Friday, April 01, 2005

100,000 Indian Doctors to Social Security's Rescue!

The Social Security debate has crystallized into Republican claims that it's a big crisis and the way to solve it is to get rid of Social Security; while Democrats are saying, aided immeasurably by the facts, that it's a small problem, and the way to fix it is to increase the payroll tax (preferably on higher earners), to cut benefits (preferably on wealthier folks) or some combination of both.

What I find bizarre is that neither side is saying that the solution to the Social Security funding problem is to expand the taxpayer base by bringing in more adult workers through increased legal immigration. So, instinctively I've assumed it's because someone's run the numbers and figured out that immigration wouldn't fix the problem.

But then I see noted smart guy Brad DeLong (either him or his buddy Bob Gordon, I can't tell which) point out that, "[r]aising immigration by 0.3% of the workforce every year wipes out nearly half of the 75-year Social Security deficit," and I really don't get it. I mean, the problem with social security is that we need more adults to work and pay taxes. Yet outside our borders there are literally millions of adults desperate to get into America so they can work and pay taxes! And because we write immigration policy, we can even cherry-pick the world's best and brightest, maximizing America's return on other counties' investments. It's an endless spigot and we've got our hand on it. Why aren't we bringing that into the debate?

Is it because everyone is afraid of anti-immigrant sentiment? Is it because nobody wants to come to America anymore? Because there's some quirk in the numbers and immigration really does create more problems than it solves? Am I not understanding what it means to raise the immigration rate by 0.3% of the workforce annually and missing some weird compunding effect (you know, like those penny-a-day and double it things)? Seriously, why aren't Democrats saying "don't worry, we let in 15,000 more Jamaicans and we're back on easy street...what, you don't like Jamaicans? I got Trinidadians, if you want them instead...how's about some nice Poles? Chinese?"

UPDATE: Or, alternatively, we can just cut back on border patrols, let in a few more illegal immigrants and screw them over until the Social Security shortfall is met...

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