Protect Social Security; Don't Let Illegals Raid the Trust Fund
Byline: Shannon Benton, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The 110th Congress convened yesterday with a new Democratic majority promising long-term solvency for Social Security.
It won't be easy.
According to the Social Security Trustees, our nation's Social Security Trust Funds are forecast to be completely exhausted by the year 2040 unless major changes to the system are implemented. But the crisis isn't waiting that long to arrive the system will have to start paying out more than it's taking in within a decade, and it's unclear where the money will come from.
Those in the Social Security policy world all point their finger to their favorite culprit some blame the absence of a Social Security lockbox, others the coming crush of baby-boomer retirees, while others choose the lack of will by some lawmakers to touch the "third rail" of American politics. Those factors do play a role, but for today, they're not the story.
Three and a half years ago, our organization submitted requests under the Freedom of Information Act to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and U.S. Department of State requesting a copy of and all costs associated with the U.S.-Mexico Social Security Totalization Agreement. The agreement is intended to eliminate dual taxation for people who work outside their country of origin.
Last week, the SSA finally relented a bit, and our organization became the first to see the agreement. The news isn't good.
We may be about to give away billions of dollars in Social Security money to millions of today's illegal Mexican workers.
At first glance, a law called the Social Security Protection Act of 2004 seems to prevent this giveaway from occurring, since it forbids illegal immigrants from claiming Social Security benefits. But a loophole in the law allows immigrants who gain valid "work authorized" Social Security numbers at some point to eventually file a claim for benefits. That means if an illegal worker becomes a citizen through guest-worker amnesty legislation or the totalization agreement, the government would use all earnings to calculate his or her retirement benefit including money made while working in the U.S. illegally.
The high cost of such a deal is of great concern. The Social Security Administration actuaries estimated the totalization agreement with Mexico would cost the U.S. Social Security system an average of just $105 million for each of the first five years significantly less than our existing agreement with Canada. However, when the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluated the SSA's estimates, it bluntly stated, "The cost of such an agreement is highly uncertain," and suggested that such a deal could cause a "measurable impact" on Social Security's trust funds.
Despite the GAO's three-year-old recommendation that the Social Security Administration improve cost estimates, no new estimate has been publicly released, and there is no evidence that the SSA has even conducted one. …