Thursday, February 23, 2012

Driving Ms Irony

My car is officially a Minnesotan.  It was registered last week in an effort that leaves me wondering why the entire populace hasn’t converted to Libertarianism.  My local DMV is located on the second floor of Sears.  (I didn’t even know that Sears was still in business!)  Is it convenient or irony that the entrance is just off of the luggage department?  

My number got called and for the next forty minutes I got to learn along with the clerk how to transfer a lease from out of state – something she’d never done before. This being Minnesota, everybody was terribly nice, which made the big sign “Profanity not allowed” another paradox.  I complimented the clerk on her handwriting since none of the forms could be put into the computer system sitting on the desk.  All forms had to be hand written and legible.  When I gird myself to get the driver’s license, it’s a whole other building in another part of town.  And in the event a physical driving test is required, that’s in a third building in a third part of town.  I checked the calendar and was relieved to see it was still 2012.

My information will get into the state system, and it will then be shared with some other states and ultimately with the federal government.  There has been a long march towards a National ID card.  In 2005 Congress passed the REAL ID Act,  which set forth certain requirements for state driver's licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for "official purposes."  By 2008 all 50 states asked for either an extension for compliance or declined to participate.  This brief victory won’t last long.  Currently the PASS ID Act is a revised version of REAL ID and awaits congressional action.  

With the states and the public resistant (even hostile) to having a national identification system, Congress turned its focus to accomplishing its same goal (tracking all citizens for national security purposes) in a more palatable way.  Illegal immigration has been a hot button political issue for centuries – going back to my Irish kinfolk coming over to America (and before).  E-Verify is an innocuous sounding program that seems to make a lot of sense – verify if a potential employee has a valid social-security number and is eligible to work in the U.S.  Run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services the program analyzed 559,815 cases in 2001.  In 2011 17,400,000 cases were reviewed.    The program has many new enhancements, one of the most touted is self-check – where residents can check their own eligibility

Less prominent is the “improvement” where drivers license checks are conducted along with employment verification.  Mississippi holds the distinction of opening up its database to the federal government.   States Rights – a campaign mantra for many candidates – is becoming a catch phrase rather than a principled stand since its impact is diminishing.  Why does the U.S. Federal Government need to have access to whether I got a parking ticket?  It’s not that I have anything to hide – it’s another shift from a presumption of innocence to a presumption of guilt.
'The United States of America, I hear you knocking but you can't come in'

As a civil libertarian the idea that the Government keeps records on its citizens is an anathema.  I reconcile that belief with the reality that driving (for example) is a privilege and not a right – so complying with rules of the road, licensing requirements, etc. are all part of the trade off.

Philosophically I veer towards open borders as a solution to immigration issues where dignity has been sacrificed for so many who want to live in the US.  “If you want to come to the good ole USA, pack a bag and hitch a ride.  All are welcome.  We’ll sort it out when you get here.”  Even for my Libertarian brethren this is a bit much because the world doesn’t have the luxury of pure philosophy – it needs practical application.  In an era where billions have been spent on the Border Fence the concept of open borders is alien to nearly all.  It is another irony (bordering on hypocrisy) that the same politicians who insist that the U.S. needs to have fences and borders are equally determined to invade other sovereign nations and occupy them.

In 2008 as the economy collapsed, fear determined US foreign policy, and Republicans fumigated on security – states said “no” to sharing all of our information with the federal government.  Today under a Democratic President with an improving economy let’s hope that State’s independence and individual privacy aren’t lost.  No, that isn't a's hope.

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