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Hullabaloo


Monday, April 12, 2010

 
"Get 'Em On The Grid"

by digby

That's what my friend Lisa has been saying for years whenever we talk politics, specifically the issue of the deficit. She's talking about immigrants.

She says "get 'em on the grid" because she works with retirement planning and has to game out the effects of "entitlement" reform for her clients. Just looking at the numbers it has seemed clear to her for years that if immigrants are paying into social security and medicare, it would go a long way toward balancing those books as the baby boom goes through retirement and beyond.

As a Californian she also sees first hand that not only are immigrants tremendously hard working and willing to pay into the system, if they become Americans they contribute to the next generation of workers as well.

Robert Reich agrees:


Fed Chair Ben Bernanke this week listed the choices. "To avoid large and unsustainable budget deficits," he said in a speech on Wednesday, "the nation must choose among higher taxes, modifications to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, less spending on everything else from education to defense, or some combination of the above."

Bernanke is almost certainly right about "some combination," but he leaves out one other possible remedy that should be included in that combination: Immigration.

You see, the biggest reason Social Security is in trouble, and Medicare as well, is because America is aging so fast. It's not just that so many boomers are retiring. It's also that seniors are living longer. And families are having fewer children.

Add it all up and the number of people who are working relative to the number who are retired keeps shrinking.

Forty years ago there were five workers for every retiree. Now there are three. Within a couple of decades, there will be only two workers per retiree. There's no way just two workers will be able or willing to pay enough payroll taxes to keep benefits flowing to every retiree.

This is where immigration comes in. Most immigrants are young because the impoverished countries they come from are demographically the opposite of rich countries. Rather than aging populations, their populations are bursting with young people.

Yes, I know: There aren't enough jobs right now even for Americans who want and need them. But once the American economy recovers, there will be. Take a long-term view and most new immigrants to the U.S. will be working for many decades.

Get it? One logical way to deal with the crisis of funding Social Security and Medicare is to have more workers per retiree, and the simplest way to do that is to allow more immigrants into the United States.

Immigration reform and entitlement reform have a lot to do with one another.


This is about arithmetic, not economics. Anyone should be able to understand it.


Update: Kos fills out the political case for putting them on grid, which should be self-evident.

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