The federal government may not be able to balance a budget or define the goals of a foreign military operation, but it sure excels at finding ways to gather more and more private data on more and more citizens. Two of Washington’s latest targets from which to gather personal data are students of higher education, and people who need healthcare and are looking for tax credits.
The move to nationalize the delivery of health care in America — which received a slight boost just yesterday with the Senate Finance Committee passing the Max Baucus health care bill out of the Finance Committee — offers government snoops a vast new universe of private health data to gather.
And, as more and more students turn to Uncle Sam to help defray or cover the cost of their university education, the folks in Washington, DC are finding it increasingly easier to get America’s young people and their families to relinquish the privacy of their financial information for a little help from their friends, the Feds.
How clever these Feds be – create or highlight a private need (health care or education), then fashion a corresponding public benefit (universal health insurance or low-cost student loans), and you’re “In Like Flint.” Most Americans will gladly give you whatever information you tell them is necessary in order to deliver that “benefit”; and few will read the fine print even if there is any (members of Congress don’t; why should constituents?). Once the government gets the data, you’ll have no idea where it’s going, who will have access to it, how it will be used, or how long it will be retained.
This process – already in high gear – is moving us closer and closer to a national identification card, without actually saying so.
Just last month the House of Representatives passed legislation that would prod states, via financial incentives (of course), to collect a dizzying quantity of data on college students. The Senate is considering legislation that would also push states to collect additional information on students, and link it with other personal data wholly unrelated to educational purposes. The personal information thus collected will then be tied into a seamless national network of information on all students.
The Senate Finance Committee is doing its part for Uncle Snoop. The committee has included language in the healthcare reform bill concerning “Eligibility Verification” of healthcare benefits and federal tax credits. The burden of proof will be on the individual to produce evidence proving their identity to the many bureaucrats in the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. Guess who gets to keep all that “verification” information? Yep; Uncle Sam.
Whatever happened to the “RealID” program, passed amid much fanfare about terrorism and immigration reform back in 2005; yet whose real purpose was a national ID card? The good news is that the RealID program languishes, thanks to strenuous and concerted opposition by state legislatures, a handful of courageous governors, and millions of Americans opposed to a national ID card. The bad news is that proponents of a national ID – of which there are many in both of our country’s two major political parties – are distressingly close to accomplishing their goal by coming in through the back door, the side doors, and the windows, via individual data bases. Their best ally in all this is America’s search for the Holy Grail of federal help.