By Steve Brawner
© 2014 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.
The question of what to do with these 50,000 Central American children sent to America alone by their parents to escape violence and poverty in their homelands – that’s a tough one. What do we do? Let some of them stay? Send them all home?
Eventually, we’ll be asking young immigrants to come.
We will do that because the decisions we have made, politically and personally, will leave us with no better choice. Let’s look at some statistics to see why.
In 1946, the World War II generation returned home from overseas and made a bunch of babies. From that year until 1964, 80 million baby boomers were born, and now they are beginning to retire in massive numbers and living longer than previous generations. Social Security’s framers did not plan for this influx of long-living beneficiaries when it was created. Life expectancy was 64 for a program that started paying benefits at age 65. There was one beneficiary for every 16 workers paying into the system.
Now there are three workers supporting each beneficiary. By 2025, the ratio will be 2.3 to one. The baby boomers themselves did not make enough babies, and then Congress messed it all up by raiding Social Security to pay for other programs.
This isn’t just a problem for the Social Security system. Entire sectors of the economy will be looking for workers. For example, the trucking industry, which pays pretty well, is expecting a deficit of 300,000 drivers over the next decade.
Could we just wait for people to make more babies who will grow up and fill the void? Not really. According to the Census Bureau, the median age for American females in 2013 was 39. That means a lot of us are too old to make babies. We’d have a real problem if it weren’t for the Hispanics already here (average age: 27).
Let’s review. We’ve promised benefits to an entire generation of retiring senior citizens, but we don’t have enough young people working to pay for those benefits, fill jobs in certain sectors, or make babies themselves.
We need an influx of young people – fast. Where could we find them? Obviously, south of the border and across the ocean.
At some point, regardless of all the political yelling, the United States will loosen its immigration laws. Those already here will be given a path to citizenship, or at least a path to something. The door into America will open wider. It might be attached to a wall, but the door will be open.
Is this the right thing to do? It won’t matter, because no one will have a better idea.
We ultimately will do this because we will have no better alternative as a result of the choices we have already made. Politically, we could have raised the retirement age enough to compensate for our increased lifespans. We have chosen not to do that. Our society could have fostered the expectation that the care of the elderly would be primarily the responsibility of their children. We decided, for many good reasons, to also rely quite a bit on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We could have had a sensible immigration policy. We chose to squabble about it. As individuals, we could have had more kids. We, including my wife and I, decided that two were enough.
The choices we have made over the past 50 years, when we have had lots of alternatives, will dictate the choices we will make in the future, when we will have far fewer alternatives. So welcome to America, kids – if not now, then eventually.