National ID Cards for US Citizens

When I was a kid I did quite a bit of traveling with my family, mostly in Europe. What made America different from the other countries, my Dad would tell me, was that we didn’t have to carry identification just to exist. In America, a policeman couldn’t just stop you on the street and demand that you prove who you are.

If the Republicans who control the Legislature have their way, that America will soon be but a nostalgic memory. Under a proposal from Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), you’ll need to carry a new type of electronically encoded Social Security card. But “it’s not a national ID card,” Dreier explains. “It will only be required for people looking for a new job.”

Ah. So if you never need to change jobs, or if you prefer to remain unemployed (or perhaps join the everpresent underground economy), you can do without the card. It’s comforting to know our civil liberties will be protected thus. The card will even say, “This card shall not be used for the purpose of identification.” Well, then I guess everything’s just hunky-dory.

Across the pond in Britain, a proposal for national ID cards is a huge issue, but so far there’s been little evidence of a public outcry over the US proposal. Let’s hope the American citizenry catches on soon. But the odds are against it. The sneaky bastards are attaching this so-called “Real ID” to the bill funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al Barger’s notes in these pages notwithstanding, my guess is the American public is going to just roll over and take it.

Incidentally, it’s also yet another unfunded mandate to the states, whose driver’s licenses are being co-opted and turned into these de facto national identity cards. States’-rights advocate Ronald Reagan has probably been turning in his grave at least since “No Child Left Behind.” Now he must really be in a spin cycle.

[Cross-posted at Blogcritics]