Monday, July 18, 2011

How to save Social Security and Medicare

To my boomer age group and my elders: if you want to keep your Social Security and Medicare, get on board with sensible immigration reform. Making it easier for eager workers -- highly skilled most obviously, but also lower-skilled -- to enter the U.S. legally would be in the best interests of the aging population. The welfare state works best when the economy is growing. Only when we lose our spunk and can-do spirit, when we accept decline as the new normal, does it begin to look impossible to sustain our benefits.

This country's prosperity has long been built on a great sucking sound: we've long attracted people with gumption, entrepreneurial spirit, and sheer willingness to work for a better future from all over the world. And that's great, because oftentimes those of us who've been here awhile need their energy.

Right now, old people (over 65) are about 12.5 percent of the population; in 2050 (when I don't expect to be around) elders will be 20 percent. It will be immigrant workers, a first generation in this country busting their butts to give their kids a chance, who are going to take care of all those old people. They'll be the folks paying taxes and FICA -- we need them.

You don't have to believe me about this. Listen to Fareed Zakaria, a journalist, editor at large at Time magazine, and a citizen-immigrant himself.

I think there is a certain kind of closing of the American spirit. And here's the tragedy, if you look at one of the absolute crucial strengths the United States has going forward, it is immigration. Why do I say that? If you look at every industrialized country in the world, we all have the same problems. We've got a welfare state. We've got too many people who are going to get old. We have health care costs rising. And, you know, those are things you can fix. They're difficult, but you can fix them. The one thing you cannot fix, you cannot change really is demographics. Every rich country in the world is going to have fewer and fewer people.

The problem that Japan has, which is so much part of its 20-year decline, is that it is simply losing people. Italy will be next. Germany will be after that. One big exception: the United States. We are the only industrialized country in the world, the only rich country that will actually gain in people. By 2050 the United States will have 400 million people, which is why you talk to any CEO who understands these trends and they will tell you America remains a powerful, powerful economic dynamo because it's going to have more young workers who are entrepreneurs, inventors, producers and taxpayers. So that means that the United States is going to be vibrant economically, demographically - and this is all because of immigration.

The only difference between us and all these other rich countries is that we take in, legally, every year, more people than the rest of the world put together. And this is our extraordinary advantage. We take them in. We assimilate them. We know how to do it. We're the envy of the world with regard to this stuff, and yet, what we are doing is we are now trying to copy the immigration practices of France and Germany, which have utterly failed to assimilate their populations. We are adopting this churlish, hostile attitude towards immigrants.

Fresh Air, 6/30/11

Zakaria is unafraid; he looks at the genius of his new country and sees successful generosity. What's the matter with so many of us, especially older people?

1 comment:

Humana-Walmart Preferred RX said...

This is a great idea! I really like it. This would allow the government to save money on the Medicare program since the migrant workers are a little less expensive than the normal local workers especially in the caregiving department. Good idea!