In my 2008 paper, “Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification: Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration,” I wrote about where “internal enforcement” of immigration law leads: “to a national, cradle-to-grave, biometric tracking system.” More recently, I wrote “Internal Enforcement, E-Verify, and the Road to a National ID” in the Cato Journal. The “Gang of Eight” immigration proposal includes a large step on that path to national identification.
National ID provisions in the 2007 immigration bill were arguably its downfall. Scrapping the national ID provisions in the current bill would improve it, allowing our country to adopt more sensible immigration policies without suffering a costly attack on American citizens’ liberties.
Title III of the “Gang of Eight” bill is entitled “Interior Enforcement.” It begins by reiterating the current prohibition on hiring unauthorized aliens. (What seems to many a natural duty of employers was an invention that dates back only as far as 1986, when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Prior to that time, employers were free to hire workers based on the skills and willingness they presented, and not their documents. But since that time, Congress has treated the nation’s employers as deputy immigration agents.)
The bill details the circumstances under which employers may be both civilly and criminally liable under the law and provides for a “good faith defense” and “good faith compliance” that employers may hope to use as shelter. The bill restates (with modifications) the existing requirements for checking workers’ papers, saying that employers must “attest, under penalty of perjury” that they have “verified the identity and employment authorization status” of the people they employ, using prescribed documents or combination of documents. Cards that meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act are specifically cited as proof of identity and authorization to work.
In addition, the bill would create a new “identity authentication mechanism,” requiring employers to use that as well. It would take one of two forms. One is a “photo tool” that enables employers to match photos on covered identity documents to photos “maintained by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services database.” If the photo tool is not available, employers must use a system the bill would instruct the Department of Homeland Security develop. The system would “provide a means of identity authentication in a manner that provides a high level of certainty as to the identity of such individual, using immigration and identifying information that may include review of identity documents or background screening verification techniques using publicly available information.”
The bill next turns to expanding the E-Verify system, requiring its use by various employers on various schedules. The federal government and federal contractors would have to use E-Verify as required already or within 90 days. A year after the DHS publishes implementing regulations, the Secretary of Homeland Security could require anyone touching “critical infrastructure” (defined here) to use E-Verify. She could require immigration law violators to use E-Verify anytime she likes.
Employers with more than 5,000 employers would have to use E-Verify within two years for all newly hired employees and employees with expiring temporary employment authorizations. Employers with more 500 or more employees would have an additional year, but the application of these requirements as to agricultural workers could take four years. Essentially all employers would have to use E-Verify within four years to check the employment status of new hires.
The bill elaborately details how it intends the E-Verify system to work, presaging thousands of pages of regulatory documents that employers will have to obey.
Knitting Together a National ID System
The American public detests the idea of a national ID, so no bill is going to straightforwardly create one. The authors of national ID systems continually deny the real import of what they are doing, and this bill is no exception.
Under the bill, section 274A(c)(8) of the revised immigration laws would say, “Nothing in this section may be construed to directly or indirectly authorize the issuance, use, or establishment of a national identification card.”
You can try, Congress. You can require government agencies to watch their language, and they will. But there is no honest denying that this is a national ID system.
Over years of work on this issue, I’ve recited the defining characteristics of a national ID in a way that is relatively simple but worth reviewing.
First, it is national. That is, it is intended to be used throughout the country, and to be nationally uniform in its key elements.
Second, its possession or use is either practically or legally required. A card or system that is one of many options for proving identity or other information is not a national ID if people can decline to use it and still easily access goods, services, or infrastructure. But if law or regulation make it very difficult to avoid carrying a card or using the system, this presses it into the national ID category.
The final “element” of a national ID is that it is used for identification. A national ID card or system shows that a physical person identified previously is the one presenting him- or herself on later occasions. (A Social Security Number is a national identifier, but it is not a national identifiction system because there is no biometric tie between the number and a person.)
So what do we have in the “photo tool” backed by a USCIS database of images, and in E-Verify’s mandated use for every new hire in the country?
