Vacation is good for me. Two weeks in the sun helps to break up the very gray winter we have in the Willamette Valley. I like to use Jeff Foxworthy’s description of winter here, “You know you are from Oregon if you know the four seasons as, Almost-Winter, Winter, Still-Winter, and Road construction.” But vacation is good for more than just a break in Winter. It helps you put some things in perspective. Too often, the rush of everyday duties prevents you from appreciating much of what you have, health, family, friends, community, etc.
Vacation also brings you face-to-face with the Federal government in the form of the Transportation Security Agency, TSA. I understand the reaction to the events of 9-11. However, I truly doubt that the TSA serves a purpose today, or, if it does serve a purpose, it does so at a cost that has no relationship to the usefulness of its purpose.
My experience leaving Kauai last week is a case in point. Lihue, Kauai has a small airport. The TSA only has two radiation machines and about 20 agents on duty at any given time. When my wife and I approached the conveyor belts and began to undress (belt, shoes, jacket, etc.) my wife told the nearest agent that we wanted to opt out and get the pat-down instead of the radiation. The agent told her that the radiation machine (for our line) was out of order so we could just walk through. Every passenger who went through the line that we were in went through uninspected while the other line continued to grow as those passengers got the full backscatter screen.
The TSA budget of over $8 Billion a year is just the tip of the iceberg that describes the cost of the TSA to the American taxpayer. Think of the extra hour required for every departure. Think of the hassles. Think of the real estate and the equipment at every airport. I can’t carry my Swiss Army Knife with a 2″ blade, but the teenaged Goth in front of me can carry a comb with a 6″ spike handle and the lady behind me has a knitting bag with a half dozen 10″ knitting needles. Think about the 3 oz. liquid allowance. I like to carry a bottle of water when I travel. To do that, I must subject myself to not only the groping (I always opt out of the radiation treatment) but also to getting raped by the Airport vender who gets $3.50 for the bottle of water that costs 50¢ at the grocery store. (please note that at PDX – Portland International – they charge $1.00 for water and all stores have normal street prices, not inflated Airport Prices)
By the way, the TSA budget is larger than the budget of the National Weather Service (8 X as large). Think about the benefit to agriculture, transportation, tourism provided by the National Weather Service.
The TSA is far Less effective than a single drug sniffing beagle (Okay, I made that up, but let’s face it, they have not been too effective – over $5,000,000 spend for each gun found in screening?).
Doug Casey is a favorite of mine. He minces no words. His disdain for the TSA is beyond the pale. Just read this interview with Casey from late 2010 posted here.
What is the difference between preventing a terrorist act in the air that kills 250 people and destroys one aircraft or a terrorist act on the ground (at the security checkpoint) that kills 250 people and destroys a big chunk of an airport facility? Answer – It is a lot easier to get the people on the ground. TSA does almost nothing to prevent terrorism. It only has the potential to shift the location of the terrorist act.
As much as I think the TSA is a joke, I must defend the TSA agents in one small way. They are, like our uniformed military, controlled by politicians. Do you think they would be more effective if they profiled people? Would that be better than frisking every 27th person resulting in 85 year olds in wheel chairs getting put through the ringer?
My solution to the TSA problem, of course, is a private, not government, solution. I would leave air travel security up to the Airlines/Airports. If they want to profile passengers (“We reserve the right to refuse service…”) or have armed security agents on each flight, that would be up to them. The actual customers of each airline would pay the cost, not all taxpayers. And, the airlines would do a much better job.
You don’t think so? The airlines would be highly motivated. They don’t want to lose a plane. Planes are pretty expensive. They don’t want to lose a passenger. The word would not be good marketing buzz for an airline that was known for sacrificing a few customers to save money on security. And who do you think would lose his job if an airline failed due to loss of aircraft or passengers, the airline employee or the TSA agent? That is incentive. Makes things work efficiently. Disband the TSA. It’s just another expensive, inefficient government bureaucracy that does little to improve our safety.