Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column
July 20, 1998
Integrity of Social Security Number must be maintained
Issues of individual privacy, rights should not be so quickly dismissed

Everywhere we turn, someone is asking for our Social Security Number: at the airport, the drivers' license office, the store, everywhere, it seems. Yet the Social Security number was created solely as an accounting number in administering the Social Security system, and was never intended to be a universal identifier.

In recent years, though, the Social Security Number has become just that, and unless the use of the number is restored to its original purpose, it will soon become a national identification number by which the federal government can easily keep track of all vital information regarding American citizens.

While I am proud to be the author of the Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act, which would stop a national identification card from taking effect, we need to be aware that those wanting to give government power to track us from cradle to grave already have the Social Security Number as their tool of choice. It is for this reason that several months ago I introduced the Privacy Protection Act, H.R. 3261.

Anyone who doubts that we are well on the way to using the Social Security number as an universal identifier need only look back to 1996. In that year, two major pieces of legislation passed leading this nation down the path toward the National ID. The first was the welfare reform bill, which forces business to report the Social Security number of every new employee to the federal government so it may be recorded in a national database. The second was the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which required that the Department of Transportation implement "standards" for state drivers' licenses that must be followed or the citizens be punished.

Perhaps the most disturbing abuses of the Social Security number is the Congressionally-authorized rule forcing parents to get a Social Security number for their newborn children in order to claim them as a dependent. Mr. Speaker, forcing parents to register their newborn children with the state is more like something out of the nightmare of George Orwell than the dreams of a free Republic that inspired the nation's founders.

This is not an isolated incident; in fact, since the creation of the Social Security number in 1934, there have been almost 40 congressionally-authorized uses of the Social Security number as an identification number for non-Social Security programs! Abuse of the Social Security system also occurs at the state level. In many states - thanks to federal law - one cannot get a driver's license, apply for a job, or even receive a birth certificate for one's child, without presenting their Social Security number to a government official, and just a couple months ago weeks ago 210 of my colleagues voted to allow States to require citizens to show their Social Security number in order to vote. Since the Social Security number is part of a federal program created by Congress, it is Congress' responsibility to ensure it is not used to violate the privacy of America's citizens.

I am proud to be the author of the Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act to stop a national ID system from taking place, but we should not be fooled into thinking that the coming National ID is the only threat to our privacy. For America already has a de facto national identification number in the Social Security Number, which comes close to providing the federal government with the ability to track all citizens from cradle to grave.

The Social Security Number was created to administer the social security system, and nothing else. We must restore the integrity of the system by restoring the integrity of the accounts. That will only occur when we reign in the use of the account numbers and secure the privacy of the people. This is the purpose of the Privacy Protection Act.

We must stop a national ID for many reasons, both moral and constitutional, and we need to stop it in all its forms. The Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act addresses the specific issue of a looming National ID, while the Privacy Protection Act addresses the broader issue which has been creeping up on us for many years.

The drafters of the Constitution would be horrified if they knew that the federal government would one day have the ability to create a national ID system and demand that every newborn baby be assigned a number by the federal government. One wonders if the Founders would have fought for liberty if they knew how that precious right would be eroded by their political descendants.