an annual rate of 16 percent, reaching arncost of $45 billion in six years for Medicaidrnand SSI alone. Even with welfare reformrnthis picture may not change much,rnA historic tide of naturalizations hasrnguaranteed that noncitizen welfare dependencernwill simply continue as citizenrndependence. (Until recently, citizen usagernof SSI was declining.) Furthermorernabout 40 percent of recent growth is inrnhumanitarian categories which are notrnaffected by the reforms.rnFew images have captured the imaginationrnof opinion-shapers like that of elderlyrnimmigrants losing their welfarernbenefits. Molly Ivins, in a typical piecernabout elderly immigrants and SSI, writesrnabout those who “worked hard, paidrntheir taxes . . . now talking about committingrnsuicide. Just what we alwaysrnwanted to do: drive a bunch of retiredrnJapanese gardeners and 80-year-old Hispanicsrnwhose backs are bent from yearsrnof field work to commit suicide.” For thernrecord, most noncitizen users of SSI arernnot Hispanic, and Japanese comprise lessrnthan half a percent of noncitizen users.rnMoreover, any legal immigrant who hasrnlived in America for five years, whichrnwould cover virtually all current noncitizenrnusers of SSI, need only endure thernindignity of a dumbed-down citizenshiprnprocedure to continue receiving benefitsrnwithout interruption.rnThe profile of those who haverncontributed most to recent growth in immigrantrnSSI usage is very neariy the oppositernof that propagated by the “imagineers”rnof the national media—that is,rnthev are recent arrivals who have notrnworked in the United States. Betweenrn1992 and 1994 about 165,605 immigrantsrnarrived from the former SovietrnUnion, currently the second largestrnsource of immigration to the UnitedrnStates. Over 12 percent of these were 65rnor o’er upon arrival, an additional 10 percentrnwere between the ages of 55 and 64.rnVirtually all of the elderly and near-elderlyrnarrived as refugees. Since the retirementrnage in their homeland is 55 forrnwomen and 60 for men, many of thesern”think of themselves as pensioners at anrnearlier age than would be customary inrnthe U.S.,” according to the U.S. Office ofrnRefugee Resetdement.rnNot surprisingly, former Soviets havernzoomed to second place among noncitizenrnusers of SSI. With their usage growingrnat a rate of 33 percent a year, they willrnovertake Mexicans within four years, anrnastonishing feat considering that largescalernmigration from the former SovietrnUnion began only eight years ago. Followingrnthe former Soviets in order of SSIrnusage are Cubans and Vietnamese, bothrnadmitted in humanitarian categories.rnA 1995 Health and Human Servicesrnstudy of refugees who arrived in the precedingrnfive years (about 620,000) foundrn61 percent of the group to be receivingrnFood Stamps and about half to be Medicaidrnrecipients. About half of thernrefugee households in the five-yearrngroup receive cash assistance throughrnAFDC, SSI, or local General Assistancernin spite of the fact that the majority arernjoining family members who settledrnin previous waves. About 21 percent ofrnfamilies have one or more membersrnreceiving cash assistance through SSI.rnGiven the hysteria roused by the modestrncommitment now being asked ofrnthose who immigrate to the UnitedrnStates, it is understandable that lawmakersrnwould rather avoid the added accusationrnthat the reforms are being “carriedrnout on the backs of poor refugees.” Andrnif it is to be meaningful and fair, welfarernreform must be part of a complete overhaulrnof the federal government’s obligationrnto the individual. Obviously otherrnbeneficiaries of government largessernmust eventually do their part to achievernthat realignment. But even welfare reform,rnthe smallest and presumably therneasiest of the “personal responsibility”rnreforms, will stop dead on the day Americansrnare pushed off the dole to makernroom for foreign nationals.rnDon Barnett writes from Brentwood,rnTennessee.rnECONOMICSrnThe Earth Belongsrnto the Livingrnby William J. QuirkrnThe President and Congress havernboth promised us a balanced budgetrnin the year 2002. The debt, at thatrntime, will be somewhere between six andrnseven trillion dollars, which, assuming arnseven percent interest rate, will cost closernto $450 billion a year in interest. Eachrnyear, every year, forever. Is it plausible tornthink the new generation will pick uprnthat perpetual burden? How can therncountry equitably deal the debt burden?rnDebt can only be disposed of in fivernways: one, by pa)’ing it off; two, by repudiatingrnit; three, by inflation—which is arnveiled repudiation; four, by conqueringrnthe creditor to cancel the debt or conqueringrna third party to seize sufficientrnwealth to pay off the debt; or, five, byrnlarge real growth which makes the debtrnservice a smaller share of a growing pie.rnIf large real growth is unlikely, and conquestrnunpalatable, only the first threernmethods are available. The classic approachrnis inflation. The United States,rnsince the Vietnam War, has used consistentrninflation, usually around three percent,rnto reduce our debt. Inflation canrnbe a successful method if no new debt isrnincurred, but continuing large deficits,rnand the new borrowing to cover them,rnhave overwhelmed the tactic.rnThe Founders, other than Hamilton,rnbelieved that a perpetual debt wasrnincompatible with self-rule, since therncurrent generation cannot be asked tornpay for decisions they did not make.rnThomas Jefferson, during his term,rnreduced the national debt by one-thirdrndespite paying cash to Napoleon forrnLouisiana. “If we go to war now,” Jeffersonrnwrote to James Monroe in 1805, “Irnfear we may renounce forever the hopernof seeing an end of our national debt. Ifrnwe can keep at peace eight years longer,rnour income, liberated from debt, will bernadequate to any war, without new taxesrnor loans, and our position and increasingrnstrength put us hors d’insulte from anyrnnation.” Jefferson, in 1804, listed cuttingrntaxes, cutting expenses, and reducing thernnational debt as the highest accomplishmentrnof his first term: “To do without arnland tax, excise, stamp tax, and the otherrninternal taxes, to supply their placesrnby economies so as still to support therngovernment properly and to applyrn$7,300,000 a year steadily to the paymentrnof the public debt.” Jefferson foresawrnthat a debt policy, such as Hamiltonrnfostered, would be complicated and promoternthe centralization of power. Jeffersonrnwrote James Madison in 1796 thatrn”the accounts of the United States oughtrnto be, and mav be, made as simple asrnthose of a common farmer, and capablernof being understood by common farmers.”rnThings did not turn out as Jeffersonrnhoped.rnOur economists, unlike Jefferson, failrnAPRIL 1997/47rnrnrn