TSA as Example of Privatization Playbook: Make an Agency Perform Badly By Underfunding It….

Yves here. The TSA is a perfect target for privatization, since even at the best of times, it is not well liked. Who wants to be subjected to security theater like taking your shoes off? But this article provides an important overview of how various government functions are made incompetent by cutting their budgets without reducing their duties. That plays into the popular narrative that of course the private sector would be more “efficient” when the evidence is strongly supports the view that private sector contractors treat privatization as an opportunity for looting (contracting in the Iraq War was an extreme case, but there are plent of others, such as privatization of parking meters in Chicago and toll roads).

By Michael Arria, an associate editor at AlterNet and the author of Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC. Follow @MichaelArria on Twitter. Originally published at Alternet

The Transportation Security Administration currently employs about 42,000 officers, down by 5,000 since 2013. However, the number of air passengers has risen 15 percent in that time, from 643 million to 740 million, and that number is projected to crack 800 million in 2016.

It seems clear that there’s a natural connection between these statistics and the recent plethora of horror stories regarding massive security checkpoint lines. Many Americans are now beginning to view the TSA as a bloated symbol of government waste and any confidence in it has seemingly eroded. The organization seems to realize as much; in a recent interview, TSA administrator Peter V. Neffenger referred to it as an “organization in crisis.”

Now, with the TSA in economic disarray and pleading for congressional funding, many are calling for the privatization of airport security. But the intellectual framework for allowing private companies to run the organization has already been laid, as certain individuals have been promoting the policy for years.

Noam Chomsky once described what he considered to be the standard technique of privatization: “defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.” Writing about the fight against TSA unionization in 2011, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine cited Scott Walker’s battle against Wisconsin workers as a valuable insight into how airline fights would go down:

1) Manufacture a fake budget crisis in order to frighten the state’s residents; 2) PR the false-crisis hard enough until it breaks out of the right-wing/libertarian pipeline and into the mainstream media; 3) Blame the fake crisis on a fake villain—“greedy” state employee unions—thereby pitting the public against state workers. That way, when Republicans pass new laws destroying teachers and firefighters unions, they’ll come off as heroes defending the public from greedy unions, rather than as sleazy mercenaries carrying out their corporate sponsors’ dirty work.

To many, it seems that’s the blueprint currently at work. On May 26, CNN ran an op-ed California Representative Darrell Issa calling for the privatization of the TSA. Issa wrote that:

“Ultimately, allowing private companies to take over administration of our airports’ security, under the TSA’s guidelines, would unleash the markets’ power of innovation to improve customer service and undo years of bureaucracy that has squandered billions of dollars dedicated to airport security and done much to make traveling more miserable.”

Issa’s op-ed was praised by Chris Edwards, author of a Cato report on TSA privatization. Edwards referred to Issa’s proposals as “excellent” and identified them as “Cato-style aviation reforms.”

Edwards is certainly correct. His report calls for abolition of the TSA and open competitive bidding from private firms for control of the organization. As for the TSA charge that such an arrangement would actually cost more money, Edwards cites a House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure report which found that privatizing the TSA would save money.

The report was released while the chairman of that committee was John Mica, a Republican representative from Florida, who has long been a fierce advocate of transportation privatization. In 2011, Mica fought to privatize Amtrak’s rail service in the Northeast, which he referred to as a Soviet-style train system. The ranking Democrat on the committee at the time, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, insisted that Mica’s quest for privatization was predicated on the destruction of the transportation service. “While Congressman Mica refuses to focus on critical infrastructure issues,” said Brown, “he is bent on destroying Amtrak.”

This year, Mica took aim at Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail system. When Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority chairman Jack Evans asked for federal funding at a congressional hearing, Mica began shouting at Evans: “I am not going to support bailing out the District of Columbia. Virginia needs to step up to the plate, Maryland needs to step up to the plate, and D.C. with that huge surplus needs to step up to the plate!”

Evans explained that D.C. city government budget was separate from the Metro’s, but it didn’t seem to phase Mica’s disdain for the proposal.

