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  • Americans love their independence...

  • a nation of pioneers living out from under the eye of government ...

  • (except for all the government).

  • As such, unlike many other countries, Americans don't have a national ID card...

  • ...and even the idea of creating one is a political hot topic every election cycle.

  • The results are always the same: we don't need no ID card.

  • But suspiciously, US citizens do already have this:

  • a card with a unique number that many places will ask for to prove who you are.

  • This is the Social Security card and number...

  • ...and it has become a quasi ID / unique password to identify citizens...

  • ...though that was never its intended use.

  • For Americans, keeping this number secret is super important...

  • because it's the key to the government and banks to identifying you as you...

  • and losing control of it is the worst kind of identity theft that can happen.

  • So how did Americans end up with a national ID number

  • that isn't one and a card terribly unfit to identify?

  • It all started in the great depression of long long ago

  • when the government created the social security program, …

  • … a kind of mandatory pension:

  • Citizens would be required to pay in during

  • their working lives and withdraw in their retirement.

  • The idea being that even if past-you didn't save

  • for the sunset years of future-you, the eventually old current you

  • would still have something to live on.

  • Now if you want to think of social security as a benefit

  • the government provides or as a bank account that's yours

  • iscontroversial, but either way this number was created

  • to track what you put in and what you take out.

  • Now, because this was just one government program

  • related only to your working life, you only needed to apply

  • for a social security card when you actually started working.

  • But over time, that changed and the younger you are,

  • the more likely you've had one from the moment of your birth

  • despite babies' worthlessness as child laborers.

  • So why?

  • Well it goes back to Americans' having no national identity card

  • with a national number, which makes it harder for institutions

  • to keep track of people over their lives.

  • With hundreds of millions of citizens,

  • names and birthdays aren't unique,

  • people move, people marry, people change names.

  • And if you're trying to keep track of everyone,

  • as say the United States Tax department might want to do,

  • it can be a real problem, particularly in the pre-computer days.

  • "Hey, wait a minute, look, at *this* number just lying around,"

  • the tax department said.

  • "It's not supposed to be used as an ID number,"

  • said the social security department.

  • "There are security reasons you shouldn't--"

  • "Yoink!"

  • Thus the tax department piggy-backed off of the work

  • the social security department did assigning working adults a number,

  • which made tracking taxes easier

  • and they highly encouraged parents to get a social security number

  • for their children by tying it to a tax discount.

  • Crazily, counting children for tax rebates used to run on the honor system.

  • The US Tax Department told people:

  • 1. We will give you a discount on your taxes for each child you have. And:

  • 2. Write down your number of children, …

  • please be honest, we don't have a way to check.

  • Which was just asking, nay, begging people to lie.

  • Which they did, birthing on paper millions of phantom children.

  • But after requiring each kid to have a social security

  • account number connected to a birth certificate

  • before the parents could get the tax discount, …

  • all those phantoms faded away.

  • This turned the social security number into a unique number

  • that all citizens had right from the start, …

  • and that made it easy for lots of other places like banks

  • ... and schools and companies and landlords

  • to also piggy back on the number as an easy way

  • to keep track of people without having to come up

  • with their own systems and to be able to exchange information

  • about people between institutions.

  • This is super useful for institutions, so, …

  • the desire of Americans to not have a national identity card led, …

  • somewhat inevitably, …

  • to the nearest thing available being used as a substitute

  • which ended up being worse because the social security number

  • was never designed to be used this way in the long, long ago.

  • And you can tell because it has no security built into it.

  • Ok, so there's this neat trick that most ID numbers use

  • ...where they can check themselves to see if they're invalid.

  • The simplest way is to have the last couple digits

  • match the sum of the others.

  • All kinds of ID cards and bar codes do this because it makes it impossible

  • to enter an incorrect number in a computer, …

  • and makes it harder for fraudsters to guess valid numbers.

  • This is why if you try to buy something online by guessing

  • … a credit card number, the website knows it's invalid

  • before you even click buy.

  • But because the Social Security number started life

  • in the long, long ago, it's just a number

  • with no self-checking security built in.

  • Worse, if you're born pre-2011 it's not that hard to just guess

  • most of the number: the first three digits are the state where the

  • parents applied for the card and the last four digits just count up in order, …

  • and the middle digits follow a regular pattern.

  • So you can take your number, subtract one and that's a valid number

  • of someone who was probably born in the same hospital

  • as you around the same time.

  • Thus a fraudster who knows your time and location of birth

  • can probably get the first five digits by just looking them up on a chart.

  • Institutions ask for the last four digits as a code to identify you as you

  • which means it's not that hard to put together your number

  • from a security leak anywhere or just by connecting a few puzzle pieces.

  • The physical card itself is no help either:

  • just a literal piece of cardboard, …

  • depending on when it was issued, not even laminated.

  • The social security department used to print

  • … 'not to be used for identification' on the cards

  • as a futile attempt to stop institutions for asking for them as IDs, …

  • because there's nothing identifying a person on the card.

  • But eventually they gave up and removed these words

  • because, unlike passports or driver's licenses, …

  • you can assume all Americans will have this one card.

  • All this means your social security card and number

  • probably have less security than your library card, …

  • while being vastly more important.

  • So it fails at being a secure number, …

  • it fails at being a good ID card, …

  • but at least it is universal* which is why people use it.

  • Oh hello, asterisk, my old friend.

  • No, of course not, this program isn't actually universal:

  • not everyone has a social security account number, …

  • and not everyone pays into the program.

  • If you want to get out of paying you'll just need to:

  • First: Never have received any social security benefits

  • and give up your rights to getting any in the future.

  • Which seems fair. In addition you must also:

  • Be a member of a religion opposed to the idea of social security.

  • Usually because it’s a kind of insurance, and insurance is a kind of gambling.

  • That's harder, but you could always just start

  • your own religion if you were really serious about avoiding taxes.

  • But your new religion must also:

  • Provide for its elderly and dependent members.

  • Which means you have to re-create a social security program of sorts

  • in your religion (while also being against social security).

  • But if creating a contradictory religion doesn't daunt you

  • Lastly, it must have existed continuously since 1950.

  • Which is a giveaway that this exception was written pretty much exclusively

  • for the Amish and Mennonites, …

  • and kills dead your plans unless youre willing

  • to undergo a serious change in lifestyle.

  • It doesn't stop there:

  • keep digging and youll find all sorts of other weird, weird exceptions:

  • including some railroad workers, or firefighters, or police, …

  • or teachers (but only in Chicago).

  • Usually these are groups that in the long long ago

  • were able to get out of the program at its creation date.

  • So nothing's ever straight forward.

  • And that's the deal with this social security card:

  • containing a national number for citizens that don't want one, …

  • on an identification card, that fails at identification, …

  • given to all citizens -- except when it isn't -- …

  • for a program that's universal, except when it's not.

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  • Does your brand new social security-avoiding religion

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Americans love their independence...

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B1 中級

社会保障カードの説明 (Social Security Cards Explained)

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    Mike NiKao-Kusata に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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