Return of the Great Social Security Giveaway
by Rep. Ron Paul, MD
by Rep. Ron Paul, MD
Last year around this time I wrote about a serious threat to Social Security that was moving ever closer — a threat so great that it could truly break the bank of our already dangerously fragile Social Security system. The threat is the ongoing "totalization" negotiations between the US and Mexican governments. An agreement on "totalization" would make hundreds of thousands of Mexican citizens eligible for American Social Security. Press reports just last month reminded us that these talks are continuing and will likely be completed this year.
As I wrote last year, under such a "totalization" agreement, even if a Mexican citizen did not work in the United States long enough to qualify for Social Security, the number of years worked in Mexico would be added to bring up the total and thus make the Mexican worker eligible for cash transfers from the United States. To qualify for American Social Security, a Mexican citizen would need to work in the US as short as just 18 months!
Totalization is nothing new. The first such agreements were made in the late 1970s between the United States and several foreign governments to help American citizens who were sent abroad by their companies. From there we have come, nearly 30 years later, to the point where an estimated 160,000 Mexican citizens would be eligible for US Social Security in the next five years.
Ultimately, the bill for Mexicans working legally in the US could reach one billion dollars by 2050, when the estimated Mexican beneficiaries could reach 300,000. Worse still, an estimated five million Mexicans working illegally in the United States could be eligible for the program. According to press reports, a provision in the Social Security Act allows illegal immigrants to receive Social Security benefits if the United States and another country have a totalization agreement.
Those in favor of sending US Social Security benefits to Mexican citizens argue that the crushing poverty in Mexico demands some form of US assistance to that country's aged. While the poverty in Mexico is truly deplorable and saddening, the fact remains that the US Congress has no Constitutional authority to enact what is essentially another foreign aid program. I would applaud any private citizen who wishes to help his fellow man living in poverty, whether in the US or Mexico or wherever he wishes. But for the US government to force this kind of "charity" is both immoral and illegal.
When Congress returns late this month, it should take the opportunity to re-affirm that Social Security is an American program designed to benefit American retired workers. That is why I introduced HR 489, the Social Security for American Citizens Only Act, in the current Congress. This act forbids the federal government from providing Social Security benefits to non-citizens. It also ends the practice of totalization.
Bringing hundreds of thousands of impoverished foreign workers into the Social Security system will surely break the bank, depriving millions of our seniors who contributed to the system all their working lives of that which is rightly theirs. That is no way to treat our seniors, be they from this generation or coming generations. As I said last year, we should be shoring up the system for those Americans who have paid in for decades, not expanding it to cover foreigners who have not.
January 6, 2004
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.