Parts of this are still being roughed out, but it looks like I’ll need my new national identity card in my wallet within the next 10 years.
This is the so-called REAL ID, another of those wonderful things brought to you by the Homeland Security Department.
People born before December 1964 have until the end of 2017 to get the ID, while younger folks have until Dec. 1, 2014 to get with the program. According to Homeland Security, staggering the enrollment dates helped lower the cost of implementing the program, from $14.6 billion to $3.9 billion – a 73 percent savings.
This is still gonna get interesting, though. According to some rules recently laid out, you’d need to go to your friendly neighborhood Department of Motor Vehicles office to get the ID. OK, so you used to have to bring a bottle of water and a thick book when visiting the DMV, right? This REAL ID program is expected to double the traffic at your local office when it’s implemented, so better plan on bringing your lunch, too.
Once in place, this ID will be needed to get on an airplane or go into a federal building.
Again according to the Homeland Security Department, 80 percent of Americans are in favor of secure identification to minimize the threats of terrorism and identity theft, two things that we didn’t have to worry about 15 years ago. However, here in the South, REAL ID will be a harder sell than that. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (a man I like – he’s listed as a Republican even though some suspect he’s really a closet libertarian as if there’s anything wrong with that) said that he needs to check out the details before supporting REAL ID.
“Since (Homeland Security) issued the final rule, it’s now time to determine what we need to do,” adds South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Republican from Charleston.
I could go on about this REAL ID being another panicky attempt by our government to tag, number, and monitor the citizenry since the 9/11 attacks, but that ground has been covered ad nauseum I have no new information that points the program out for what it is, but I do have my tinfoil hat handy.
Since 9/11 I’d noticed a lot more emphasis on ID. When I moved back to South Carolina a few years ago, I needed one additional piece of paper to get my driver’s license – a birth certificate. The out-of-state license was no longer enough, even though in my case the process was a lot less involved than it would have been for a new arrival. I was already in the system, and it was simply a matter of reactivating my old license. It was still a gigantic pain in the butt to write to my county of birth and order up the copy – maybe because my original birth certificate was carved on the bark of a tree for all I know.
I don’t mind telling you I’m quite resistant to the idea of a national identity number, and this far predates 9/11. In many states your Social Security number (also known as your taxpayer ID number) serves as your driver’s license number unless you plead otherwise. On my old Tennessee driver’s license my SSN appears nowhere, and you won’t find it on my licenses from North or South Carolina either. For some damnfool reason I consider my social security number to be no one’s business but my own, though whoever signs my paycheck has some interest in it so maybe I’ll make it available to that person. I do like to get paid. But despite all the original intentions, the Social Security number has become in effect a national ID number.
Now, if the point of this so-called REAL ID was to simplify things a bit, I can understand it as a good thing. At least that makes sense – one card, one ID number that does everything. I can see that angle, just as well as I can see people trying to minimize the number of passwords in their lives. And for me, that’s plenty — one for each web site I visit, cell phone codes, computer log-in numbers, PIN numbers for bank cards, all that good stuff. To me it makes sense to reduce all that mess to two or three “master” passwords to keep things simple.
But there’s still a huge difference between keeping a bunch of pass codes and having a national ID card. With the former, I’m the only one to keep all these codes straight. With a national ID, the keeper of the numbers is that great faceless soulless entity we call The Government. Thanks, but no thanks. The whole idea may be a good thing, but to paraphrase Thoreau, when someone’s fixing to do me good, that’s when I run like hell.
But these, again, are my personal feelings, which have absolutely nothing to do with how things are run in the real world. But from what I get, you will still be able to use a passport to grab a flight or go into a federal building. OK, the passport is issued by yet another arm of the kraken, but it’s real tempting to get one and skip all that other nonsense. Call me paranoid, but it seems this REAL ID would be a good thing to avoid if at all possible.