How to Cut Social Security Costs Without Hurting Any Voters

By David North on February 17, 2023

One of the means suggested to reduce the federal government's budget deficit has been to cut Social Security costs..

Here’s a suggestion for how to save billions a year in that program – without hurting a single voter.

It is both utterly simple and completely obscure: Just eliminate the Optional Practical Training program (OPT) for aliens who have recently graduated from American colleges and universities. No citizens are employed in the program. None.

What OPT does is to excuse most alien grads and all employers from payroll taxes. It does this over a period of one post-graduate year for those aliens in non-tech fields, and for three years for those in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. These payroll taxes are for Social Security, Medicare, and the federal unemployment insurance programs.

Congress never voted for the program. It was created in the Bush II administration, expanded under Obama, and perpetuated in the Trump and Biden years. By an administrative sleight-of-hand, it makes recent alien grads in the job market "students" again for immigration purposes, and thus relieves most of them and all of their employers from the usual payroll taxes that everyone else pays.

It sets back these trust funds by the low billions each year, while giving all of the OPT employers and most of the alien grads a bonus of a little over 8 percent a year. Yes: Employers who choose to hire a recent alien college grad over an American grad are given an 8 percent bonus for doing so. Sad but true.

Congress, were it to take this action, would not only save billions of dollars in foregone Social Security taxes, it would open up hundreds of thousands of jobs for citizens and green card holders.

But to date, the very narrow population of employers of foreign workers has more support in Congress than the broad population of American workers.

This is the third in a series of postings on immigration and Social Security.