In an October 15, 2012 “analysis,”of a position taken by TSCL, PolitiFact-Georgia, a self-proclaimed fact-checking Website, took issue with TSCL’s views about the dangers associated with the proposed U.S./Mexico Totalization Agreement.
TSCL has been deeply concerned that, if such a Totalization Agreement is signed between the United States and Mexico, Mexican workers would be vested with contract rights to claim full Social Security retirement benefits. This is particularly dangerous because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1960 that American citizens have no contract right to Social Security retirement benefits, and that Congress could reduce them in its legislative discretion. Indeed, current law anticipates Social Security benefits to be cut by about 23 percent if the Social Security Trust Fund falls below a certain level. Depending how the Totalization Agreement is written, the Mexican workers could have a claim to full benefits that American workers do not have. This is a source of real concern for America’s seniors, but not for PolitiFact-Georgia.
Interestingly, although criticizing TSCL’s legal conclusion, PolitiFact-Georgia never took issue with the core of TSCL’s legal argument. PolitiFact-Georgia did not disagree with TSCL that the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that Social Security benefits for Americans are subject entirely to the political discretion of Congress. PolitiFact-Georgia did not take issue with the fact that benefits for Mexican workers would be determined by the terms of the proposed Totalization Agreement, rather than by federal statute. PolitiFact-Georgia only thought that it would be highly unlikely for Congress (it called it “political suicide”) to exclude Mexican workers from any reduction visited upon their American counterparts.
Of course, even if PolitiFact-Georgia is right that Congress would attempt to impose cuts on American and Mexican workers equally, that misses the point. The danger is that, if Congress reduced the benefits for Mexican workers at all, Mexican workers could sue for the full benefits promised to them under the Totalization Agreement. Certainly the courts could determine that any such cutback violates the terms of the Totalization Agreement. And PolitiFact-Georgia totally disregards America’s obligations under international law to honor the terms of international totalization agreements.
PolitiFact has no role in protecting the interest of America’s seniors, as TSCL does. PolitiFact-Georgia can disregard the fallout that would occur if Congress breaches a written international commitment. Immigration reform is highly charged politically, and Mexican workers could be expected to demand their full benefits. Without any legal rights of their own to preserve their Social Security retirement benefits, it would be the American workers who pay the price of a dangerous U.S./Mexico Totalization agreement.