by Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works and EOI board member
But far from recognizing these contributions, Trump has continually asserted that immigrants are criminals, despite the fact that their crime rates are lower than native-born Americans. He has directed his administration to deport people on the flimsiest of excuses, often separating families in the process.
His policies are morally reprehensible. That should be enough. But for those primarily focused on their pocketbooks, it is imperative to recognize that Trump’s proposals are extremely damaging to our economy and our Social Security system, in particular.
If Trump pushes through his plan to slash immigration, it will cost the economy hundreds of billions of dollars in lost GDP. It will also hit Social Security’s financing, making it much harder to expand, and not cut, our earned benefits.
Immigration strengthens Social Security’s financing. On average, immigrants are younger than other Americans, so they will work and contribute to Social Security for more decades than the nation’s American-born, aging population.
If Trump’s decision to cancel DACA is not reversed, it will cost Social Security an estimated $31.8 billion over the next decade. Moreover, if Trump and hardliners in Congress are successful in slashing immigration in half, Social Security will lose $2.4 trillion over the next 75 years. In contrast, if immigration were doubled, Social Security would gain around $5 trillion over the next 75 years.
The projected increased revenue from doubling immigration is about seventeen times the cost of restoring an important part of Social Security that was wrongfully eliminated in 1981: Benefits to students between the ages of 18 and 22, whose working parents have died or become disabled. It is more than four times the cost of recognizing the invaluable role of family caregivers by providing them with credits towards their future Social Security benefits. Indeed, it is substantially more than the cost of giving all current and future beneficiaries a five percent increase starting today!
Conversely, reducing immigration will increase Social Security’s modest shortfall, making the maintenance of the program more difficult, and, accordingly, its expansion more difficult as well.
Trump and his political allies demonize immigrants because they want to keep the American people divided. They want us to be focused on fear and hatred of “the other” instead of uniting against the billionaire class, who refuse to pay their fair share towards the common good.
Instead of falling for Trump’s lies, we the people need to stand together and demand policies that work for all of us. That includes protecting and expanding Social Security.
In addition to requiring the wealthy to contribute their fair share, that expansion can and should be paid for by increasing immigration and bringing current undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. That is not only the morally right path. It is the best economic path for our nation. If we follow our better angels and not our biases, it is the path we will choose.
This article originally appeared in The Hill.