Home > Primacy of Society, Public Service > The TSA – A Stark Rendering of Misplaced Priorities

The TSA – A Stark Rendering of Misplaced Priorities

Paul Hsieh has pointed out the absurd contrast between the millions of unnecessary x-rays that TSA forces travelers through and the potentially millions of preventive x-rays that our government health czars are now urging us to forego.

I am struck by the blatant display of misplaced priorities.  As Hsieh notes:

Screening travelers and screening patients share some common features. In both cases the goal is to sort through a large, mostly-normal population to identify the relatively few problem cases — either an undetected terrorist or a hidden cancer.

…the TSA screeners are of dubious effectiveness. TSA screeners have failed to detect simulated bombs and real guns. The attempted hijacking of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 two years ago was thwarted not by the TSA but by alert passengers.

In contrast to mandatory screening for terrorists, the government is actively discouraging Americans from regular screening for common forms of cancer…

After years of arguing that regular cancer screening saves lives, the government now warns that such routine screening creates unnecessary emotional distress, leads to further risky invasive tests, and raises overall health costs. Regardless of the scientific merits of these claims, blogger Glenn Reynolds notes that many skeptical Americans fear that the government’s real agenda is to save money at the expense of their health.

Although I have no hard statistics on this, I believe it is safe to say that preventive medicine has saved many lives.  Do the lives number in the millions?  Thousands?  I am not sure, but either way, the number is certainly greater than zero.

By contrast, the TSA has forced millions through medically unnecessary radiation, and managed to catch zero terrorists.  Zero.

Let that sink in for a moment.  Our wise, benevolent government is spending billions on screening machines that have zero effectiveness in catching terrorists, and at the same time, it is encouraging the underuse of screening machines that have proven effectiveness at catching disease.

It all seems to come down to dollars and cents.  The first question is, why spend the money on the failed programs at the expense of the productive ones?  The second – and more important – question is, why is the government spending this money anyway?

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