Organization lobbying on behalf of older Americans publishes misleading article to make case immigration will help keep Social Security solvent.

Fri, Sep. 16th Eric A Ruark, Director of Research, Numbers USA

The Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) was formed in 2007 with the organization framing itself as a conservative alternative to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). One can find its Stance on Key Issues on its website — including on Social Security, which doesn’t mention immigration — and on immigration, which doesn’t mention Social Security.

The July/August issue of The AMAC Magazine did publish an article by Gerry Hafer entitled “Immigration and Our Social Security: A Frequently Misunderstood Subject” in which the author tries to impress on readers that immigration is necessary to keep Social Security solvent, with the implication that more immigration than we currently have is needed.

This argument is not new. It has been used for years in an attempt to convince Americans, especially older Americans, that Social Security funding is dependent on mass immigration. Back in 2018, we pointed out that this was wrong when Vox “newsplainer” Alexia Fernndez Campbell claimed “economic estimates show that immigration would help save the Social Security system. Not just legal immigration — illegal immigration too.”

Hafer doesn’t go that far. He doesn’t claim that immigration will “save” the program, but he does assert that immigration has only a positive effect on Social Security, and he writes:

While lawmakers focus on tactical changes needed to sustain Social Security for future generations, it becomes more and more important to recognize the degree to which the program relies on net immigration to bolster our country’s flagging workforce participation rate — the key tax-paying component of the equation in financing Social Security’s operations.

The obvious question raised by Hafer’s conclusion is why the country’s workforce participation rate is “flagging?” It certainly isn’t because there aren’t enough working-age Americans.

There are 84.2 million U.S.- born residents not in the labor force. About half of those are between the ages of 16 and 64.

Hafer doesn’t ask why employers may prefer to hire immigrants over the native-born, nor does he acknowledge the extensive body of literature that shows the negative effect of immigration on American workers, let alone engage it. Hafer doesn’t even give his readers a basic calculation of how much the foreign-born contribute to Social Security versus how much they take out.

Hafer also brushes aside the problem of illegal immigration by saying those working illegally pay into Social Security (some do, many do not) yet won’t ever receive benefits. This leaves out the fact that this is only true if they never receive amnesty or don’t receive benefits through fraud (SSNs are frequently stolen by illegal aliens.) And it totally ignores the immense overall cost of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers.

The Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration noted in a 2013 report that payments made by illegal aliens have a marginal effect on the Social Security trust fund and may slightly decrease its deficit. In 2015, the SSA Chief Actuary testified to Congress that the DACA and DAPA amnesties of 5 million people would delay the SS Trust Fund insolvency by three months.

More legal immigration isn’t going to help save Social Security either; it can only prolong the program for a short time while creating an even larger obligation that the U.S. government will be unable to pay out. Immigrants are younger than Americans, as Hafer points out, but not by much, and the effect on the worker-to-retiree ratio is again marginal.

Pew Research put out a report in 2015 estimating that “keeping the old-age dependency ratio constant through 2050 would call for immigration inflows that are 15 times the present rate.”

Immigrants age at the same rate as the U.S. born. Claiming that immigration is a fix for Social Security is, as many have pointed out in counterargument, supporting a classic Ponzi scheme. The immigration influx will have to constantly increase at a rapid rate to fund payouts to beneficiaries until the whole thing collapses.

Serious structural reforms will have to be made if Social Security is to be saved, and that means a serious discussion of the problems facing the program, not unfounded claims about the benefits of mass immigration.

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Eric A Ruark, director of research

About budbromley

Bud is a retired life sciences executive. Bud's entrepreneurial leadership exceeded three decades. He was the senior business development, marketing and sales executive at four public corporations, each company a supplier of analytical and life sciences instrumentation, software, consumables and service. Prior to those positions, his 19 year career in Hewlett-Packard Company's Analytical Products Group included worldwide sales and marketing responsibility for Bioscience Products, Global Accounts and the International Olympic Committee, as well as international management assignments based in Japan and Latin America. Bud has visited and worked in more than 65 countries and lived and worked in 3 countries.
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