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Roger L. Simon: Card Me Up!

What's the big deal about a national ID card? PJM CEO Roger L. Simon argues that until we have a way of "knowing who is who," the serious problems posed by illegal immigration will never be resolved. In response to the "slippery slope to Big Brother" argument, Simon reminds critics that the government isn't using personal knowledge against them now, even though "they already have plenty."

by
Roger L Simon

Bio

August 21, 2007 - 1:00 am

We are spying on you.

No, I’m serious. PJ Media is spying on you, as is-assuming you have cookies enabled-nearly every other website you have visited in the last couple of years. At PJM we try to keep this snooping to a gentlemanly minimum but others, like Amazon, seem to know more about us than do our mothers. Then there are the credit card companies and the banks, the department stores and utilities and insurance companies, credit reports, stock brokers, internet providers, cable and satellite companies, the federal and state governments, social security, the IRS, Medicare and your mortuary. I could go on, but you get the point.

Privacy, to paraphrase the great Preston Sturges, is not only dead, it’s decomposed.

So what’s the big deal about a national ID card already?

I know, I know – plenty, say its critics on the right and left. It’s the slippery slope to Big Brother, never mind that every major European country has one except the UK, which seems to have every street corner under video surveillance anyway, and the Euros appear to have, roughly, the same freedom we do, even a bit more if you count being able to rocket from Paris to Amsterdam without bothering with customs.

Meanwhile, our whole country is being turned upside down by the immigration issue, a problem that cannot be resolved in any real way without knowing who is who. And we don’t. Not even close. That renders all solutions bogus, except for the one advocated by pure open border types who, it would seem, aren’t overly concerned with jihadists running around Chicago masquerading as undocumented workers from El Salvador as long as the world runs according to Milton Friedman.

And it’s not just potential terrorists. We are experiencing something of a crime wave -a rise anyway- and some of that comes from illegal alien criminals who should have been in jail, ours or somebody else’s. Newt Gingrich wrote a column the other day bemoaning some particularly gruesome killings of that nature in New Jersey. Even so, I am one of those who recognize the contribution to our society of undocumented workers. I happen to favor some form of amnesty for a certain number of illegal aliens under some circumstances. Too vague? Sorry. I can’t go further than that because I don’t know how many they are, where they are or who they are.

Rudy Giuliani has been advocating a tamper proof card to be carried by all foreign workers and students as long as they are in this country. Fine in principle, but I wonder how it works in practice. The authorities go up to someone and ask for their foreign ID card. The person says no, I’m a citizen and produces, say, a Nebraska state driver’s license. Citizen or alien? Who’s to say? Passports aren’t required. I see a nightmare in the offing. Furthermore, an anti-foreign atmosphere might be created that we won’t like unless… we are all, every last one of us – foreigners and nationals – required to have those tamper proof identity cards from the federal government. Yes, the federal government. Now I have said it.

And you are uneasy again. The government is incompetent, you say. So what? Who said the government should do the work itself? Outsource it to Oracle, Sun Microsystems, some Silicon Valley wizards. The technology of this sort of thing is advancing at a breakneck clip. The side benefit of this is that an advanced high tech card can replace, or at least displace, all those green cards and driver’s licenses we have been using as de facto ID cards and that are so easily counterfeited or stolen. Sure some super-hacker will figure out how to put my fingerprints on your card and vice-versa, but those cases will be nowhere near as common as the shenanigans we deal with now.

Well, okay you say. But anyway, it’s a trick. The government will use this information against us.

Why? They haven’t been using their knowledge against you now, have they, and they already have plenty. Among the more revealing bits of film I have seen lately is from Andrew Marcus’ footage at the recent YearlyKos Convention. A middle-aged Kossite couple was railing predictably against the Patriot Act and Andrew asked them gently if they knew of anybody who had actually been hurt by it. The couple looked blank. Of course they didn’t, because there have barely been any (amazing when you think we are a country of three hundred million). To cover up his ignorance, the husband alluded to some nameless victim we were all supposed to know-who, he didn’t say-and looked away. Obviously the couple didn’t know anything. They were just parroting a kind of stereotyped cultural paranoia. The kind of paranoia that says the government is automatically bad. It is no more automatically bad than it is automatically good. It is our government and we are a democracy. We get to supervise. And so far they have not run amuck. A national ID card would be easier to control than the Patriot Act because it deals in public information. It is not and should not be covert.

And here’s another potential benefit of the card. Right now, we all have literally dozens of supposedly authoritative files on each of us (see the second paragraph for just a few). Many of these are inaccurate and contradictory. Ever seen your credit report? Ever tried to get it corrected? I’m not saying a national ID card would or should be fixing that, but it could consolidate a lot of basic information that would then all be in one place with a simplified process for righting mistakes. Identity theft, currently a huge problem, would also become much more difficult.

Any further objections? I’m sure you’ll have some. But please, no ideology. Just practical considerations.

If not, sign me up, Big Brother. I’m ready for my card – today. Just as long as I’m able to airbrush my photo.

Roger L. Simon is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, novelist and blogger, and the co-founder of PJ Media. His book, Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine: The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown, was re-released in an updated edition in 2011.
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