When the TSA was first formed in the comparatively innocent times just after September 11, 2001 (yes, you read that right), it was expressly prohibited that the workforce be unionized. Since then, the number of employees has exploded from 16,500 to 62,500. The amount of abuse travelers put up with has risen exponentially, from pat-downs to porno scanners. And the number of terrorists caught by TSA has… Well, that’s still a big, fat zero.
Nonetheless, TSA Administrator John Pistole, who knows which side his bread is buttered on, has allowed the TSA to go forward with an American Federation of Government Employees union contract. And just when you thought the TSA couldn’t get any worse.
While my views on unions are well-known, I think it bears repeating that this can only end in a disaster for both American travel security and Americans’ wallets.
Consider the example of the teachers’ unions. Since 1970, the cost of educating one student from kindergarten through 12th grade has roughly tripled, from $55,000 to $155,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Since 1970, American students have seen no improvement in math and reading, and regression in science scores.
This is because, once unionized, the workforce becomes entirely caught up in labor concerns to the detriment of their actual jobs. Hence, students suffer once the teachers’ unions begin to treat the public school system as nothing more than a jobs bank.
Using the example of history, it is easy to see that unionization of a workforce entrenches the worst elements of that workforce. Efficiency is sacrificed, goals go unmet, poor performers cannot be fired, and consumers bear the brunt of this failure.
Of course, airport security seems important enough that we should want to avoid these things, but no matter. The screeners pressed ahead with their unionization anyway, the public be damned. After all, the attitude of the unions has always been that the public owes them jobs, not that they owe the public a job well done.
If you have yet to see this video of Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary at an EU innovation conference in Brussels, you should do yourself the favor. It’s seriously good.
There is quite a lot to note about this, but I was struck by the smarmy EU bureaucrat at the end. After taking a well-deserved beating at the hands of a person who is actually productive, he rather pathetically claims that, since the EU deregulated the airlines 20 years ago, it is in fact the politicians and bureaucrats who are really responsible for the fantastic success of Ryanair.
Frankly, that’s ridiculous, and a five year old should be able to see through it. If the bureaucrats and politicians at the EU can take credit for Ryanair’s success because they deregulated, then who can take credit for the massive bankruptcies, horrible customer service, and sky-high prices (pardon the pun) of the legacy carriers?
Oh right, the bureaucrats and politicians who regulated the system in the first place.
How many times have we heard this? When governments do stupid things that create horrible situations, it’s the fault of the private sector. When governments slightly retrench their meddling and situations improve drastically, it’s all because of the wise, caring, and ever-so-smart technocrats in Washington, Brussels, or whatever other swamp politicians and bureaucrats hatch in.
Fly US Airways in and out of Philadelphia from Pittsburgh on Jan. 4, and the nonrefundable round-trip fare would be $118, before taxes. Take those same nonstop flights a week later, and the US Airways fare jumps to $698.
Why the reason for the change? [sic]
Southwest Airlines, the only major competitor to US Airways on that route, will end its nonstop service between the two cities on Jan. 8.
Is it not amazing what free competition can do? The presence of a single competitor can bring the price of a flight down by almost 85%! While this is remarkable, the commentary from some regular passengers is not:
The loss of competition and jump in prices, however, didn’t sit well with Witold Walczak, who found out last week that the cost for his once- or twice-a-month flights across the state would increase more than five-fold in January.
“Unless you are or work for the one percent, these prices are prohibitive,” he said. “This is price gouging of the worst sort … the free market is really sticking it to the little guy.
The “one percent” comment gives him away immediately as an economic airhead. Regardless, it is important to note that it was not only the free market that allowed for the raised price, but it was the free market that allowed prices to be so low to begin with. This is not price gouging, this is price normalizing.
Read further into the article, and you’ll find out that “Southwest planes were barely half-filled. ‘Southwest was dying on that route,'” according to an industry analyst.