In June 2011, while Congress was considering the Department of Homeland Security’s FY 2012 Appropriations bill, Mica introduced a “Pro-Private Screener Amendment” that cut the TSA budget by $270 million with the savings going toward the Screening Partnership Program. SPP is a program that allows airports to opt out of using TSA personnel if they’re able to prove that they get the same results from private workers at a cheaper rate.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was another victory for pro-privatization forces, as it required the TSA to approve private applications, provided it didn’t raise associated costs. Less than six months after that legislation, Robert Poole, co-founder of the libertarian Reason Foundation, testified about the benefits of TSA privatization in Congress, citing the same Transportation & Infrastructure Committee report Chris Edwards did.

Poole was the author of his own report, in 2006, for the Heritage Foundation. “Four years of experience have taught that the U.S. government cannot do the job any better than the private sector,” it reads. “This should come as no surprise.”

Poole, and Reason, have actually claimed that Poole coined the term “privatization.” This is disputed, but no one doubts the fact that Poole’s thinking has had a major impact on policy, not just in the United States, but throughout the world. A former adviser to Margaret Thatcher explained how Poole’s writings from the 1970s supplied a blueprint for wresting control from the government:

“The intellectual case for ‘contracting out’ came from an American MIT-trained engineer turned policy wonk, Bob Poole, head of the Reason Foundation in Santa Barbara and author of a little book called Cutting Back City Hall. In this book he explained how all you needed to run a city was a CEO, a lawyer to review contracts and a secretary. Everything—literally everything—could be outsourced and he littered his book with examples and figures….[Thatcher adviser Michael Forsyth] translated Poole’s work into an English context and, led by the Westminster City Council, ‘contracting out’ spread like a contagious disease throughout the country.”

Poole’s connection to the U.S government is well-documented. His own bio identifies him as an adviser to Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton, and W. Bush administrations. He’s advised the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the White House Office of Policy Development, National Economic Council, and Government Accountability Office. His 1988 policy paper proposing privately financed toll lanes inspired California’s landmark private tollway law, and for his efforts, he was appointed to the California’s Commission on Transportation Investment by Gov. Pete Wilson.

As for the airline industry, Poole has advised the Federal Aviation Administration and is a member of the Government Accountability Office’s National Aviation Studies Advisory Panel. He’s testified in Congress on the airlines numerous times, and in 1996, Canada implemented a version of the commercialized airline concept he has been pushing for years.

The idea that federal TSA jobs should be handed over to corporations has worked itself into the Republican Party’s actual platform.

In March 2015, Rep. Mica presented a bill to the House aviation subcommittee that would create a private corporation to control U.S. air travel. “The time to stop talking is now,” Mica declared. Poole was there, to advocate for the plan and supply further information to the subcommittee. The Washington Post points out that he also provided recommendations: “separate the air traffic control system, shift some user fees from the federal government to the new entity and make airlines and other stakeholders—including airports and passengers—the overseers of the system.”

Another lawmaker who spoke in support of the shift was Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster. Shuster became chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure when Mica’s reign ended in 2013. Shuster explained how TSA spending had led to little benefit and listened to the testimony of Douglas Parker, chief executive of American Airlines, who testified on behalf of the trade group Airlines for America. Parker cited many others that have separated regulatory and air traffic control functions, while privatizing the jobs of their controllers. “Transformation, not renovation, is required,” said Parker.

Less than a month later, Shuster admitted to having a romantic relationship with Shelley Rubino, vice president for global government affairs at Airlines for America. Shuster drafted a document, in 2014, stating that Rubino could not lobby him or his staff, but as Politico notes, “This does not prevent Rubino from lobbying the other 50 members of the committee, and their aides.”

In February of this year, Shuster proposed a bill called the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act, which would break up the FAA and potentially put air traffic control jobs under corporations. Shuster fast-tracked the 270-page bill, which actually received support from the air traffic controllers’ union, which identified the lack of funding and dated equipment as the reason behind its backing.

At the end of March, Shuster expressed hope for the bill and alluded to a possible bipartisan alliance. “There’s certainly Democratic opposition,” Shuster said, “but I’ve talked to a handful of Democratic senators that are very, very interested in what we are trying to do, and I think may be supportive of it.”

