Fix Social Security?
by Joe Duarte, MD
Joe-Duarte.com & IntelligentForecasts.com
February 21, 2005
The undocumented worker subject is indeed controversial, and is the source of heated debate among government officials, elected or otherwise, as well as the population at large.
The main area of discussion usually centers around the drain on the system, especially health care, as the aliens tend to flock to emergency rooms, and in some cases even qualify for government aid.
But, a different perspective might be useful, even if only for argument's sake.
Illegal aliens are willing to risk their lives and to pay thousands of dollars for the chance to enter the United States, with the only payoff under the best circumstances for many being the opportunity to stand outside a Home Depot and to hope for some low paying job to come along.
Yet, in many cases, contrary to the stereotypical portrayal of these folks in some forums, these same people are as industrious and hard working as anybody else, and like many immigrants before them, are just looking for a better way of life.
The migrants are willing to pay large sums of money to get into the United States illegally. They are willing to brave heat, cold, rattlesnakes, and the risks of drowning or assault to have a chance to stand outside a big warehouse and, maybe, just maybe, get picked up by somebody looking for a handy man to mow a lawn or hammer a few nails into a house.
At the same time the United States is facing a budget and trade deficit, and although it is a controversial subject, it may face a Social Security downfall in the future.
The migrants are thankful to have any opportunity, because by taking a chance, crossing the border and getting hired for construction work in the U.S., their situation is often better than what they've got at home.
So why can't the U.S. government put the dynamic to work for everyone's benefit?
Recent estimates suggest that the shadow economy, where illegal aliens must operate, drains as much as a trillion dollars from the U.S. mainstream economy.
So, why not capture some of that money and put it to good use?
Why not start by turning the border crossings into tollbooth like structures?
The U.S. government could charge the migrants $5-$10 per crossing, both ways. Acquire fingerprints, retinal scans, and photographs, and create a national database. Sell them an I.D. card, say at $5, that allows them to be registered workers, and affords them basic rights, the potential for a baseline set of benefits, and in exchange collect fees and taxes from them, legally, and in an orderly fashion that helps the country's bottom line.
American companies can develop the software and hardware necessary. Legal teams can iron out the international laws and regulations.
Think of all the new jobs that such an enterprise would create, and of the potential injection of revenue into the U.S. Treasury.
Technicians and specialists would be required to develop, maintain and administer the system. Companies like EDS and IBM would likely see a rise in business from government contracts.
All these services and transactions can be taxed, regulated, and generate more fees that can go to the U.S. Treasury and social security.
Consider how many bright and otherwise undiscovered talented people might come into the U.S. absent the fear of being deported or killed. Some of these industrious people could actually incorporate themselves into the mainstream and contribute in ways that many might find unimaginable. History is full of immigrants to the U.S. who delivered significant and groundbreaking discoveries.
How about the benefits to hotel, restaurant and energy companies if the border areas become reinvigorated hubs of activity? This would again lead to job creation, and tax collection that could go to social security, or defense, or Medicaid funding.
By identifying and tracking migrant workers, the government could also tack surcharges to money being wired to Guatemala, Mexico or elsewhere and also add it to the social security fund.
International relations between the U.S. and developing countries are also likely to benefit, especially with Mexico.
And if the system works, it could also free up border patrol people to police the zones where Al-Qaeda and the drug dealers sneak through.
I'm not excusing illegal aliens. I'm not encouraging law breaking. And I realize that this is a complex and serious issue, in which the devil is most definitely in the details.
But, let's face it. The situation is unfortunately not going away. Yet, if looked at from a different perspective, it's not necessarily a problem. It's an opportunity for economic growth, and tax collection.
Even a modest attempt at such a program could well be the beginning of something more substantial later.
Lawmakers, and the population at large need to start thinking way outside the box on this issue, and at least make everyone start paying their way, so that America can remain what it has always been, the land of opportunity.
© 2005 Joe Duarte, M.D.
Dr. Duarte's Bio and Archive
Joe Duarte M.D. is founder and Editor in Chief of Joe-Duarte.com. Dr. Duarte is a board certified anesthesiologist, a registered investment advisor, and President of River Willow Capital Management, where he manages individual client accounts. His latest books "Successful Energy Sector Investing" and "Successful Biotech Investing" (Prima/Random House) are available on line at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com, Traders Press, and all major online and brick and mortar bookstores in the U.S., U.K. Europe, and Australia.
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