Outside help for social security

August 12, 2010, Duke University

(PhysOrg.com) -- Professor proposes an idea that would address both the problems of illegal immigration and Social Security.

Rarely do you see two of our country's most intractable problems - illegal immigration and the solvency of Social Security - lumped together in the same sentence.

I would like to propose an imperfect idea that could address both problems at once. The plan wouldn't have to work that well to be an improvement on the current immigration system, and we know the financing problems of Social Security are dire.

So here goes: We allow immigrant workers to come to the United States to work for up to three years. The cost of a work permit would be that immigrant workers and/or their employers would have to pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. Workers would not be able to get benefits from either system even though they paid taxes, thereby lessening the impact of the looming Baby Boomer retirement on both programs.

Some pay such taxes now and cannot benefit, but routinizing this arrangement would maximize taxes paid and reduce identity theft. Employers would get employees, and workers would get a job that enabled them to return money to their home nation. At the end of three years, they would return home.

I start out with two basic assumptions - that the benefits of illegal immigration accrue mostly to the immigrants and their employers, and that these same benefits outweigh the costs to society as a whole. If it were the other way around, we would have found a more effective means of stopping illegal immigration. The benefits include the contribution of illegal workers to the economy, perhaps doing jobs that citizens don't want. Costs include and other social services, notably schooling that is provided to workers and their children.

The intangible benefits and costs of the cultural diversity inherent with illegal immigration are difficult to estimate, and I doubt if any analysis on such a subjective question would change the views of many people, so I assume they are a wash.

I acknowledge there are many problems with my idea. First, one reason illegal labor is attractive to employers is because they can presumably pay such workers lower wages. Such employers are unlikely to want any change.

Second, lack of health insurance and the related issues of a person receiving care in an emergency room will remain. We would need to develop a catastrophic insurance scheme that could be financed primarily or fully by immigrant workers. (most workers are likely to be young and healthy).

Third, what if they have kids while in the U.S.? Currently, that child is an American citizen, with all the afforded rights. There have been suggestions of changing the Constitution so that children so born would not be citizens. What about children born to parents of mixed status (one parent a citizen, the other not)? This is a tangled issue with many dimensions, and some sort of compromise solution would have to be worked out.

Fourth, this doesn't address the illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. I view the deportation of 12 million people as unrealistic, so some form of amnesty is inevitable.

And, finally, how do we make sure the workers leave the country when their three years are up? The best hope of doing so is transforming a now-illegal labor market into a workable guest worker program that can be monitored.

These problems notwithstanding, the biggest benefit of my idea is that it acknowledges that some employers now see fit to hire illegal immigrants. If they didn't, there wouldn't be an illegal immigration problem. The goal should be to maintain this source of labor if it is truly important to our economy, but to do so in a way that broadens the benefits of now-illegal labor by helping to address the financing problems of Social Security and Medicare.

And if it turned out that persons no longer wanted to come to work under this arrangement, or that employers no longer wanted to hire them because they would be forced to pay and Medicare taxes, then we would have developed a market-based solution to illegal immigration where an interdiction approach has not worked, and seems unrealistic.

Explore further: Post-9/11 immigration enforcement lowered demand for undocumented workers

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1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2010
After 3 years and go back? What! with their ten USA babies?
First you have find them to send them back.

Dumb..dumb...dumb..And, amnesty is NOT an option.
not rated yet Aug 12, 2010
That's dumb Harry.

Best way to do it would be to streamline the process and clear up the inaccuracies and vaguerys of the law while establishing record reciprocation with other countries. Give immigrants who can prove they were here prior to a set date a path to enter the system, with a fine. Then let them start paying taxes and adhering to social security laws.

Do you want to get Social security? Put 40 quarters in like everyone else has to. There are a lot of ways to reform this, the article isn't a bad idea, but not until the borders are secured.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2010
illegal labor is attractive to employers

The problem goes away when employers are fined all back taxes/insurances x 2 when caught cheating wage laws, regardless of employee legality.

Simpler than constitutional amendments, and more effective with bounties paid to anonymous-whistle blowers.
not rated yet Oct 07, 2010
Open the borders, up minimum wage, and mandatory retirement at age 60 will do the trick! Immigrants do the jobs the American elite educated kids do not want and are too educated for, next with mandatory retirement, our kids can get out of college and universities, start their careers and their families with the movement out of the workforce of the retiree's. Makes retirement a reality and not a mythic possibility if we live long enough, plus leaves options of small business ventures open for those whom retire and want to work-lets those that want to spend, spend, and actualizes the movement of the generational quagmire we face every 20 years henceforth from boomers onward in stagnent economies until the generations turn over naturally and monies and assets pass between. This way with the increased life span, things stay more fluid, more old American myths of the dead whites become realities.

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