Why does the bill set aside a quarter billion dollars for grants to states in order to get access to “driver’s license information as needed to confirm that a driver’s license … confirms the identity of the subject of the System check”?
Why does the bill exempt state shaing of driver’s license photos from the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act?
And why does the bill spend a cool $1 billion on “fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear-resistant, and identity theft-resistant social security cards,” exempting that spending from Pay-Go and other spending limits?
The photo tool and E-Verify are a national system, uniform in their key elements (1). By using them to control access to employment, the government makes it practically required to be a part of this identity system (2). And there is no question that the photo tool and E-Verify are for identification (3).
Title III of the Gang of Eight immigration is the path to a national ID.
There are many reasons to avoid a national ID, including their propensity to increase surveillance, the transfer of power they produce by giving governments and corporations a tool for tracking and control, and the experience of history. National ID systems’ administrative efficiencies have been applied to the awful things governments can do right along with the good things.
The bill tries to provide protections against that. It says that no agency or other entity may “utilize any information, database, or other records assembled under this subsection for any purpose other than for employment verification or to ensure secure, appropriate and nondiscriminatory use of the System.” But is that protection?
If you’ve ever seen a Social Security card that says “NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION,” you must understand mission creep. The Social Security number was meant to be solely for use in administering retirment benefits, and now it is our national identifier. If the national ID system created by the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill is not put to uses beyond employment control illegally, Congress can authorize that mission creep at any time simply by saying, “Section 274A(d)(9) is repealed.”
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Maybe because it’s now hitting schools, or because it’s gotten high on the radars of Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck, or because national science standards have raised a ruckus, but for whatever reason the Common Core is finally starting to get the national—and critical—attention it has desperately needed. Indeed, just yesterday Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the Senate appropriations subcomittee that deals with education urging members to employ legislative language prohibiting federal funding or coercion regarding curricula. That follows the Republican National Committee last week passing a resolution opposing the Common Core.
It’s terrific to see serious attention paid to the Common Core, even if it is probably too late for many states to un-adopt the program in the near term. At the very least, this gives new hope that the public will be alert if there are efforts to connect annual federal funding to national standards and tests through a reauthorized No Child Left Behind Act. And there are certainly some states where nationalization could be halted in the next few months. Perhaps most important, the Grassley letter gives Common Core supporters who’ve said they oppose federal coercion a huge opening to act on their words—to loudly support an effort to keep Washington out. They can either do that, or substantiate the powerful suspicion that they are happy to use federal force to impose standards, they just don’t want to admit it.
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The drive to impose uniform curriculum standards on the nation’s schools has been one of stealth, and at times, seemingly intentional deception. Most egregious has been the mantra of Common Core proponents that the effort has been “state-led and voluntary,” despite Washington coercing state adoption through the Race to the Top program and No Child Left Behind waivers; standards creators encouraging just such federal “incentives”; and Washington selecting and funding the two groups creating the tests to go with the standards. And now, more than a week after the U.S. Department of Education announced the creation of a “technical review” panel to assess the assessments, it seems increasingly certain that the panel’s work will be done behind closed doors.
At least one report asserts that the meetings will, indeed, be closed to the public. Education Week’s initial reporton the review says that the panel’s “feedback” will eventually be made public in “a yet-to-be-determined form,” but says nothing about the meetings themselves. Cato Center for Educational Freedom efforts to confirm the meeting status with the U.S. Department of Education have come up empty, with calls over two days either resulting in no information or simply going unanswered. At best, then, the meetings will be open to the public but ED has a terrible communications system. At worst the panel’s work will be completely under wraps save for some kind of final – and perhaps heavily filtered – report.