So the free market allowed for airlines to operate at a loss for quite a while, ultimately subsidizing people like Walczak to the tune of thousands of dollars, but once circumstances change slightly, the free market is “sticking it” to the little guy?
I suppose Walczak will be giving his subsidy back then, since he was clearly “sticking it” to the airline for so long?
Worst of all, Walczak is the legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. If this is the type of person we have out there protecting our liberties, we are screwed. Walczak needs to stick to free speech. His economic illiteracy makes him unqualified for anything else.
I will finally get around to posting this article (it’s somewhat late, so I apologize) about their British counterparts. You see, it seems that when Britain’s Border Agency went on strike, the expected hellish lines and hours-long delays at Heathrow not only did not materialize, but conditions actually improved.
Perhaps we only think we need these people. Perhaps the private sector would be doing it anyway – and better. Read all about it at the Daily Mail.
More on China:
A few days back, China cut its reserve requirements for its banks by 50 basis points, injecting extra cash and liquidity into a market already swimming in paper debt. Bloomberg charitably reports that this “might signal a slowdown.”
Socrates reports that this is yet another step towards the inevitable Chinese conflagration. Will it be today? Tomorrow? Five years from now? Whatever the case, a fool for China and his money will soon be parted.
Intellectual Property and the Urge to Regulate the Internet:
Quick, what is the most creative, fastest growing sector of the economy? No, it’s not General Motors. It is, of course, the “internet economy,” or broadly the information technology that has connected the entire world over the past couple of decades.
And get this, the internet revolutionized our entire lives in spite of being completely devoid of regulation! Wait, scratch that, it revolutionized our entire lives because it was completely devoid of regulation.
That is why Google happens to be correct in its excoriation of the new “online piracy” bill, which in reality is just intellectual property on steroids:
Google is exhorting senators to oppose an online piracy bill, arguing it would threaten national security, shackle the Internet with regulations and imperil free speech, according to a document obtained by The Hill.
The memo that is being circulated on Capitol Hill lists five reasons not to co-sponsor the legislation. It argues the bill puts at risk “the ability for free speech and the ability of political parties to spread their message” while creating a “thicket of new Internet regulations similar to the administration’s net-neutrality rules.”
It also calls the legislation “a trial lawyer’s dream” and claims it seeks to “regulate the Internet.”
This thing passes, and the internet as we know it dies.
An Update on the Whereabouts of the Anti-War Left:
A while back, I put out an APB on the anti-war left, which disappeared completely once their pro-war president was elected. Turns out, it is still missing.
Reason has been patrolling the same beat, and Sheldon Richman argues persuasively that “Obama’s War Record Should Appall Progressives.”
Watch as Richman batters the tired arguments of formerly anti-war left, who are now left to rationalize the actions of “their” president, who happens to be ratcheting up all of the failed policies of the former president.
Oh, and if anyone can find where the real anti-war left went, please let me know. Thanks.
The Unintended Consequences of Race-Based Preferences:
The Supreme Court is choosing whether to hear a case on the racial preference system of the University of Texas. George Will, who in the last few years has been razor sharp, argues that the court should hear the case and be confronted with the failed legacy of affirmative action:
The Supreme Court faces a discomfiting decision. If it chooses, as it should, to hear a case concerning racial preferences in admissions at the University of Texas, the court will confront evidence of its complicity in harming the supposed beneficiaries of preferences the court has enabled and encouraged…
For 33 years, the court has been entangled in a thicket of preferences that are not remedial and hence not temporary. Preferences as recompense for past discrimination must eventually become implausible, but the diversity rationale for preferences never expires…
But what if many of the minorities used in this process are injured by it? Abundant research says they are, as two amicus curiae briefs demonstrate in urging the court to take the Texas case…
“Academic mismatch” causes many students who are admitted under a substantial preference based on race, but who possess weaker academic skills, to fall behind. The consequences include especially high attrition rates from the sciences, and self-segregation in less-demanding classes, thereby reducing classroom diversity.
