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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Thursday, December 19, 2002
10:55 PM

To bilk or not to bilk, that is the question... In U.S. Social Security May Reach To Mexico Jonathan Weisman writes about Mexico's efforts to sign an agreement that would generate Social Security benefits for Mexicans who worked legally in the U.S. and paid Social Security taxes. I don't know much about this area, but Weisman writes that the U.S. has such agreements with 20 other countries. But it's raising alarms in among Budgeteers in the Bush Administration because its cost would dwarf those other agreements:

Pushed by the Mexican government, the Bush administration is working on a Social Security accord that would put tens of thousands of Mexicans onto the Social Security roster and send hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits south of the border...

Extrapolating from U.S. and Mexican government statistics, the accord could cost $720 million a year within five years of implementation. One independent estimate put the total at $1 billion a year -- a large sum, but a trifle compared with the $372 billion in Social Security benefits currently being paid to 46.4 million recipients.

This is great context, but only in Washington is $1 billion a trifle.

And in the department of unintended consequences:

The team of negotiators from the Social Security Administration and State Department working on the agreement already anticipate that the U.S. government will have to erect a new building in the embassy complex in Mexico City just to deal with the crush, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

This story has two basic problems. One, it doesn't calculate how many Americans benefit and in what amounts from Social Security payments from countries they have worked in--the pacts are supposed to be reciprocal. Second, in the very last graf of a long story, it mentions that Mexico wants the U.S. to reward lawbreakers:

The GOP aide said Mexican officials would also like benefits to be adjusted upward for a legal Mexican worker who worked in the United States for some time illegally and paid into the Social Security system using a false Social Security number.

It is so very easy to conclude that to the officials of the Mexican government, the law means nothing.

I can't find it at the moment, but recently the Post covered a more serious problem: Mexican ambulances just south of the border heading for American hospitals. It's costing so much money, some southwest U.S. trauma centers have been forced to close.

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