To be perfectly frank, the last few days have been so discouraging I'm tempted to renounce political activism and put my head in the sand (it hurts less that way). The ideas that are being discussed as possibilities are the kinds of things that would have been laughed off the political stage just 10 years ago (DLs for illegals, limits on political but no other kind of speech, mortgages for illegals, Tommy Thompson's amnesty, and now this SSN thing).
The SocSec figures listed are ridiculously low-balled in a number of ways:
- It starts with all of the cost figures. When you divide cost by beneficiaries, the result is about $2,000, even for current payments to those who move to foreign countries. That's more like a monthly benefit for a wage-earner who earned near the maximum taxable amount for most of his working career (current max benefit is about $18,000) PLUS a stay-at home spouse (spouse's benefit would normally be another 50% on top of that if they are the same age, so a grand total potential maximum of $27,000). I would say multiply the per-person and therefore total costs by about 6 and you'd have an accurate cost estimate.
- The quoted benefit per person in the article of $8,100 is very low, because it includes a lot of past retirees, who went out with lower benefits due to lower wages.
- Illegals with bogus SSNs are paying into the system and would surely demand benefits even though they are here illegally. If a half million illegals and their spouses start collecting about $15,000 a year in benefits (benefit levels are higher per dollar earned at lower earnings levels), it would cost $7.5 BILLION each year, for starters.
- If you finish losing control of the SSN numbering system (we're well on our way to that), the potential for massive fraud is incredible, and the chances of prosecution for committing it in the current moral climate are very low. Hundreds of people colluded in massive fraud during the final three years of the Clinton Administration at the Department of Education, and I'm not aware that any prosecution of anybody ever occurred.
- The current estimate of illegals in the country of 5 million is probably low. Many others estimate 8-12 mil.
- The impact of incentivizing illegal immigration are not quantified.
- This action would give no incentive to Mexico to heal itself. Vicente Fox has been a major disppointment on that front.
I'm trying to think of when I have been more discouraged about this country's future. Maybe 1979 during the Carter nightmare, but this is really worse because much of it is being done or proposed by the people I thought were usually the good guys.
And while I'm in the neighborhood, let me criticize the late Robert Bartley for the one glaring blind spot in an otherwise stellar editorial career: illiegal immigration.
You're bringing up all the reasons why it's going to be very difficult to negotiate a fair deal with Mexico. The people from Mexico who are working here legally should get something from Social Security. But it's hard to picture how to do it because of all the issues associated with illegals.
You mention the low per-person costs. This agreement deals with people who have less than 10 years paying into Social Security. Their payments are pro-rated with part paid by the U.S. and part by Mexico. I'm assuming that is the reason for the low per-person amounts.
posted on 12/11/2003 8:38:54 PM PST
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