The Wall Street Journal‘s editors have taken note of our nation’s workforce problem and its relation to our immigration problem.
The birth rate has been sliding for years, and it’s about to translate into a shrinking labor force. By 2040, according to a study out this week, America could have more than six million fewer working-age people than in 2022. The only way to counter the domestic trend is by attracting workers from abroad.
One thing that would help with this worker shortage would be to raise the Social Security full retirement age to 70, or even 75. When Social Security was first developed at a national level, some 85 years ago, full retirement was 65, the worker:retiree ratio was 7:1, and life expectancy in retirement was on the order of 7 years. Today, the worker:retiree ratio is less that 3:1 and falling, and life expectancy in retirement is on the order of 15-20 years. Raising the retirement age would increase the number of workers in the labor force.
That by itself, though, would be only a Band-Aid fix outside the strong benefit it would provide to Social Security survival.
What’s far more broadly needed is to build the “big, beautiful wall” all along our southern border, pierced every mile with a border crossing station through which legitimate immigrants and guest workers could enter (and the latter leave), with that combined with a vastly streamlined legal immigration system that removed visa quotas, sped up vetting of immigrant wannabes, and applied requirements that the immigrant wannabes have economic value to add to our nation.
Even that, though, would be insufficient as a stand-alone fix. Our tax regime and our welfare program badly want reform. With lower tax rates on individuals and businesses, there’s more incentive to work and to hire. That incentive can be further expanded by eliminating the areas of overlap among our welfare programs (which will include eliminating some programs and combining parts of others into single programs) and adding work requirements to remaining programs.