Florida GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio has a comfortable 15-point lead, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll, which shows independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek are stuck in the 20s, battling for second place. Last night ABC News hosted a Florida Senate debate with the three candidates (you can watch it here), and neither Crist nor Meek appeared to do much to weaken Rubio's standing.
Social Security was a big topic of debate. Charlie Crist kept up his false attack that Rubio would change Social Security for those already retired or near retirement. Rubio has said he wouldn't change the retirement age or restructure benefits for anyone 55 or older. (To the chagrin of conservatives, Rubio doesn't support allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security contributions.)
Crist, meanwhile, pushed the idea that amnesty for illegal immigrants could strengthen Social Security:
“I've also offered a plan that can help it that’s supported by Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor previously, in a previous administration. And it's straightforward and simple. There are 11 to 14 million people, different estimates by different people, that are not American citizens today, not participating in the American economy. If we can find a pathway to earned citizenship for those 11 to 14 million people, it would be paying into the system and when 2037 or 2041 comes, if in fact Social Security is still being challenged, we have another way and opportunity to pay for it that provides jobs in a legal sense and is compassionate to immigrants who come to our country.”
Crist has pushed this idea before, and Kyle Peterson has debunked it. Amnesty, regardless of its merits, would actually reduce the worker-to-retiree ratio:
About 50 percent of illegal immigrants already pay Social Security taxes, because their wages are “on the books.” The Social Security Administration estimates that illegals pay as much as $7 billion into the program on a yearly basis. Since they’re not eligible for the benefits, this is an inflow of money without any future corresponding outflow.
If Social Security’s numbers are the only consideration, keeping illegal immigrants illegal has its advantages.
Amnesty would bring the other half of current illegals into the fold of payroll taxes, and increase Social Security receipts in the short term. But it would also make all of these individuals eligible for the program upon retirement — essentially turning today’s one-way cash flow into a two-way street.