Trustees Report confirms: Trump's war on immigrants is hurting Social Security 
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While Americans are distracted by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE’s over-the-top tweets and swirling scandals, Trump and his Republican allies are quietly undermining Social Security. They apparently think that no one is watching.

Fortunately, the law requires that Social Security’s Board of Trustees report to Congress every year on the program’s financial health. In this year’s report, released earlier this month, the trustees found that despite the strong economy, Social Security is less sound today than it was just last year.


The 2017 report projected that Social Security would run a surplus of $44.7 billion in 2018. Instead, it is now projected to have to take $1.7 billion from its accumulated $2.9 trillion reserve to cover this year’s costs. Moreover, over the next decade, the new report projects that Social Security will have over half a trillion dollars less than was projected just one year ago.

None of this is cause for alarm. The new report shows that Social Security is 100 percent funded for the next decade and a half, 93 percent funded for the next quarter century, and 87 percent funded for the next half century. Congress has plenty of time to ensure that all benefits can continue to be paid for the rest of the century simply by requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share. Indeed, benefits can even be expanded — that is, as long as Trump and his Congressional allies don’t undermine Social Security even further.

What did Trump and the GOP do to hurt Social Security? First, Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the legal protection accorded to 800,000 young people, known as “Dreamers,” who have lived in the United States since they were children. Dreamers are members of the armed forces, firefighters, doctors, nurses, teachers, and other contributing members of our society. All young, Dreamers were projected to contribute to Social Security for decades. Now, if DACA is not restored, they will lose their green cards and fade into the shadows or leave the country altogether.

Ending DACA is, first and foremost, immoral. Dreamers are being punished for nothing they did, but simply for being born to parents who did not have the proper documentation. Two siblings, a year apart in age, could be torn from each other. They face very different fates simply because the younger one was born inside the United States and the older one outside.

Indeed, the demonization of all immigrants and the immoral effort to discourage immigration by cruelly snatching children from their parents’ arms is a question of right and wrong. That should be enough. But for those primarily focused on their own pocketbooks, it is imperative to recognize that these efforts by Trump and his compatriots are extremely damaging to our economy and our Social Security system, in particular.

Immigration is a net plus for Social Security. Because immigrants are younger, on average, than other Americans, they will contribute to Social Security for decades. Ironically, undocumented workers contribute even more. They are prohibited from receiving Social Security, even when they can prove that they have contributed. The Social Security Administration has estimated that undocumented workers pay billions of dollars to these programs each year but earn no benefits.

If Trump and his GOP allies succeed in their plan of cutting in half the number of people legally immigrating to this country, Social Security will lose$2.4 trillion in revenue over the next 75 years. That is money that will have to be found elsewhere.

But, if immigration were doubled, rather than halved, Social Security would gain around $5 trillion over the next 75 years. That is substantially more than the cost of giving all current and future beneficiaries a 5 percent benefit increase starting today!

Trump and the GOP’s xenophobic policies aren’t the only way they are hurting Social Security. Their determination to redistribute wealth from average Americans to their plutocrat donors is also having an impact. Their tax bill, with its technical rules about converting salaries to so-called pass through income, is also robbing Social Security of revenue.

This is not speculation. The 2018 Social Security Trustees Report states that Donald Trump’s decision to end DACA and his tax legislation each have a “significant net negative effect” on Social Security’s finances over the next ten years.

Is this an unintended byproduct of immoral policies? No. Despite Trump’s campaign promises not to cut Social Security, the statements he made prior to running for office showed he considered it a Ponzi scheme and wanted to privatize it. His Cabinet appointments, as well as his budget and the legislation he supported once he became president reveal that his campaign “promises” to not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid were simply lies he told to win votes. 

Undermining Social Security is what Trump and his Republican cronies have done in the lead-up to the mid-term election. Imagine what will happen to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in 2019, if the GOP retains control of Congress.

Let the 2018 Trustees Report be a warning shot. If you want to protect your Social Security, hold onto your wallet when Republicans are in Washington, D.C. And vote them out of office the first chance you get.

Nancy Altman is president of Social Security Works.