The brainiacs who’ve made air travel almost as fun as a 10-hour Coca-Cola enema have unveiled their new master plan for creating an efficient security system…federally mandated drivers licenses for everybody under the age of 50, which all states will be forced to comply with by 2011, whether they’re capable or doing so or not, if the Department of Homeland Security gets its way. The rationalization for this plan, of course, is the same as that for any authoritarian program…a centrally mandated, controlled, and issued driver’s license will make it more difficult for con artists, drug traffickers, illegal immigrants, or terrorists to gain access to identification that could compromise our security.
What goes unsaid, of course, is that such a program will inevitably make it more difficult for everyone else to get a driver’s license as well. Do you like the two-hour wait at your state DMV every time you have to renew your driver’s license? You can bet it’s going to be longer once every application has to run through a federal database that’s responsible for processing 50 times as many applications which will need to be cross-checked against watchlists of known terrorists, criminals, or illegal aliens. Considering how flawlessly this approach has worked for the FAA with their no-fly lists, I’m finding it a little hard to believe that the process will run more efficiently or effectively than it does now, or that you’ll be getting your new driver’s license back on the same day that you’ve applied for it (as you can now). Especially since the systems and processes the feds use to cross-reference are notoriously buggy.
Of course now if you go to the DMV and the computers are down, the inconveniences are relatively minimal. You may have to come back the next day and endure another two hour wait, and you have to be a bit more careful about any traffic violations lest you get busted for driving on an expired license but you’ll generally be able to go about your life relatively freely. Under the feds’ new program, however, if you aren’t able to procure your license for reasons beyond your control, or if you’re actually denied a license you won’t be able to enter a federal building, board an airplane, open a bank account, buy a gun, vote, verify your identity when using a credit or debit card, or do anything else that’s significantly affiliated with the federal government. Basically, the Real ID program will effectively strip anyone who doesn’t have a federally-issued ID card of their citizenship or ability to even function in everyday society.
Perhaps the people who oppose Real ID are being unfair and overly paranoid, but considering that the Bush’s new Czar of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, issues absolute gibberish like this…
“We worked very closely with the states in terms of developing a plan that I think will be inexpensive, reasonable to implement and produce the results,” he said. “This is a win-win. As long as people use driver’s licenses to identify themselves for whatever reason there’s no reason for those licenses to be easily counterfeited or tampered with.”
…to explain his position, somehow I don’t think that their fears are that insane, especially since the creation of an identification card that cannot be forged is about as likely as the ability to corporeally exist without occupying space. And spending the better part of ten years watching my own little section of the federal government (the U.S. Army) screw up even the most basic of background checks has led me to believe that the feds are generally incapable of handling and should rarely, if ever, be entrusted with this sort of authority.
Update: A commenter who expanded on this on his own site raised one very valid point that I think merits highlighting:
It’s funny. They keep calling it a “driver’s license,” but they never mention anything about driving.
Update 2: Apparently 17 states have already objected to the Real ID plan.