The Naked Emperor: Immigration Cannot Save Social Security

Not the least of the problems that mass immigration inflicts on the Americans whose nation the immigrants are colonizing is how it affects the creaking Social Security system. The Open Borders lobby holds that immigration will save the system - a claim peddled by the Wall Street Journal and various professional Open Borders activists.

But, like most of claims of the Open Borders lobby, this one isn't true either.

A new study by economist John Attarian, a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan and a free-lance writer, takes the untruth apart in a new monograph, "Immigration: Wrong Answer for Social Security," available from Americans for Immigration Control.

Anyone who thinks mass immigration will support us in our old age needs to read it through.

One of the major myths comes from Open Borders activist Stephen Moore, formerly of the libertarian Cato Institute. In 1998 Mr. Moore came out with a study that laid the basic building block of what would soon become an entire pyramid of unexamined assumptions and untested assertions.

The argument is that, since the American population is aging and a smaller generation of taxpayers will be contributing to the Social Security funds in the future, only vast numbers of immigrants can save us from ruin.  Mr. Moore argued that immigration was already "keeping Social Security afloat" and, as Dr. Attarian writes, "that an increase of annual net immigration would raise immigration's revenue contribution to $2,148 billion. Therefore, immigration would be crucial to any solution to Social Security's problems."

But, Dr. Attarian points out, Mr. Moore's study is seriously flawed. It "rests on a confusion of three totally unrelated concepts," "employs an unsound method" that mixes up present-day monetary values with others corrected for inflation, and - probably most important - comes up with calculations that don't even add up.

For the period 1998-2072, the Social Security deficit is projected to be some $16 trillion, but "Increasing annual immigration to one million [as Mr. Moore advocates] would increase revenue by 0.9 percent and reduce the deficit by just 3.0 percent. The inescapable conclusion is that immigrants are hardly 'keeping Social Security afloat,' and that massive increases in immigration will not do much to save it."

Mr. Moore is not the only Open Borders advocate to claim that immigration will save Social Security.

Ben Wattenberg, long a boomer of virtually bottomless immigration, has written that mass immigration "is the easy solution to the Social Security crisis" because it increases the population of working adults who pay taxes.

Mr. Wattenberg thinks that if we "doubled our annual net immigration … it would reduce Social Security's deficit by 28 percent," a claim even more extreme than the flawed projections of Mr. Moore.

Dr. Attarian pinpoints the arithmetic fallacies in Mr. Wattenberg's calculations but also points out that the argument is "simplistic, because it assumes that immigration has only one, positive effect on Social Security's outlook: immigrants take jobs and pay Social Security benefits."  

In fact, mass immigration, at current levels and even more so at the level Mr. Wattenberg wants, would "affect things like labor productivity and wages," which are likely to decline. Since Social Security is financed by taxes on labor incomes, its revenues would decline as well.

"Furthermore," Dr. Attarian writes, "the majority of immigrants have little education and low skills, and work in menial, poorly-paid jobs. Such immigrants are necessarily poor Social Security taxpayers, which implies that adding many more of them is unlikely to save the program." The Wattenberg thesis, he reasons, is without merit.

"The case for increasing immigration to save Social Security," Dr. Attarian concludes, "is illusory," and the unexamined faith in mass immigration is in fact a "naked emperor." 

Moreover, a "massive increase in America's population" like that the Open Borders pushers demand "would calamitously overload our environment" and resources like water, land and energy.

Aside form the social and cultural damage that would ensue, the economy itself would be harmed and potential revenues for Social Security diminished still further.

Of course, the Open Borders lobby cares nothing for the environment and it really cares nothing for Social Security either.  The libertarians and free marketeers pretending to fret about the future of the program have typically advocated its abolition anyway.

What the Open Borders lobby really cares about is immigration pure and simple -- to bring in cheap labor to drive down the wages of American workers, and import a new electorate that can be manipulated into supporting its candidates.

The "saving Social Security" myth is simply one more fairy tale invented by the advocates of mass immigration to lull the rest of the country to sleep. 

If more Americans take a look at Dr. Attarian's impressive dissection of the fairy tale, they may start waking up before they lose their country and their future.

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[Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control.]