The entire article is well worth a read.
And hey, it’s Saturday. What else are you doing?
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may remember a post from a couple weeks back in which I quoted an airline pilot named Michael Roberts. He wrote a wonderful, principled letter to the Memphis Commercial appeal. I’ll reproduce it again here, since it’s just so good:
As professional pilots, some colleagues and I recently issued a statement to our airline. We voiced our rejection of the policy changes being enacted by the Transportation Security Administration at airport security checkpoints across the country, including Memphis International (Sept. 18 article, “Virtual strip search / Random full-body scans launched at Memphis airport”).
We do not consent to the indignity of virtual strip searches as a matter of course in performing the duties of our profession. Neither can we conscientiously accept being physically frisked by federal agents every day as a reasonable alternative.
Obviously, our work places us inside the flight deck door by necessity. We wouldn’t have to smuggle a weapon into the airport to take control of an aircraft. After running the gantlet of required background checks, security training and screening procedures, it’s just plain silly to confiscate pilots’ pocket knives and corkscrews before we enter the cockpit. In short, here’s hoping the crew for your next flight is on the home team.
But that’s not even the point.
We are appalled that any citizen who is not under arrest, has made no threats, nor raised any suspicion of terrorism or other malice should be made to submit to either of these “options” in order to move about within his or her own national borders.
Federal airport security guards are often unskilled, entry-level responders to help-wanted ads affixed to pizza boxes. Perhaps novice agents lack the perspective to grasp the full implications of their work. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. But please don’t show them your naked body. Don’t let these strangers put their hands on you or your children. Their abuse protects no one. No, the good citizens of a free society must resist such authoritarian overtures at least as much as any foreign threat.
I offer my condolences if your flight should be delayed or canceled because the TSA won’t let us in the door. But I suggest that your freedom is more important. At any rate, ours certainly is.
Well, Michael Roberts is back in the news today, because he apparently was “randomly selected” to be strip searched by one of the TSA’s brand new privacy killing machines. Michael Roberts refused, and that’s why he is my hero of the day. According to news reports:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Tennessee pilot who says he’s tired of being manhandled by security agents is waiting to see if he will lose his job because he refused a full body scan.
ExpressJet Airlines first officer Michael Roberts was chosen for the X-ray scan Friday at Memphis International Airport. The Houston-based pilot says he also refused a pat-down and went home.
It is sad that he is in jeopardy of losing his job because he won’t submit to the demeaning intrusions of sub-literate government gorillas. Mr. Roberts is absolutely correct when he says that the TSA is a “make-work” program that doesn’t make travel safer. It’s perfectly intuitive that employing tens of thousands of mindless bureaucrats for the sole purpose of stealing water bottles and corkscrews is not going to make my flight any less dangerous. According to TSA stats, almost 50,000 are employed for this function – imagine their inflated federal payroll and ridiculous pension and benefits! We’ll be paying these philistines to violate our privacy long after they’ve retired at age 50.
And for what? So that they can stop malicious terrorists like a 4-year old boy in leg braces? So that they can allow 40% of their budget to simply disappear? So that they can fail to stop bomb components from being slipped through screening literally 100% of the time in a GAO audit? And then try to minimize their own incompentence by suggesting we disallow carry-on bags? So that they can fail to track the security passes of their own former employees, thus becoming exactly the type of danger they exist to stop? How about very simply stealing our things? Or failing at a rate three to four times higher than private screeners at detecting bombs? I could go on and on.
The TSA was a hasty, ill-conceived, hyperbolic and unnecessary response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. And what are the goals of terrorism? It creates fear and breaks down trust and values, weakening the society that is attacked. Getting rid of the TSA won’t allow the terrorists to “win.” The fact that the TSA exists at all proves that the terrorists have already won.
I’ll leave you with a (possibly apocryphal, but accurate nonetheless) quote from Ben Franklin: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
Instead of losing our liberty, let’s lose the TSA.