It seems clear that the TSA is without funds, things aren’t working and people are angry. There’s only one part of the process left.

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  1. dk

    Another government service that has suffered from underfunding and creeping privatization (of data management and maintenance) is voter registration and election services.

  2. run75441

    Same play book is being used to take apart the USPS except the USPS is fighting back. When FedEx, UPS, etc. compete with the USPS in many cases these private sector companies depend upon the USPS to make the final delivery as it is not profitable enough for them to reach out to these delivery points. This is a prediction of what could be if the US Mail service was privatized as many homes and businesses would either pay much higher rates or be cut from any service. Congressman Issa has been a big critic of the USPS and a proponent of privatization of the USPS.

    1. evodevo

      Yes. This. We got the Postal Commission to allow us to raise stamp prices a few years ago, and now we are in the black. Guess what – now we are being told to reduce the price LOL.

      1. run75441


        Steve Hutkins and Mark Jamison at Save the Post Office have been the leads on this. I pick up on their words at Angry Bear. Congressman Issa and the others do not want a profitable USPS as they can not discontinue it then.

    2. washunate

      Well, there’s an important difference that is relevant here. The USPS provides a valuable public service. The TSA does not.

      1. run75441

        Not to be argumentative, what would you do differently? If you absolutely needed this.

        1. washunate

          Differently on what front?

          If I had high level public policy control of the USFG, I would 1) use the resources allocated to TSA to investigate financial crime instead, and 2) dismantle the larger legislative, regulatory, and EO framework of security theater and national ID and tracking.

          If I had managerial control of TSA procedures but couldn’t fundamentally redirect the effort in a new direction, I would alter the policy to screen everyone the same, from pilots to flight attendants to food service workers to maintenance staff to children to pets to first class white passengers in suits to scruffy looking brown passengers in economy coach. This would in practice require undoing all the security theater that has nothing to do with security because 1) TSA doesn’t have the manpower to do that, and 2) if TSA tried anyway, it would unite all users of airports against the overreach and absurdity of the practices implemented over the past few years.

          If we are talking about rhetoric, I would denounce the TSA rather than defending it. That feeds into what people like Congressman Issa are doing: smearing the idea of government generally by throwing darts against the wall. If leftists/liberals/whatever can’t distinguish between programs that are beneficial and programs that are not, then we lose both the moral high ground and any sense of credibility. No one was going around on September 10, 2001, clamoring for national standards for IDs or frightened of nonticketed passengers in airport terminals. To pretend this is a substantive concern about safety is to insult the intelligence of the general public.

          1. run75441

            Ok, so you believe security at the airport and on flights is a hoax. Once one plane disappears over the Atlantic and people demand safety from the huns, what is you plan then?

            1. washunate

              Way to not address the comment.

              At any rate, what you just wrote is absurd on its face. Are you not familiar with the US transportation system? Or are you hoping that I am not familiar?

              1) I am critiquing federal standards as a general principle here. You offer no analysis on what problem is solved by TSA.

              2) You are suggesting the false notion that there was no security before the TSA.

              3) You are suggesting that TSA actually provides security. That is not consistent with the evidence that DHS employees themselves have been able to smuggle a wide variety of contraband through security checkpoints.

              4) Security on flights is a hoax. There will never be another 9/11. Now that passengers know it’s a takeover of the aircraft rather than a hijacking for making demands, passengers will resist. The 9/11 hijackers didn’t have C-4 and machine guns and liquid explosives. They had small knives that were easily overwhelmed once passengers figured out that the paradigm of hijacking had changed.

              5) You make it sound like a world of perfect security is both ideal and possible. I would counter it is neither.

              6) You imply that security theater is pushed by public opinion rather than authoritarian impulses in DC. That is a fundamental misread of the assault on Constitutional rights. It is a top down policy, not a bottom up one.

              7) You completely ignore the rest of the transportation system. Should TSA set up shop at train stations? Bus stations? Freeway entrances? Should it require a passport to drive to Toronto?

