Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Immigrants and Social Security

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across the following editorial comment in The New York Times. No doubt it will set off a lively conversation, if readers I know are here decide to weigh in!

But, the points made are very real and complicate the debate on the future of undocumented immigrants. Let me know what you think.

How Immigrants Saved Social Security

Immigration is good for the financial health of Social Security because more workers mean more tax revenue. Illegal immigration, it turns out, is even better than legal immigration. In the fine print of the 2008 annual report on Social Security, released last week, the program’s trustees noted that growing numbers of “other than legal” workers are expected to bolster the program over the coming decades.

One reason is that many undocumented workers pay taxes during their work lives but don’t collect benefits later. Another is that undocumented workers are entering the United States at ever younger ages and are expected to have more children while they’re here than if they arrived at later ages. The result is a substantial increase in the number of working-age people paying taxes, but a relatively smaller increase in the number of retirees who receive benefits — a double boon to Social Security’s bottom line.

We’re not talking chump change. According to the report, the taxes paid by other-than-legal immigrants will close 15 percent of the system’s projected long-term deficit. That’s equivalent to raising the payroll tax by 0.3 percentage points, starting today.

That is not to suggest that illegal immigration is a legitimate fix to Social Security’s problems. It is another reminder, however, of the nation’s complex relationship with undocumented workers. Would the people who want to deport all undocumented workers be willing to make up the difference and pay the taxes that the undocumented are currently paying?

It is also a reminder of Social Security’s dynamism. As society and the economy evolve, so does the system, responding not only to changes in immigration and fertility, but also in wage growth and other variables. As such, it is adaptable to the 21st century, if only the political will can be found to champion the necessary changes. Those include modest tax increases and moderate benefit cuts that could be phased in over decades — provided the country gets started soon.

[Here's the link: How Immigrants Saved Social Security - New York Times]



Chris said...

The problem with this reasoning is that payroll taxes are siphoned out of the Social Security Tax Fund and placed in the general fund to be used for other purposes. So in the end illegal immigrants use more services than they pay in taxes. This has been well documented. Any tax revenue illegals pay is used up for their benefit.

BTW, why did you take my posts off on April 11th?

Larry James said...

Chris, first I took your comments off my page because, like this one, they are full of incorrect assertions that help no one. In fact, regarding immigration, the federal data shows that undocumented workers receive far less in services from the national gov't than they pay in. The numbers from the states remain a toss up and too close to call. I and others grow weary of the half-truths and the outright distortions of fact and reality. So, I reserve to the right to remove the outlandish and I will continue to exercise that right.

Anonymous said...


Chris made many assertions. The only one that may be incorrect is how much services illegals use vs. the taxes they pay. I can't see how censorship helps your blog.

The best answer to speech you disagree with, is more speech. Instead of deleting something why not show the world why Chris is wrong? This is a public blog after all, not a private journal. Debate helps everyone.

On immigration-
I believe our country should welcome all peaceful immirgants.

The federal government's immigration law is not sacred. It is a merely a reflection of which special interest group last bribed Congress.

Free trade (movement) in Labor is great for America for the same reason that free trade in goods is great for America.

It is hard to have an open immmigration policy with a welfare state. I would prefer to scrap the federal welfare state myself.

Welcome to America!

katie said...

This is an interesting angle. It reminds me of the thoughts in Immigrants and Boomers -- this idea that the way our society is set-up right now, we actually NEED the immigrants. The arguments aren't based on compassion, but on business. Should make some pause and consider.

My question comes not in what other services illegal immigrants use, but rather, what do we do with a growing population that has no ability to rely on social security? To the best of my knowledge (not necessarily a fact), these workers are not exactly bringing home six-figure salaries. They are the poor working class -- those who most desperately need the opportunities of social security. This will likely change the way CDM and social service non-profits think and relate to the community in the future.

In general, there is much talk about the aging population of the country, how we care for them, etc. But thinking of a growing number of them without access to resources is a sobering thought, and heightens the need for caring for our neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Guest,

Those of us who've been around here know a lot more about Chris than you think. Chris apt to spew unhelpful Rush Limbaugh jargon that is clearly full of a lack of understanding and is full of hatred. Chris has made comments borderline white-elitist, and is intolerant of a diverse society.

We have lots of good debate on here, but we don't need selfish, ethnocentric comments on this blog. This blog tolerates many different ideologies, but at some point, repeating the same-old tired lines and allowing such a hateful viewpoint is only harmful. If you need proof, just start reading through the last six months of Larry's blog, and you'll see the intolerance of certain people that is simply hurtful.

Anonymous said...

I can see some misunderstanding of my positions.

1. I think Larry is a great guy. Why? Because I don't know him personally, and I do know he spends his time volunteering. Nothing wrong with that.

2. Centralized government power (federal) is bad.

3. I'm not an anarchist.

4. Not that it matters but- I used to be a public defender, and I still take indigent defense cases. (Street reality).

5. I enjoy Larry's blog and I enjoy sharing ideas. However, do not mistake debate for malevolance.

Ideas should be debated. I learn from writing and reading responses. I think blogging/commenting is an incredible mental exercise to fine tune one's beliefs and learn about others.

6. I really do not think Larry is a bad person.

7. I will now say goodbye to LJUD. I'll just be a reader.

c hand said...

I believe black males also help to prop up SS. They pay into the system but have a much lower life expectancy.
Justice would allow people to direct the fruits of their efforts.

Larry James said...

Robert, please continue to make comments. Chris just is in a different category and I simply don't have time to keep responding to much of the stuff she puts up. The comments I removed had nothing to do with immigration, but were a string of very cheap shots at a political personality. Just don't have time to deal with all of her rhetoric.

Chris said...

Cheap shots? Everything I said is very well documented and a majority of the American people agree.

Anonymous said...

Really. Where are your sites and polling data?

Anonymous said...

ANON, 12:02, Chris has only one data point and only one polling site: Rush Limbaugh. But, she complains about the media with the best of 'em!

Chris said...

The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton by Bay Buchanan, for only one source.

Anonymous said...

Thanks SO MUCH, Chris. Bay Buchanan--now there is an objective source for sure! Give us all a break for goodness sake!

Hermano Jim said...

Larry, thanks for braving these waters. I often hear the claim that immigrants are freeloaders who are not paying their way. Undocumented immigrants, like everyone else who lives in America, pay sales tax, gasoline tax, automobile taxes, property tax (through their rent payments), and the "sin" taxes on alcohol and tobacco. The only taxes undocumented immigrants could possibly evade are federal and state income taxes (many states don't even have state income tax). According to the Social Security Administration, about three-quarters of all undocumented immigrants pay federal income tax, Social Security and Medicare, monies that they will never see again. Here is the link:

Keep up the good work, brother!

Morris Jones said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Larry James said...

Again, I am removing the "pay day loan" ad.