Either scenario is unacceptable. These tests are being funded by taxpayers, and the goal is ultimately to use them to assess the math and reading mastery of the nation’s children. Funders and families deserve to see what this review panel is doing, and shouldn’t have to pull telecommunications teeth to find out if and how they can do that. In addition, Common Core supporters have taken to painting opponents as paranoid, while at the same time denying or downplaying the federal government’s major role in pushing the Common Core. It would not be surprising were they to use the same tactics should Common Core opponents raise questions about the degree to which the Feds are influencing what is on the tests. The panel may well leave test content alone, but given the track record so far it is rational to fear the worst, especially when it seems the review panel is purposely being kept out of real sunlight.
Americans deserve to see all that the Feds are doing with this supposedly non-federal effort.
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Unions and other opponents tried almost everything in their efforts to derail Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s package of public-sector labor-law reforms in Wisconsin. They fought vainly in the Wisconsin legislature, in the courts, and in public discussion. They staged tumultuous, disruptive Occupy-style demonstrations and sit-ins in Madison. Most formidable of all, they even changed their Facebook and Twitter avatars to little clenched fists in the shape of the state of Wisconsin.
All to no avail. On Tuesday they lost what will probably turn out to be their last chance, in the form of a race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. That court is deeply split 4-3 along ideological lines, with a liberal minority led by former chief justice Shirley Abrahamson considered eager to overturn the Walker reforms, and a majority of 4 led by current chief justice David Prosser seen as disinclined to do so. With Act 10 due to come before the court soon, one of the four-justice majority, Justice Patience Roggensack, was up for re-election and her rival on the ballot, Democratic-backed Marquette law professor Ed Fallone, was widely seen as more likely to search for some way to strike down the law, on which he might be the deciding vote.
Wisconsin voters weren’t having that: by a very comfortable margin (at last count) of 57-43 they re-elected Justice Roggensack. Incumbent judges do tend to win re-election at the polls, of course, and many voters may simply be tired of all the partisan bickering and politicization of the courts. Either way, it looks as if they are willing to give Act 10 a fair chance to work as intended. Public-sector labor law reformers in other states, take note.
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In a pretty much unprecedented move, Google today announced that it was expanding its regular “Transparency Report” to include some very general information about government demands for user information using National Security Letters, which can be issued by the head of any of 56 FBI field offices without judicial approval or supervision. Recipients of NSLs are typically forbidden from ever revealing even the existence of the request, and therefore not included in the company’s general tally of government surveillance requests. Instead of disclosing specific numbers of NSL requests, then, Google is publishing a wide range indicating the rough volume of requests they get each year, and how many users are affected. Broad as these ranges are, there’s some interesting points to be gleaned here:
It’s illuminating to compare the minimum number of users affected by NSLs each year to the numbers we find in the government’s official annual reports. In 2011—the last year for which we have a tally—the Justice Department acknowledged issuing 16,511 NSLs seeking information about U.S. persons, with a total of 7,201 Americans’ information thus obtained. That’s actually down from a staggering 14,212 Americans whose information DOJ reported obtaining via NSL the previous year. Remember, this total includes National Security Letters issued not just to all telecommunications providers—including online services like Google, broadband Internet companies, and cell phone carriers—but also “financial institutions,” which are defined broadly to include a vast array of businesses beyond such obvious candidates as banks and credit card companies.
What ought to leap out at you here is the magnitude of Google’s tally relative to that total: They got requests affecting at least 1,000 users in a year when DOJ reports just over 7,000 Americans affected by all NSLs—and it seems impossible that Google could account for anywhere remotely near a seventh of all NSL requests. Google, of course, is not limiting their tally to requests for information about Americans, which may explain part of the gap—but we know that, at least of a few years ago, the substantial majority of NSLs targeted Americans, and the proportion of the total targeting Americans was increasing year after year. As of 2006, for instance, 57 percent of NSL requests were for information about U.S. persons. So even if we reduce Google’s minimum proportionately, that seems awfully high.
