Why the TSA needs to go!
As a professional travel blogger I typically don’t write about controversial topics, but the latest news on the TSA has prompted me to do so. As a road trip blogger I am thankful that I don’t have to fly as often as some of my colleagues, however I still board a plane at least a dozen times per year. The past couple of times I’ve flown I was frustrated and astounded by the long security lines to get through TSA.
My most recent flight was out of Sky Harbor in my home state of Arizona, one of the busiest airports in the country. The TSA checkpoint I entered had seven lanes and there were hundreds of people waiting to be screened. I saw a TSA agent moving one of the stanchions near me and asked if some of the other lanes would be opening up? His short and slightly flip reply was, “no.” Out of the seven lanes, only three were open. It took nearly an hour and fifteen minutes to get through the TSA checkpoint. The stress of missing my flight was an undue burden that I really didn’t appreciate, especially given the exorbitant tax I and other passengers pay each time we fly to cover the TSA budget, which was established fifteen years ago.
What I don’t understand is that the TSA Agency is not new! It’s been around for over a decade, so how is it that they are still struggling with efficiency? This is really unacceptable if you ask me. Time is our most precious commodity and the TSA is stealing it from us. Yes, public safety is paramount, I understand this. And, we all understood the implementation of the TSA would take time when it was created way back in 2001, but to have efficiency issues fifteen years later goes to the root of the problem with TSA…that it is a government bureaucratic agency.
The standard answer from any bureaucrat is, “we need more money.” Have you ever heard a private company telling the public, “if only we had more money, we’d be able to offer better products or service?” Incentive is what motivates humans. The government agency paradigm takes incentive out of the equation. Governments spend money at will with no regard to where it comes from, hence our $19T debt and no balanced budget, so we just continue to add to the debt. [I digress]
If you are reading this and are saying to yourself, “but we need the TSA, they protect us.” Then pardon me for saying, but you are a fool. Protection is not guaranteed and the TSA only provides the illusion of security. The fact is, NO ONE has a greater interest in our safety than the airline industry. Think about it, if planes started going down, people would stop flying. Who suffers? The airline industry. The difference between the TSA and airline funded private security is that one has an incentive to protect and be efficient, and the other simply does not. One is motivated, the other is simply bloated.
Here is another point…have you ever wondered why the TSA is only at airports and not at train, rail, ferry and bus stations? A lot more people travel on a single train than do in a single airplane. My point is, if someone wanted to conduct nefarious activity on any of those targets, they could do so very simply. I’ve traveled on many trains, rail and ferries and there is minimal (if any) security. The bottom line is that where there is a will, I can guarantee you there is a way!
The TSA is a facade, they cannot protect the public any better than any other entity, so why do we continue to put up with exorbitant taxation and inconvenience? Like many of our government security agencies, I would argue it’s more about control and less about protection. Protection is just what is being sold. If we continue to hand over our civil liberties for the sake of security, we will surely lose both —Thomas Jefferson. I would even argue that without privacy, freedom cannot exist. [But again, I digress]
BTW, the fact that there has been no incidences such as 9/11 is not because of the TSA prowess, but rather due to the vigilance of passengers. 9/11 woke the public up from a horrific nightmare, one where we are now fully awake. You’ve read or seen many situations over the years where passengers subdued individuals attempting nefarious acts. I would argue that nothing like 9/11 will happen again because of passenger awareness and willingness to intervene. TSA’s own tests shows its many failures in detecting harmful items getting through security. And, why are they so concerned with breast milk and nail files…come on.
This issue with TSA incompetency has reached Capital Hill and Congress is starting to ask some tough questions of the agency (which is about time). The Secretary of the TSA, Jeh Johnson, is asking for the public’s patience. I’m sorry, but if Jeh wants to waste the public’s time, he should have to pay for it. This is an opportunity to incentivize the agency to improve. In other words, let’s say the TSA were fined if a passenger had to wait more than 30 minutes to get through security. If something like that were implemented, I can assure you, management at the TSA would find a way to become more efficient. Jeh also mentions budget issues due to more flying passengers. I don’t buy this argument in the least because if there are more passengers, that means more airport tax is being collected. The more likely culprit is the fact that the TSA was allowed to unionized a few years ago. The current issues are probably related to union contract negotiations. NO government agency should be allowed to unionize, this is a fleecing of America. In the private sector you have labor and management who negotiate contracts. In the public sector, there is no one to negotiate on behalf of the taxpayer. Government unions are insidious and become a special interest group unto themselves, which is in direct conflict with the taxpayer.
While it is nearly impossible to get rid of a government agency, many airports are opting out of TSA Security in favor of privatization. The largest airport I know that does not use the TSA is SFO. Here is a video and article from Bloomberg on airport security privatization. According to this article, private contractors, it seems, do a better job of keeping lines short, customers happy, and costs down—while providing at least as much security as the TSA.
Do you fly very often? What is your take on the TSA, should they stay or should they go? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.