I was just reading a national magazine (page 16 of the March 19, 2012 paper issue of Newsweek) the other week, and stumbled across a very didactic graphic, called “Patting Down the TSA,” by Christopher Elliott. Unfortunately, I could not find a copy online, but I’ll see if I can get a picture of it posted on this blog.
While the $57 billion we’ve spent on the TSA since 2001 is a drop in the bucket compared to our now well over $14 trillion national debt, it’s still something we can’t afford to continue doing the way we’ve been doing when the country is facing the end of pensions, the end of unions, healthcare being over 90% of the budget by 2100 if we continue on the current track of escalating spending, and the gap between the very rich and the rest of us wider than it has been at any time in modern history since the Great Depression.
We also can’t afford the kind of results we’ve achieved by usurping the 4th amendment for airline customers, because the TSA has so far achieved nothing except that. Since their advent, they have apprehended precisely zero terrorists. In 10 years, their staff has grown by 400%. In 2011, the TSA confiscated 1,200 guns. That averages out to over $6 million of taxpayer money spent per gun. Not only that, but the externalities of this situation are staggering. $57 billion to apprehend zero terrorists is a lot of money, but consider the estimated $1.1 billion the airlines are losing each quarter because folks don’t want to be inconvenienced or dehumanized by the TSA.
I used to think that the dour mood of flight attendants post-9/11 had to with the fact that multiple terrorist hijackings all coordinated on one day made flying no longer fun anymore because someone might just fly your plane into a building. Nope. Flight attendants aren’t cheery anymore because they’re all getting laid off, because the airlines are all practically in the red, because when the safety moms and NASCAR dads told those worried about violations of our civil rights at the airports “Well, just don’t fly anymore if you don’t like it,” some folks actually listened and had the (temporal or financial) resources to inconvenience the Hell out of their lives.
The TSA is a Government-funded jobs program, plain and simple. The only difference between it and FDR’s Civillian Conservation Corps is that the latter did good things for the country in order to keep people from starving during the Great Depression, and because the TSA pretends to be tough on terror, the right wing will vote for this kind of liberal governmental overreach. But if they’ve apprehended precisely zero terrorists (including the underwear bomber and the shoe bomber), the TSA isn’t exactly tough on our most recent enemies.
At the risk of being totally elitist (don’t you like this kind of clause structure? “I don’t mean to be a ____________, but ________”), the folks who fondle your junk if you don’t want to go through the scanner also don’t even have to have high school diplomas. With one year of work experience and no high school degree, you too can fondle junk and violate American rights as a TSA agent. At least someone with a high school diploma might have a better idea about the pelvic physical abnormalities I have that are not bombs (like my parasitic conjoined twin). I’m guessing that a hand controlled by a brain with slightly more scholastic training might have sensed the abnormalities in the underwear on the underwear bomber. And for all this time, money, public outcry, heartache, taxes, and welfare, they still suck at finding things.
But this is 2012! Why the hell do there have to be hands or scanning machines in the airports at all? We have chemical noses that can detect components for explosives down to the tiniest parts per million and trained dogs can find the rest. Problem solved. No government welfare/work program, no violation of the 4th amendment, fewer (or no) losses to the airline industry, and less government pork to be taken out of our paychecks or borrowed from China.
I guess I should be thankful for living in the richest, most (pretend) free nation on Earth. After all, the TSA have eased up a little. Because of doing too much of this kind of crap, they’re (for) now no longer out to get grandma. They say. (Remember that this is not fundamentally how governments or bureaucracies work. They almost never return rights after they take them away without the involvement of major crises, so the current septuagenarian-and-older reprieve is doubtless only temporary.)