There’s a simple enough explanation for this apparent discrepancy: The numbers DOJ reports each year explicitly exclude NSL requests for “basic subscriber information,” meaning the “name, address, and length of service” associated with an account, and only count more expansive requests that also demand more detailed “electronic communications transactional records” that are “parallel to” the “toll billing records” maintained by traditional phone companies. I’ll get back to what that means in a second. But the obvious inference from comparing these numbers, unless Google gets a completely implausibly disproportionate percentage of total NSLs, is that the overwhelming majority of NSLs are just such “basic subscriber information” requests, and that the total number of Americans affected by all NSLs is thus vastly, vastly larger than the official numbers would suggest.
The rationale for not counting such “basic subscriber information” requests—beyond a desire not to terrify Americans by exposing the true magnitude of government surveillance—is presumably that these are so limited in scope that they don’t pose the same kind of civil liberties concerns as more extensive data requests. But this may not really be the case when you think about how we use the Internet in practice: Many people, after all, go online to engage in anonymous speech. In those cases, the contents of a person’s communications may be public (or at least widely shared), and what’s sensitive and private is the identity of the person tied to a particular account. (The first step in the FBI investigation that ultimately brought down CIA chief David Petraeus, recall, was stripping away the digital anonymity of his biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell, by linking a pseudonymous e-mail address to her primary Google account.) Indeed, that seems to be the primary reason one would issue such a “basic subscriber information” request to an entity like Google: To effectively de-anonymize the otherwise unknown user of a particular account. Insofar as the right to both speak and read or recieve information anonymously has long been recognized by the Supreme Court as a component of our basic First Amendment freedoms, even these relatively limited requests may indeed have important implications for our civil liberties. And Google’s numbers, imprecise as they are, very strongly suggest that such requests are issued in far higher numbers than had previously been recognized.
The other interesting tidbit to come from Google today is their expanded FAQ detailing what kinds of information can be obtained under NSLs:
Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) 18 U.S.C. section 2709, the FBI can seek “the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records” of a subscriber to a wire or electronic communications service. The FBI can’t use NSLs to obtain anything else from Google, such as Gmail content, search queries, YouTube videos or user IP addresses.
For a long time, the FBI operated on the assumption that NSLs could be used broadly to obtain any “electronic communications transactional records.” But in a 2008 memorandum, the Office of Legal Counsel rejected that interpretation, holding that NSL authority “reaches only those categories of information parallel to subscriber information and toll billing records for ordinary telephone service.” Just what that means, of course, is fairly opaque—but I think most observers had supposed, as I had, that it encompassed user IP addresses. Since these can be crucial to linking a wide array of online activity to a particular user, their exclusion would somewhat limit the potential of NSLs to undermine Internet anonymity. Whether IPs are covered, however, may well depend on the specific service in question—and it is not at all clear whether other providers will disclose IP addresses in response to NSLs.
Of course, what Google does not specify clearly is just what information does fall into the category of “toll billing records.” In all likelihood, however, it covers the equivalent of the kind of information about who is communicating with whom that might be found on a phone bill—such as a list of all the people with whom you exchange e-mails or Gchat instant messages, though again, given differences in how people use the Internet versus traditional phone service, such lists are likely to be substantially more revealing than any phone bill.
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Jack Lew knows how to get people to give him large sums of money. (And power.)
(From Real Clear Markets)
New York University gave him a loan for housing. The universally recognized trouble with loans is that they have to be paid back. Not to worry. All is forgiven if you are Jack Lew, especially your loans. According to Lew, the university forgave the loan of some $1.4 million “in equal installments over five years.”
When he left NYU, Lew received what he describes as “a one-time severance payment upon my departure.” He wasn’t fired, usually the occasion for severance pay. He simply left and got paid for the act of leaving. Hey, that’s Jack Lew — he gets paid when he stays, and he gets paid when he goes.
He went to Citigroup, which NYU had made its primary private lender for student loans in exchange for a cut of those loans. (Coincidences happen to everyone, including Jack Lew.) At Citi, Lew established beyond a doubt his expertise at getting paid. In 2008, as the bank nearly blew up and laid off one-seventh of its employees, Lew ran its disastrous Alternative Investments unit — and got paid $1.1 million.
