Charlie Crist starts off sounding analytical, but soon winds up in the realm of demagoguery when he offers his idea of entitlement reform to the Miami Herald editorial board this week. Saying that his understanding of the Social Security crisis is that it’s primarily an issue of low worker-to-beneficiary ratios, Crist says legalizing the 10-12 million illegals in the country would solve that problem. However, Crist not only gets the basics of the issue wrong and draws the wrong conclusion on the impact of adding millions more into the SocSec pipeline, he then confuses legal and illegal immigration:
Where to start with this? First, America has always welcomed immigrants, and still does — when they emigrate legally. That statue in the harbor doesn’t say, “Break our laws and climb over our fences,” after all. Somehow I doubt that Crist’s ancestors came in a truck packed with dozens of other illegals across the Rio Grande. We are a nation defined by laws we create and enforce ourselves, not defined by ethnicity. How difficult is it to ask people who come here to do so by obeying those laws?
Next, the idea of saving Social Security by legalizing illegal immigrants is ludicrous. Crist’s formula only works if every illegal was 18 years old and willing to work until age 65 — and even then it would only postpone the eventual collapse. The bills Crist cites would only have allowed illegals who had resided in the country for years to get a fast track to legalization. They would pay into Social Security for half the time or less that other Americans do, but draw the same benefits at the end. The impact of adding millions of recipients in such circumstances would create a much higher level of unfunded liabilities for the SSA — as well as Medicare.
The worker-to-beneficiary ratio is poor not because we don’t have enough population growth, but because people are living far longer than when the retirement age was set over 70 years ago. When the SSA retirement age was set at 65, the average life expectancy was below that, which meant that at least half of the population that paid into the fund never claimed benefits. It was intended to help people who could no longer work for a living, not those who chose to retire voluntarily. Now, with life expectancy pushing 80, almost everyone draws benefits from SSA, which is why the ratio is so poor.
It’s rare to see such demagoguery and ignorance put together in a three-minute package, and prompted by a bit of petty revenge, too. If Crist is this obtuse, he doesn’t belong anywhere near the Senate. This isn’t a “common sense approach”; it’s nonsense.