Starting next year, the check will no longer be in the mail for millions of people who receive Social Security and other government benefits.
The federal government, which issues 73 million payments a month, is phasing out paper checks for all benefit programs, requiring people to get payments electronically, either through direct deposit or a debit card for those without a bank account.
The changes will affect people who get Social Security, veterans’ benefits, railroad pensions and federal disability payments. Tax refunds are exempt, but the Internal Revenue Service encourages taxpayers to get refunds electronically by processing those refunds faster than paper checks.
About 90 percent of people who receive federal benefits already get their payments electronically, the Treasury Department says. New beneficiaries were required to get payments electronically starting last year, and with a few exceptions, the rest will have to make the switch by March 2013.
“It’s just that natural progression of moving to how people are used to receiving their funds,” said Walt Henderson, director of the Treasury Department’s electronic funds transfer division.
On the one hand, I will admit that I do the vast majority of my banking and financial transactions electronically now, although I still insist on paper bills from all companies and services. I will admit I have been waiting to see just when companies decide they have reached critical mass, and will no longer ask me again and again, every time I logon, whether I would not like the convenience of no paper bills, but would prefer to receive my bills by email now. I feel certain that with a couple of years, they will just tell me that is the way it is going to be, get over it, and stop printing and mailing paper bills.
It all seems so logical.
But then it occurs to me that, despite the fact that 90% of Americans already are doing direct deposit of their Social Security checks, that there are many, possibly millions, in America, living without a permanent address and definitely not a bank account, many out on the street. What about them?
And there are probably a lot of Luddites and other reactionaries who just don’t want to invest themselves in the move to being electronically connected and a participant in Total Information Awareness.
But then, we as a society seem to be ready to abandon them completely, so why not here, too?
But then this and the current political climate in America got me to thinking. Here’s a great idea. This would enhance the savings and create other great benefits for the government, as well.
Why not a computer chip implanted in everyone in early childhood. It could store all medical and economic information, and better yet, it could host a GPS, so the government could track citizens at all times. And all financial transactions could be handled via this computer link. You won’t even have to carry credit or debit cards, the chip will host RFID and proximity scanners will read it in the check out lane. When you fly, the scanner will already know if you are safe to let on board the plane, or whether you are a potential terrorist on the no-fly watch list, like apparently several million other dubious and shifty eyed Americans. You will carry your entire medical history around with you, easily available to any medical personnel. The FDA has reportedly already approved such chips. This would also insure all transactions could be monitored easily. In real time, even. Such a boon to insuring that no one will attack us because they are jealous of our freedoms ever again. There are reports from back in 2006 that one Ohio company was already requiring employees to have such chips for identification embedded.
There was a time in my callow youth back in the nineteen-fifties when, as a devout fan of scifi, I revealed in such imaginary technological dystopias, and imagined authoritarian regimes, always thanking my lucky stars I had not bee born in Russia or Hitler’s German, and even more thankful such technology had not been available to them. “1984” and “Brave New World” were cautionary tales I took to heart. And I had thought most people had read or knew of them, and that the defeat the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century had taught us the lessons of what evil we inflict on each other when we form our societies in these fashions. KBG and Stasi were dirty words forever.
Lucky me to have now lived to see America living under the Patriot Act, and knowing that thanks to government data taps in key points nationwide, and the current construction of new centralized facilities to monitor, store, and analyze all electronic traffic on the Internet and phone systems, all my reading habits are being stored away and analyzed, all my emails read, all my phone calls monitored, my retail purchases listed and collated and flagged. And now, thanks to the Koch owned Supreme Court, my anal cavity can be examined even if I am arrested for just a parking ticket.
Of course, those who have turned a blind eye to this trend because it suited their political leanings have always been ready to point out that if you have nothing to hide, what are you worried about. Of course. How could I have been so confused as to think there might be a problem here. Besides, as many have repeatedly pointed out, the Supreme Court was wrong to have ever suggested that there was a protection of personal privacy anywhere in the Constitution, since it is not explicitly enumerated. I am sure the Founding Fathers would not have a problem with any of these developments. Especially not Ben Franklin, he would probably be inventing bifocal RFID chip scanners. And I am sure George Washington would support this sort of total power by the government. After all, he did want to be King, didn’t he? Or am I remembering that wrong.
Oh Brave New World. How lucky I am to have lived to see it emerging in reality, rather than just having to read about it in the pages of fictional novels and stories.
Yes, great are the boons of technology in the hands of the power structure of a government willing to use it.