The post Rich Lowery at National Review: Jack Lew not so bad, just good at “getting paid.” appeared first on AgainstCronyCapitalism.org.
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At what point does the size of a country’s national debt begin to weigh down the growth potential of its economy?
Previously, the threshold at which that happened was believed to be when a country’s national debt reached 90% of its annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is based on the historic research of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.
However, new academic research just released by David Greenlaw, Jim Hamilton, Peter Hooper and Frederic Mishkin for the 2013 U.S. Monetary Policy Forum that incorporates more recent history into account suggests that the key threshold at which a nation’s economic growth potential will begin to suffer is passed once the publicly-held portion of its national debt exceeds 80% of the nation’s GDP, which especially applies to nations that continually run large trade deficits (or in their terms, “persistent current-account deficits”):
Countries with high debt loads are vulnerable to an adverse feedback loop in which doubts by lenders lead to higher sovereign interest rates which in turn make the debt problems more severe. We analyze the recent experience of advanced economies using both econometric methods and case studies and conclude that countries with debt above 80% of GDP and persistent current-account deficits are vulnerable to a rapid fiscal deterioration as a result of these tipping-point dynamics.
An adverse feedback loop is the academic name of what airplane pilots would call a “graveyard spiral” or more commonly, a “death spiral“. It describes an potentially fatal situation that begins slowly and almost unnoticeably, as the pilot misinterprets their true situation and continues to make the wrong decisions while flying an airplane, which actually works to amplify the level of risk they are facing.
That situation continues if the pilot persists in failing to recognize their growing level of jeopardy and take action to address the real cause of the situation. If they fail to recognize the danger for too long, the risk of a crash continues to escalate until a critical point is reached and the airplane’s controls start to become ineffective, limiting their ability to take corrective action even after they finally fully realize their true situation and react to recover from it.
In the worst case, the airplane becomes fully uncontrollable, after which even the best efforts of the pilot to correct the situation comes too late to do any good and their attempts to regain control fail.
So where does the United States fall in this measure?
As of February 21, 2013, the total public debt outstanding, which includes so-called “intragovernmental holdings”, which includes debt the U.S. federal government owes to Social Security’s trust fund and other government entities, is $16.608 trillion. The amount of debt directly held by the public (or non-U.S. government entities, which includes the Federal Reserve, banks, pension funds, insurance companies, U.S. individuals and foreign interests) adds up to $11.745 trillion, which is the portion of the national debt that applies to the economists’ analysis.
On January 30, 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that the size of the U.S. economy through the end of 2012 was $15.829 trillion.
That puts the current percentage of the publicly-held portion of the U.S. national debt at 74.2%. At the federal government’s expected pace of spending, the Congressional Budget Office projected on February 5, 2013 through its Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023 report that the size of the publicly-held portion of the U.S. national debt will exceed 80% of GDP as early as by the end of this year or early in 2014.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has chronically run large trade deficits since 1976.
Taking these basic conditions together, we should note that they don’t mean that a new economic crash is imminent. Instead, what they mean is that the U.S. can expect to have a lot lower economic growth going forward than what it experienced when it maintained its national debt at a much lower level. The recent evidence-backed 80% debt-to-GDP threshold means that situation will take root much sooner than previously had been expected.
That point about how the national debt weighs down the U.S.’ economic growth potential is underscored by another Congressional Budget Office analysis, which considers the long-run impact of President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Relief Act (ARRA), which is perhaps better known as the “Obama stimulus package”, which added nearly $1 trillion to the U.S. national debt in 2009 and 2010:
ARRA’s long-run impact on the economy will stem primarily from the resulting increase in government debt…. In the long run, each dollar of additional debt crowds out about a third of a dollar’s worth of private domestic capital, CBO estimates.
