasty Papist agents out to undermine our great nation. Today it's them damn Mexicans. And no one remembers when we used to make the most incredible distinctions between Europeans and regard a bunch of us as "them."

WRT (b), I agree as a general principal. But there comes a point when reality trumps. We have 12 million illegal immigrants, apparently. They have created "facts on the ground" that change the political reality. All you folks who waited forever, sorry. I wish I could give you back the wasted time. But I cannot see remaining a prisoner to that forever.

So, on a cold-hearted self-interested basis, I think we should reform immigration. Let 'em in and tax the living heck out of 'em. You'll be grateful when you collect your social security check.

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