The Very Real, Very Massive Cost of Amnesty
Amnesty will come with massive costs.
Proponents of the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill deny that illegal immigrants given legal status will be eligible for Obamacare and other entitlements. Unfortunately for taxpayers, that’s not what the text of the legislation states. Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York, gave those “outrageously untrue” claims a solid thrashing because she actually read the bill.
Today, Americans face nearly $17 trillion in debt. If conservative reforms are not put in place, we can look forward to roughly $86.8 trillion unfunded liabilities of the federal government in the future. That includes the money for Social Security, Medicare, and federal employee’s future retirement benefits, and other entitlement programs.
When illegal immigrants who are given amnesty start receiving entitlement benefits from the federal government, that $17 trillion problem and that $86.8 trillion problem will be bigger.
The Heritage Foundation explains:
We have more than $12 trillion in public debt and tens of trillions of dollars more in unfunded obligations that we have no way to afford, thanks to promises made by past and present politicians. With this in mind, today’s political leaders must consider the fiscal impact of amnesty and a path to citizenship that would enable millions of unlawful immigrants to qualify for costly welfare and entitlement programs.
And of course, the left is trying to argue that illegal immigrants given legal status will make all this better.
The left and proponents of the Senate’s immigration reform bill, which would give amnesty to 11 million people here unlawfully, are championing the idea that these individuals would help to improve Social Security’s solvency (sub. req’d).
Simply adding 11 million people to our legal population is not the answer to fixing entitlement programs. In the long run (i.e., outside the CBO’s ten-year budget window), these individuals will be receiving far more from government programs than they pay in. This is the modus operandi for current American citizens. In other words, Social Security runs multi-billion deficits each year because the program pays out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes.
To be clear, conservatives are well aware of the demographic challenges we face with regard to Social Security and other entitlements. However, giving 11 million immigrants amnesty is not the solution to those challenges. On the contrary, there are a number of conservative reforms that can be implemented, such as raising the standard eligibility age for both Medicare and Social Security – because life expectancy has increased since these programs’ inception.
The math and economics of this may be complex, but the central idea here is simple: the 11 million illegal immigrants who are granted legal status (i.e., given amnesty) will at some point become eligible for government benefits. When they choose to take advantage of these taxpayer funded benefits, they will be taking more, or extracting more from the economy than they are contributing. Recall:
The average unlawful immigrant has a 10th grade education, and low-skill immigrants on average take more in government benefits than they pay in taxes at every stage of their lives.
In a perfect world, or one where at least our tax dollars grew on trees, this may work. However, the reality is that there is no way taxpayers will be able to afford this, especially when they cannot afford the current system.
We still await the exact estimates of the cost to taxpayers, but as Heritage also explains, the number will almost surely be higher than the 2007 estimate of $2.5 trillion. The bottom line is the price tag on the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill is something America cannot afford.