Trillions and Trillions of Dollars: Immigration-Bill Costs Old Media Won't Talk About

The late Senator Everett Dirksen had a famous saying on federal spending: "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money."

When it comes to the immigration bill currently being considered by the Senate, Old Media apparently believes: "A trillion here, a trillion there, if it's a cause we're okay with, we won't talk about it."

The Senior Citizens League issued a press release on Tuesday (HT One News Now) on what it believes is a trillion-dollar (rounded) Social Security-related loophole in the bill:

June 19, 2007 (Washington, DC) – The immigration bill being debated by the Senate would allow over two million illegal workers who received Social Security numbers prior to 2004 to receive more than $966 billion in Social Security benefits by 2040.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced an amendment to the bill (S.A. 1415), subsequently passed by voice vote, that would prevent illegal workers who performed illegal work and then obtained a Social Security number after January 1, 2004 from receiving credit for Social Security taxes paid in previous years. However, the amendment does nothing to prevent aliens who obtained "non-work" Social Security numbers prior to 2004 and then performed illegal work from claiming benefits.

The loophole was revealed by TREA Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan seniors advocacy organization with 1.2 million supporters, based in Alexandria, Virginia.

..... Between 1974 and 2003, the Social Security Administration issued more than seven million "non-work" Social Security numbers, which entitled some foreign nationals – some of whom were illegal aliens – to services such as Medicaid and food stamps. The majority of non-work Social Security numbers were issued during an era of less restrictive immigration policy; in some cases, aliens didn't need proof of citizenship to receive a number.

Despite their "non-work" status, millions performed unlawful work. Under the Senate legislation currently being considered, this group would be eligible for Social Security benefits.

I have done the math, and believe that if the League is correct about the 2 million eligible illegals, the $966 billion in estimated payouts between now and 2040 is an accurate estimate.

Previously, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has looked at the burdens taxpayers would take on if the immigration bill passes, and has estimated (quote is from a National Review column by Heritage's Brian Darling) "that this bill will cost the taxpayers $2.6 trillion dollars in retirement costs for the beneficiaries of this bill." It is not clear whether the amount noted earlier by the Senior Citizens League is in addition to or is already part of what Rector has estimated.

Regardless, Old Media's coverage of the huge costs of the bill has been rare to non-existent. By contrast, those who remember the late 1990s will recall that media coverage of impeachment-related events rarely failed to mention the cost of Ken Starr's legal efforts, which ended up being in the neighborhood of $40 ..... million.

A Google News search on "immigration trillion" (without quotes) shows virtually no Old Media items within the past week. The same search at the New York Times on the last 30 days comes up bone dry. The Washington Post? A few op-eds, but no hard-news stories.

How are Old Media's readers to evaluate the bill without information about its costs? This journalistic failure is one more reason why more and more news consumers are turning to New Media to get basic facts.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.