In other words, each additional dollar of debt reduces the potential for new economic growth in the private sector of the economy by one-third. So, instead of an economy that grows at an annual rate of 3% (the long-term average of real economic growth in the U.S.), which would double in size every 24 years, the economy would be expected to only grow by 2% on average each year, taking 36 years to double in size. As a tool for reducing the national debt burden of the U.S., economic growth would become much less effective – just like the controls of an airplane that has entered into a graveyard spiral.
And suddenly, because it can’t grow fast enough, it becomes that much harder to address the true cause of the situation behind the nation’s fiscal deterioration. All because the politicians at the controls don’t perceive reality as they should.
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Funny thing, if one runs a deficit each year, for decades, those deficits turn into a debt mountain. This country has been building a such a volcano for a very long time. We better hope it doesn’t erupt.
(From the Washington Times)
So began the long, steep ascent to today’s $16.5 trillion national debt (on which the Treasury pays $19,608.81 in interest every two seconds). The national debt now exceeds 100 percent of GDP and is growing by roughly $3 billion a day. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects a $20 trillion debt 10 years from now.
George Washington warned about the dangers of debt in his Farewell Address (1796), admonishing “the people of the United States to avoid the accumulation of debt.” Forty years later (1835) was the only debt-free year in America’s history. By the time President Clinton gave his final State of the Union address on Jan. 27, 2000, America’s national debt was $5.5 trillion.
The post The Deficit? Chump Change, A Brief History of the National Debt appeared first on AgainstCronyCapitalism.org.
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There can be no denying the link between the E-Verify system prominent in discussions of immigration reform and the policy of having a national identification system. The Washington Post editorialized about it this past weekend, saying “a universal national identity card” must be part of “any sensible overhaul of the nation’s immigration system.”
I’ve written about it many times, as I certainly will in the future. Today, though, I’ll commend to you a well-written piece by David Bier on the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s “Open Market” blog. In “The New National Identification System Is Coming,” Bier writes:
“Maybe we should just brand all the babies.” With this joke, Ronald Reagan swatted down a national identification card — or an enhanced Social Security card — proposed by his attorney general in 1981. For more than three decades since, attempts to implement the proposal have all met with failure, but now national ID is back, and it’s worse than ever.
The irony is that appropriate immigration reforms—those that align the law with our country’s need for immigrant workers—could dispense entirely with “internal enforcement,” national employment surveillance, and deputization of businesses as immigration agents.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Another fiscal year for the U.S. Government has ended. Let’s take a look at just who the biggest holders of the U.S. national debt were at the end of Fiscal Year 2012:
Here’s the overall summary of the data presented in the chart:
The information presented in our chart above is preliminary, as the U.S. Treasury typically revises its foreign entity debt ownership data in March of each year.
Overall, U.S. entities own just 65.8% of all debt issued by the U.S. federal government. Ranking the major U.S. entities from low to high, we find that:
- The U.S. government’s military retirement fund owns 2.4% of the national debt.
- The U.S. government’s civilian employee retirement fund accounts for another 5.6% of the nation’s debt.
- The U.S. Federal Reserve, thanks to its quantitative easing programs of recent years, has racked up holdings equal to 10.8% of the total U.S. national debt.
- The U.S. Social Security Trust Fund claims 16.7%.
- U.S. individuals and institutions, which includes regular Americans, banks, insurance companies and other government entities, own 30.4% of the nation’s debt.
Meanwhile, foreign entities own 34.2% of all U.S. government-issued debt, with the following nations’ individuals and institutions representing the five biggest holders of that debt, again ranked from low to high:
- United Kingdom: 0.9%
- Brazil: 1.6%
- “Oil Exporters”, which includes Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait,Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates: 1.7%
- Japan: 7.0%
- China (including Hong Kong): 8.1%
All other nations hold approximately 15% of the U.S. outstanding national debt.
Since the end of the U.S. government’s 2012 fiscal year on September 30, 2012, the U.S. government has since racked up roughly another $400 billion (or 0.4 trillion dollars) in debt at this writing, bringing the total national debt up to 16.4 trillion dollars.
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