Constituent policy

Implementing a Better Federal Policy for Legal Immigrants Will Help Strengthen Social Security

My father never received social security as such.

If all goes well, I won’t draw it until I’m 70.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

I have already benefited from Social Security. And in a way, my father too.

My father, after selling his share in Wyatt’s Hardware to his older brother Pershing, went to work as superintendent of the Lincoln Cemetery District which had three cemeteries – Lincoln, Sheridan and Manzanita in the rolling hills northeast of Lincoln.

He collapsed while cutting the lawn on a lawnmower one early afternoon in August 1965. He died of a heart attack ironically less than 10 feet from his mother Millie Beermann Wyatt’s grave.

Dad was 54 when he died.

My mother was 42 years old. I was 9 years old, my sister 3 years old and my older brothers 13 and 15 years old.

Life insurance paid off the mortgage.

But apart from that, my mom supported us by working with the help of her widow and dependent checks for children under 18 from Social Security.

My mother worked until she was 80 years old. She was working part-time at the time of my father’s death. After that she went to work full time and then some.

Rest assured that the jobs she was able to get over the years — grocery store clerk, candy store clerk, liquor store cashier and hardware store clerk — were all basically minimum-wage businesses with no benefits. social.

And the 8 years she went into business owning a frostie – think indie versions of the Sno-White drive-in genre – she named The Squirrel Cage which fit in more ways than one, was only to in many ways not much more lucrative than minimum wage salaried jobs.

The big difference was that she was her own boss. That meant seven-day workdays were the norm with 10-12 hours in the frostie and around an hour doing the books at home. Occasionally she had Saturdays off or a whole weekend off.

My brothers both had newspaper routes. As soon as they were old enough to get a work permit, they got jobs. And when my mom owned the Frostie, they both worked there in addition to their other jobs.

I was able to start working at Frostie when I was 15. And just like the brothers, I was paid the lowest salary allowed for under-18s in California at the time. The salary was 85 percent below the minimum age.

When I was 15 I ended up working for the Lincoln News Messenger as a sportswriter, photographer and covering city council meetings for 15 cents per column inch for any copy published and $1 per photo used and for 3evet film roll I developed.

Because, what we were doing, we were expected to pay part of our expenses. This meant we bought most of our own clothes and when we had a car we paid for it and covered all running costs, including insurance.

And after we turned 18, we started paying household expenses while we were still living at home and going to college or before going out on our own. My older brother paid the PG&E bill. I paid the phone bill and we all contributed about $100 for food.

Turning 18 was a big milestone. This is when Social Security benefits for dependents expired.

It’s not an effort to emphasize how difficult it was because it really wasn’t. We were far from wealthy but we never missed a meal.

And even though my mother had four children to raise on her own, if one of our friends or a young relative was in a difficult situation, my mother would take them in for a few days or a few months at a time until things got better. begin to improve for them.

I was amazed at the memorial service for my mother, the number of people who considered her their second mother.

Although the Social Security survivors’ charge and widow’s check weren’t a significant sum of money, there’s no doubt in my mind that without them things would have been very different.

This allowed my mother to combine whatever work she could get so she could raise four children on her own.

And while nearly 9 in 10 people aged 65 and over received Social Security benefits in 2021, it’s more than just a retirement fund.

More than $1 trillion in Social Security benefits were paid out in 2021.

The biggest chunk was $72.7 billion which went to 46.7 million retired workers. Their average benefit was $1,555 per month.

Another $10.3 billion went to 8.1 million workers with disabilities, plus $600 million to their dependents under 18. The average monthly payment to disabled workers was $1,280 per month.

Among those dependent on Social Security after age 65, 37% of male recipients and 42% of female recipients receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security. To go further, 12% of men and 15% of women among elderly beneficiaries depend on social security for 90% or more of their income.

Survivor benefits went to 5.9 million people – surviving spouses and their dependents under the age of 18. This amount was $7.3 billion.

Data for the procedure was taken from a fact sheet published by the Social Security Administration.

Social security is not just for the elderly. Just over 17 per cent went to workers who contributed to the system who became disabled and cannot work and their young dependents as well as survivors.

The need to maintain Social Security solvency is clearly not just a matter of old age.

The best way to do this is to put more people to work.

And one of the most effective means, believe it or not, is immigration.

Since 2000, the United States has averaged only one million legal immigrants per year.

The overwhelming majority end up contributing to social security a few years after their arrival through paid employment. And their children do the same when they enter adulthood.

The argument that immigrants are a drain ignores reality. Welfare rolls haven’t grown by 20 million since 2000.

The percentage of Americans on welfare – SNAP (food stamps) being the largest – is 19% of the population or 59 million in 2020. The percentage is not increased by legal immigration.

Fixing immigration to allow more entries legally – especially with our birth rate dropping from 3.8 births per woman in 1970 to 1.7 births per woman in 2019 – is key to bolstering social security.

We need more workers contributing to the system to help support retired workers.

Declining birth rates, institutionalized generational welfare that is cultivated locally, and increasing longevity are what jeopardize social security.

The extent to which contributions and ultimate benefits may need to be changed depends on the number of new people entering the labor market.

And one of the keys is to harness legal immigration to increase economic growth.

This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at [email protected]