Thursday, September 1, 2011

Debt solution at our doorstep

In one of my classes we have looked very closely at the issue of America's debt and deficit crisis. We read over numerous budget plans, proposals, tables, and charts. One thing that is clear is that a viable budget solution must employ all 4 "options": Cuts to security related discretionary spending, cuts to non-security discretionary spending, cuts to mandatory spending (entitlements), and increased revenue. Bipartisan plans, such as the Simpson-Bowles report, take this into account.

The problem is that mandatory spending for entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is already the most troublesome of the three main categories of spending and will become even more difficult as our population ages and income inequality increases.

So, it all essentially boils down to what to do with entitlement programs; from there we can find ways of solving our many other problems.

We need a solution that maintains these programs as a safety net for disadvantaged, disabled and elderly Americans and doesn't hurt our recovering economy.

Where can we find such a magical solution?

It won't be easy or be found all in one place, but CNN's Fareed Zakaria knows one place we can start and it makes a lot of sense.

Immigration reform is the subject of an article by Zakaria from CNN World online, and he makes a compelling point that is even more compelling in light of what has happened in the time since the article was posted.

Immigration policy and the contributions of immigrants is what made America great, what continues to make America great, and what has the potential to help America get back on her feet.

The hardworking people who come here for a better life are more than just a solution to our demographics problem, but they also are indeed a counterweight to an aging population of baby-boomers. If we can reform our policies in such a way that more immigrants can come here legally and those who are already here illegally can legitimize their presence, we will have more than enough money flowing into entitlement programs to support future retirees.

In fact illegal immigrants already put more into the economy and taxes than they take out in services, and that difference would only increase were they granted amnesty.

As Zakaria argues, immigrants maintain a demographic vibrancy that separates America, for the better, from other industrial powers in Europe and Asia. We simply cannot afford to lose any social or economic advantages nowadays. Reforming our immigration to be competitive in the 21st century and beyond is something that we have to do sooner or later if we want to remain a prosperous nation, and sooner is preferable to later.

If you somehow aren't convinced that immigrants can help our economy, read this article to see what they can do for society as our neighbors. If you are convinced, I still recommend reading it to see just how inspiring the story of one Pakistani man can be.

The only drawback of this idea, which ideally wouldn't be an issue, is that it might not be politically viable.

In our current political climate we can't even manage to raise the budget ceiling for the umpteenth time or agree what the government is going to spend in the next year. How then are we going to find compromiseon an issue as important and divisive as immigration reform? Republican law makers know that no amount of rational argument for the economic and social benefits of immigration reform will convince their base to support anything but a really big wall. It is also going to be nearly impossible to get anything real done on something this big until after the election.

As excited as I am about the prospects of immigration reform for addressing our nation's money problems, I might have to wait a while before the issue is addressed.

I hope our next president is willing to take a good look at the benefits of immmigration reform and to do something about it. By which I mean that I hope we reelect President Obama.

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