Thursday, January 04, 2007

Preparing for the Amnesty

The Bush administration has negotiated the outline of a deal with Mexico that would permit Social Security benefits earned by Mexicans in the U.S. (through payroll taxes) to be paid to them even after they return to Mexico. In principle, there is nothing wrong with such an arrangement. Foreign workers are required to pay Social Security and disability taxes, and they are thusly entitled to the benefits they have paid for even if they return to their home countries. However, the White House did everything in its power to keep the terms of the agreement with Mexico a secret, which should ring alarm bells right off the bat. Indeed, the administration only released the relevant documents after legal pressure from TREA Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group for retirees.

After government officials refused for more than three years to release the document, the seniors advocacy group obtained it by suing the Bush administration. TREA embargoed the text for release today.

Illegal immigrants aren't eligible for Social Security. But their work history in the United States would count toward eligibility for benefits if they eventually obtain legal residence. Congress is expected to consider this year a bill giving most illegal immigrants a chance to qualify for citizenship, and President Bush backs the general concept.

"We could have billions, maybe tens of billions, being paid out to people who have been here illegally," said TREA Senior Citizens League spokesman Brad Phillips. "And we don't know where that money is coming from. And we don't know how much money we're talking about because the Social Security Administration isn't telling us."

The deal apparently has not been finalized, however.

It's uncertain when the administration would send the agreement to Congress. The deal has remained in limbo ever since its signing in 2004.
Lassiter said the administration is waiting to receive diplomatic "notes" from Mexico that would further clarify the issue of benefits for illegal immigrants. "There has never been a response from them," Lassiter said.

A Mexican government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said consultations continue.

"We believe that this agreement will provide substantial protections for both Mexican and American workers," the official said.

One assumes the only remaining obstacle is the adoption of some form of amnesty for illegal aliens by the US Congress. President Bush sent on to failure in the GOP-controlled Congress last year. With a Demcrat majority more ammenable to such proposals he will likely try again soon. The Mexican government is doubtless waiting for the outcome of that struggle so that they can fine tune the deal to Mexico's maximal benefit. Fortunately for Mexico, President Bush seems hell-bent of arranging matters to maximize Mexico's benefit as well.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, also has questioned the Social Security Administration's math and assumptions, saying the payouts could be much higher than the agency claims.

"The Social Security Administration itself warns that Social Security is within decades of bankruptcy, yet they seem to have no problem making agreements that hasten its demise," TREA chairman Ralph McCutchen charged.

One wonders why Mr. McCutchen is in any way surprised by this. The Bush administration has gleefully run up the national debt, created brand new trillion dollar entitlements (drug prescription) and poured hundreds of billions of dollars down the rat hole in Baghdad. Why wouldn't they slam another nail into Social Security's coffin? Of course, Mr. McCutchen misses the point. The administration concluded this agreement with the understanding that it would open the door to millions of currently illegal workers gaining access to social security benefits, because it intends to legalize them, and assumes that in the long term, it will have its way on the issue. The obvious fact that this would help bankrupt the nation doesn't concern President Bush or his acolytes because they don't much care about the nation in the first place.


At 2:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take great exception to Pytheas' comment: "In principle, there is nothing wrong with such an arrangement. Foreign workers are required to pay Social Security and disability taxes, and they are thusly entitled to the benefits they have paid for even if they return to their home countries." Immigrants are entitled to nothing. Contributing to my social security should simply be the cost of an immigrant working in America. If these non-citizens don't like it, they can stay in their home countries!


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