Democrats are trying to make a campaign issue out of President Bush's alleged plan to "privatize" Social Security, scaring seniors into thinking their checks will be cut off. That is a phony issue; all the president suggests is to offer younger workers the option (not the compulsion) of transferring a very small part of their Social Security benefit into private investments.
The real threat to Social Security doesn't come from giving young people this opportunity. The threat comes from a Bush administration plan to load illegal immigrants into the Social Security system, an idea that would skyrocket costs and bankrupt the system at the same time baby boomers flood into their benefit years.
The code word for this racket is "totalization." The United States has totalization agreements with 20 countries, which have been reasonable and uncontroversial, but totalization with Mexico is TOTALLY different.
The idea behind totalization with other countries is to ensure a pension to those few individuals who work legally in two countries by "totalizing" their payments into the pension systems of both countries. All existing totalization agreements are with developed nations whose retirement benefits are on par with U.S. benefits, and the affected employees work for companies that have been paying taxes into the other countries' retirement systems.
Workers from those other 20 countries come with employer documents verifying that they are authorized to work in the United States. Only a minuscule fraction of Mexicans enter with such documents.
The legitimate goal of totalization with other countries is to avoid double taxation for retirement when employers assign their employees to work temporarily in another country. Reciprocity works because there is rough parity between the number of U.S. workers in the 20 other countries and the foreigners from those countries who work in the United States.
But this goal has no relevance to Mexico. There is no parity between the number of Mexicans working in the United States and the number of U.S. citizens working in Mexico, and absolutely no parity in the social security systems of the two countries.
Mexican benefits are not remotely equal to U.S. benefits. Americans receive benefits after working for 10 years, but Mexicans have to work 24 years before receiving benefits.
Mexican workers receive back in retirement only what they actually paid in, plus interest, whereas the U.S. Social Security system is skewed to give lower-wage earners benefits greatly in excess of what they and their employers contributed.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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