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.
…because they give us the idea that we are safe while providing a far less than adequate level of safety. I found this video, courtesy of http://tsaoutofourpants.wordpress.com/, very informative:
Another factoid I found interesting is that no one has brought explosives on an American-originated flight in 40 years. However, if the TSA “officers” and the traveling public are convinced that these machines will help keep that streak alive, and yet they are demonstrably worse than the old-style metal detectors, then it can reasonably be concluded that the machines are actively making us less safe by lulling us into a false sense of security while failing to catch real threats.
Then again, I simply do not accept the idea that an outfit like the TSA has moved the needle higher in security at all. The reason why most planes don’t blow up is because, out of 7 billion people in this world, all but a handful won’t ever blow up a plane. And the ones who might are marginalized otherwise.
The point of diminishing returns has been reached and exceeded long before TSA existed. At this point, TSA’s annual budget of more than $8 billion is worth about as much in actual security as your own vigilance. Possibly less.
The inevitable question that I get from security-statists upon saying that is, “well won’t that make it easier for terrorists?” Sure. But terrorists have an incredibly difficult time of it anyway (and it bears repeating that TSA has never, ever caught a single terrorist). If we spend $8 billion of federal money and have a terrorist attack every decade or two, would that really be any better than spending $0 of federal money and having a terrorist attack every decade or two?
The idea that we can make the threat completely disappear is false. What is left is a balancing act of economic interests, freedom interests, and security interests.
Let’s stop shoveling money at the TSA on the basis of boogeyman stories and start talking tradeoffs like adults.
Cato’s Gene Healy takes to the Washington Examiner to write about the TSA forcing a 95-year-leukemia patient to remove her adult diaper to get through the airport screening process. In pertinent part:
As always when the TSA commits some new atrocity — like last April’s “freedom fondle” of a 6-year-old girl — a designated bureaucratic spokes-unit affirmed that the officers acted “according to proper procedure.”
As my colleague Julian Sanchez observes, it’s bizarre to think we’re supposed to find it comforting “that everything is being done by the book — even if the ‘book’ is horrifying.” Wouldn’t you rather hear that such actions were the work of overzealous line officers, instead of policies vetted and approved at the highest levels of the federal government?
Do I find this personally unsettling, disgusting, and highly unnecessary? Depends.
Apropos of nothing in particular, Reason’s Jacob Sullum reports that the Texas House has passed a bill limiting the TSA. The bill would affect “public servants” who:
“while acting under color of the person’s office or employment, without probable cause to believe the other person committed an offense, performs a search without effective consent for the purpose of granting access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation” and “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of the other person, including touching through the clothing.”
I happen to think this is a step in the right direction, quixotic or not. It brings up questions that we need to be asking, namely about probable cause and unwarranted searches in the first place, and about the limits of federal government overreach in the second place.
I believe that a great many Texans and Americans in general would agree with me that the TSA, which to date has captured zero terrorists, is entirely unnecessary. When the cost benefit ratio divides by zero, you know that something is askew. However, the bill passed over the objections of the House Speaker:
The bill passed despite resistance from House Speaker Joe Straus, who dismissed it as “an ill-advised publicity stunt,” saying he wanted to “send a message without actually harming commercial aviation in Texas” (a reference to U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy’s warning that the TSA might be forced to shut down Texas airports)…
Of course the TSA has threatened to completely shut down Texas airports if they see any resistance to their efforts to fondle six-year-old girls and humiliate your grandmother. Because bureaucracies will do everything in their power, warranted or not, to self-perpetuate. Just remember that every day we do nothing to stop this is another day the TSA will use to entrench itself more and more until transportation is indistinguishable from the Nazi police state.