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« New Book Review - The Myth of Market Share | Main | National Day of Action - Denver »

Business Sanctions: A Red Herring

Very popular among Republicans and Democrats pushing for immigration reform is the notion of business sanctions. There's this hotline, run by the government, that companies can call (even franchise restaurants in Denver, ahem) and see if a given Social Security number is valid. The idea is that if business owners can't be bothered to call that number and check on applicants, they should be fined, then jailed, and then presumably have their businesses confiscated a la Kelo.

It won't help, but it sure sounds good.

The problem is that Social Security numbers are traded around among illegals like steroid needles in a baseball clubhouse. A business can call the highly-organized government, which operates with ruthless efficiency and incorruptibility, and get a "yes" on a number that's been used by everyone else out there picking grapes, too. A friend of mine once checked on a number for a janitor, and it reported something like $4 million in income the previous year.

If the system for keeping these numbers doesn't work now, is that efficiency going to be improved by the agency's knowledge that someone else is going to take the fall if they keep getting it wrong? And if businesses aren't held responsible for a system they don't control - certainly a reasonbale approach - then why should they press to clean up this mess?

In the end, it becomes nobody's problem. Worse, it stays in nobody's interest to fix. Not the bureaucracy, which collects taxes regardless, and is relatively immune from punishment for anything short of actually trafficking in illegal SS numbers. Not the businesses, who can get off the hook by calling a phone number virtually guaranteed to give them fraudulent information. Not the politicians, who can claim to have made "tough enforcement" a priority. And obviously not the illegals themselves.


A little know fact is also that that same social security number that has reported $4 million in earnings has also collected all of the taxes that go along with those earnings. The collected social security money for fraudulent SS#s which I am sure now add up to a meaningful (billions) figure and will never find its rightful recepient (because there really is not one), hence who is interested in getting the record keeping straight? The answer is no one!

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