Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Enumeration of the United States

In 1935 the Social Security Act was passed to help those left destitute by the Depression. The reality was not one monthly benefit check was ever received by anyone during the depression. The depression ended prior to the first monthly checks being sent out in 1940.

Prior to the social security act, there was no wide spread use of any government numbering of Americans. People existed just fine without a number. However, when the Social Security Act was passed, they needed a way to identify and keep track of workers wages. Numerous people having identical names posed a problem. How would you separate out a John Smith in Fort Wayne from a John Smith in Indianapolis or California or anywhere else for that matter? Then complicate the problem by people looking for work anywhere they could get it and for short periods of time resulting in multiple jobs while living at multiple different locations.

To keep track of individual workers wages the Social Security Commissioner was to create a record base using an issued number to each worker who applied. Applying for the number would be voluntary and according to the Social Security Administration, it still is voluntary today.

Americans were concerned about being issued a social security number. Europe had created good records of the number of people in a family, names, addresses and more. There were rumors these records were being used to find people.

Some Christian Americans thought this social security number might be the number of the beast identified in revelations. While others thought it was an invasion of privacy. To qualm fears the Social Security Administration printed at the bottom of social security cards “Not for Identification.” Government officials pointed out that since only about half the work force would be covered by social security, it would not be a universal identifier. Military, farmers, doctors, federal workers, civilians working for the government agencies were not initially covered by social security. This seemed to qualm fears and life went on.

With social security on the verge of being unable to pay scheduled benefits in 1950, congress changed who was covered and not covered by social security. Congress now covered new category of workers.

1951 - Farm and domestic labor, civilians not under civil service, home workers
1955 - Self employed farmers, ministers (voluntary)
1956 - Self employed groups (Lawyers, Dentists)
1957 - Military
1961 - US Citizens employed by Foreign Government
1965 - Self employed doctors
1966 - Railroads
1968 - Ministers (compulsory)
1984 - All newly hired Federal Employees

In 1961 the Congress passed 26§6109 Identifying Numbers. This required every worker to have a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). The purpose was to improve accuracy of reporting. They wanted to be able to determine what income belonged to who. This statute has two main sections identifying what the number would be.

26§6109 Section (c)
Requirement of information. For purposes of this section, the Secretary is authorized to require such information as may be necessary to assign an identifying number to any person.


26§6109 Section (d)
Use of a social security number. The social security account number issued to an individual for purposes of section 205(c)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act shall except as shall otherwise be specified under regulations of the Secretary be used as the identifying number for such individual for purposes of this title.

The premise behind requiring those who had been issued a social security number use this number as their TIN was thought to lesson the burden on the individual. An individual would have only one number to contend with. Section (c) clearly was to cover all those who did not have social security numbers and requires the Secretary assign an identifying number to any person. Section (d) gave the secretary of the IRS the authority not to use the social security number, but to regulate something else.

In 1974 congress passed what is known as the Privacy Act of 974. It came about because many government agencies were collecting information on individuals in excess of what was needed to perform their functions and this information was being misused. This statute has a particular powerful tool for individuals.

5§552a
(e) Agency Requirements. - Each agency that maintains a system of records shall -

(3) inform each individual whom it asks to supply information, on the form which it uses to collect the information or on a separate form that can be retained by the individual -

(A) the authority (whether granted by statute, or by executive order of the President) which authorizes the solicitation of the information and whether disclosure of such information is mandatory or voluntary;

(B) the principal purpose or purposes for which the information is intended to be used;

(C) the routine uses which may be made of the information, as published pursuant to paragraph (4)(D) of this subsection; and

(D) the effects on him, if any, of not providing all or any part of the requested information;


I highly recommend every citizen who is asked to present a social security number or some other identification by a government agency to request that agencies legal authority to require that information per the Privacy Act of 1974. K-12 Schools do not have authorization to require social security numbers. Identity theft among minors is one of the fastest growing crimes. It allows identity theft to go unnoticed for years. How many minors check their credit history?

The IRS routinely issued their own TIN to individuals who had never been issued a social security number up through 1995. This changed in 1996 when they interpreted section (d) to require all U.S. Citizens to have a social security number.

See section 301.6109-1(a)(ii)(A) and (B), Procedures & Administrative Regulations. Section 301.6109-(1)(d)(4) of the regulations further specifies that “Any individual who is duly assigned a Social Security number or who is entitled to a Social Security number will not be issued an IRS individual taxpayer identification number.”

(A) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (a)(1)(ii)(B) and (D) of this section, and Sec. 301.6109-3, an individual required to furnish a taxpayer identifying number must use a social security number.

(B) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (a)(1)(ii)(D) of this section and Sec. 301.6109-3, an individual required to furnish a taxpayer identifying number but who is not eligible to obtain a social security number must use an IRS individual taxpayer identification number.

Individuals who are ineligible for or do not wish to participate in the benefits of the social security program shall nevertheless obtain a social security number if they are required to furnish such a number pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section.


Beginning in 2006 the IRS has now written regulations requiring all colleges and universities to require the TIN off all students. Without the TIN, an individual will not be able to attend higher education.

The U.S. Treasury requires a person present their TIN to obtain a passport.

The National ID act now requires all state licensing agencies to require a social security number in order to issue identification to enter federal administered buildings (airports, rail, etc.)
A little known voluntary number in 1935 that caused concern that it would become a universal identifier has now become the defacto universal ID of U.S. citizens. It reminds me of the frog that thought he had jumped into a nice cool pond when in fact it was kettle and when he finally realized his mistake it was too late.

With 26.5 million veterans data, which includes name, date of birth and social security number stolen; identity thefts increasing exponentially yearly; terrorists used social security numbers to obtain drivers licenses; should we be using the social security number at all to ensure a person’s identity? When you buy a home do you change the locks because you do not know, which neighbors may have a key? If your purse is stolen with you identification and house keys, would you not change your locks to guard against burglaries?

Years ago a young man was driving along the East Coast and was pulled over for a tail light being out. When the officer ran the driver’s license the driver was identified as being AWOL from the marines. The driver said he had never been in the marines, but was detained anyway. The marines came and placed him in the brig where he was incarcerated for over 20 days. Finally someone looked at the photo on record for the military and compared it to the person in the brig and realized they had the wrong person. This person lost their job because they had failed to go to work. This individual’s previous roommate had stolen his ID years before, joined the marines and when it did not soot him, went AWOL.

In the News Sentinel it was reported that millions if not billions of dollars were fraudulently obtained through FEMA after hurricane Katrina. Thousands of debit cards were given to individuals who presented names and social security number, which turned out to be prison inmates. Katrina was months ago and the extent of fraud is yet unknown.

The problem is the social security number is not secure. You cannot simply change your social security number if it is lost or stolen like a house key to keep intruders out. You are marked with it for life.

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