Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thinking Broadly

Robert Reich, who is described as “one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy,” is proposing a solution to “the Social Security problem” that is certainly novel. It is insane, you understand, to the point of being along the lines of curing a headache by diving off of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s interesting.

His position is that when Social Security was begun there were five workers for every retiree, and now there are only barely over three. Some time in the future, if present trends continue (emphasis mine), there will be only two.

First, he doesn’t mention that the “barely over three” workers are providing more income to the Social Security trust fund than is being paid out in benefits, even in a recession, nor that the fund is sufficient to pay out benefits for several decades. The “Social Security problem” is considerably less dire than it is being made out to be, and could be alleviated by removing the upper income limit on Social Security contribution.

Then there’s the “if present trends continue” bit. I was feeling very healthy a few weeks ago, and then I got pneumonia and felt very poorly indeed. On Feb 7th I would have said that “if present trends continue” I will be dead in four days. Present trends did not continue and, while I still have pneumonia and don’t feel very well yet, I am a very long way from dead. News flash Robert, “present trends” very seldom continue.

So, Robert Reich’s solution to the “Social Security problem” is (Are you ready for this?) to allow many more immigrant workers into the United States. They will be young people, he says, because foreign countries are bursting with young people, and they will therefor increase the number of workers per retiree.

Actually, of course, they will increase the number of unemployed persons per retiree, and unemployed people don’t pay into Social Security, but that’s just a minor detail. He tosses that aside with “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.” Bless his optimistic little heart.

Unemployment hasn't been below 4% since 1970, meaning that our present workforce has not been fully employed for four decades. So where are the jobs going to come from for all of these new immigrants that he is proposing to bring in, even if the economy does recover fully and completely? Not that anyone is suggesting that it's likely to do that before baby boomers retire.

He says that “we’ve been focusing on only one aspect of [immigration reform] – how to deal with undocumented workers.” Apparently his solution is to bring in a whole bunch of documented ones. He doesn’t say what to do with the undocumented ones.

We need to think more broadly, and connect the dots. One logical way to help 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.

Absolutely. If you have a headache think broadly; think about your feet. The simplest way to deal with a headache is to shoot yourself in both feet. Your feet will hurt so bad, and being crippled will be so disastrous, that you won’t notice your headache.

1 comment:

  1. He's probably a menber of the Paul Krugman Ivory Tower Insane Asylum.

    In theory, these 'documented' workers will be able to get legal jobs with legal SS numbers, and would pay into the SS system, pay federal, state and local taxes, etc. Of course, that is if they were able to find jobs. Never mind the existing citizen workers that have no jobs.

    And of course that doesn't say or do anything about the illegal workers that work for cash under the table, use stolen or made up SS numbers, pay no regular taxes (perhaps only sales taxes). I won't even claim they use public services.

    Maybe we can wait for the magic ObamaCard Act to pass and the illegal immigrants automatically become real people. Then perhaps they become the legal ones Mr. Reich is talking about.

    Or we could wait for the economy to actually recover in a true sense (not the 'jobless' recovery) and then let more people in IF NEEDED (emphasis mine).

    "Leading expert on work and the economy"? I have my doubts.