Search Falling Awake
Just Darts Since 2009
Really, though, am I trying too hard to make sense of President Bush’s immigration fixation? He could simply feel that it’s the correct moral choice. (Many, if not most, Catholic bishops would agree with him.) If that’s the case, then Bush wouldn’t care if it’s the smart thing to do. It’s not like he hasn’t been accused of a “consequences be damned” attitude before. (As a matter of fact, that’s something I admire about him. As a person, if not always as a president.)
Of course, if it is a moral calculation, why is it only Latinos who should benefit? Shouldn’t we just throw open our borders to every person in the world?
On the other hand, if this is an effort to prop up Social Security, would it work–at least in the short term? I’ve skimmed the Rector study (a cost/benefit analysis of illegal immigration on taxpayers) over at the Heritage Foundation, and this is the only analysis I found of the impact of immigrants on Social Security:
Do Low-Skill Immigrants Contribute to the Solvency of Social Security?
It is often argued that low-skill immigrants have a positive impact on U.S. taxpayers because they pay taxes into the Social Security trust fund. It is true that low-skill immigrant households pay, on average, around $2,900 per year in Social Security (FICA) taxes; however, the average Social Security and Medicare benefits they receive actually exceed the FICA taxes paid. [ME: That’s true of most people, not just immigrants. That’s the problem with Social Security.] Of course, low-skill immigrant households receive many other government benefits as well, receiving ten dollars in total government benefits for each dollar they pay in Social Security taxes. [ME: That’s not really fair–if you’re going to talk about total government benefits, contrast them to total taxes paid, not just FICA. That’s what he does in the rest of the paper, of course, but here he’s specifically talking about Social Security.]
Even if low-skill immigrants were net contributors to the Social Security trust fund, it would be a serious mistake to look at Social Security in isolation from other government taxes and expenditures. A household that pays a small amount in Social Security taxes but consumes many times that amount in benefits funded by other tax sources does not contribute to the fiscal health of government. In the final analysis, taxpayers, including many Social Security recipients, will face higher taxes in order to subsidize low-skill immigrant households. [ME: other government benefits are more easily cut than Social Security, though. Welfare reform WAS accomplished, and many other entitlement programs could be altered in the same way, if our politicians could summon the will.]
Earlier in the paper, Rector said: “The present analysis adjusts the estimated income and FICA taxes paid by low-skill immigrant households downward slightly to adjust for the “off the books” labor of low-skill illegal immigrants.” Under the Bush plan the immigrants wouldn’t be working off the books anymore. At least in theory. Would this make enough difference to Social Security’s solvency?
Even if it would, I still worry about the cultural consequences. The same thing’s been tried in Europe, and we’ve seen the results…