              8) If saving lives is our standard for judging public policy, then we should focus our efforts on the big killers of Americans. Terrorism against aircraft is an extremely small problem relative to other policy areas.

              9) You are sweeping aside any responsibility of TSA participating in the broader system of monitoring the citizenry. It’s not just one individual dot. It’s part of a collection of activities that are systematically imposing checkpoints and tracking on how citizens interact with society, from airport screening to E-Verify employment databases to turning schools into prisons to traffic cameras to license plate readers to national standards for ID to requiring passports to travel to friendly nations to email snooping to cell phone snooping to Fusion Centers to NSLs. The problem isn’t that any one thing per se is Evil Incarnate; the problem is the system overall. If we’re not willing to speak out against even one of the biggest pain points, then we are effectively accepting the legitimacy of the entire approach.

              1. run75441


                You didn’t address my question either.

                – Lets zip back to 71 when my ticket was up and they offered me a sky marshal job to get me to re-up in the USMC and a rocker below my three stripes up after 3+ years. They were hijacking planes then and frequently, more frequently than when they started to run security scans before we got on airplanes. 60 something hijackings in 1969. The first terrorist attack came in 76.

                – I am aware there was security pre-2001. It was not as thorough. Sixties, seventies, and eighties were bad in terms of frequency.

                – You are correct that the TSA can be fooled and things can slip through. “Quelle surprise” as Yves would say. Thousands of people passing through an airport. here are always some who will get through.

                – So you wish to go where with this? Nothing, something, or improved security?

                – I did not ignore anything. We are talking about air travel and not the entire transportation system. I didn’t tag saving lives either.

                – TSA monitoring citizenry is no different than using your cell phone, making credit card purchases, etc. Big bro has his finger on you all the time. They even have cameras on the highways every few miles or so and the gov pays 2 of every 3 dollars for these in the name of safety. .

                If you wish to minimize dangerous weapons being brought on board airplanes which used to happen under minimized security methods. How are you going to do it? Just nosey my fellow poster.

                I do not like being blown up. Came to close to it a few times in the sixties. Educate me washunate

                1. washunate

                  Eh, I’m not sure what you are asking. The T in TSA stands for transportation, not air travel. Big bro is a bad thing, not a good thing. Hijackings by passengers that resulted in deaths of Americans have been relatively rare. If you’re so concerned about planes disappearing over the Atlantic, then why don’t you propose screening the actual passengers boarding int’l flights? And what about when the pilot is the hijacker? Heck, one of the major hijackings in the 1990s was an employee on a FedEx plane. Freight traffic is the bigger danger in our transport system (rather than passenger traffic).

                  I offered the concise observation that TSA doesn’t provide a valuable service. You asked for more details, so I offered several specific thoughts.

                  You are not addressing what I’m writing, so I don’t see the point. If you personally like the TSA, that’s fine. However, I see nothing in what you are writing that would persuade someone who doesn’t like the TSA. There is no logical argument you have proposed that explains why the $7+ billion spent annually on TSA is a good investment, nor why the principle of national ID and screening is a good idea, nor why Constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches should be disregarded, nor why Constitutional protections for equal treatment should be disregarded.

                  If you think that mentioning TSA in the same context as the USPS helps the USPS in the mind of the public, or that general fearmongering about the potential for airline hijackings means the TSA specifically is a good thing, I would counter that you are misreading the general public’s opinion on the matter.

                  1. run75441


                    Look, when sixty some flights get high jacked in one year, I would say there is a need for something to change. And you obviously do not believe there is a need or at least you have not suggested it. Again what would you do to minimize the circumstance.

                    That is amazing T stands for Transportation. We also have CTPAT which covers warehouses and shipments coming into them from other CTPAT certified warehouses; but then washunate, we are not talking about them (also a part of T). . . now are we.

                    There is a history of hijackings over the decades. A tad to much if you ask me. So what would you do differently, let everyone on without a walk through and a pass through of luggage?

                    “The topic is strictly passenger airplanes. What would you do differently?”

                    I log many miles flying and would like to go around the TSA. So tell me what you would do differently. $7 billion is a nice haul but it pales when compared to the Defense budget.

  3. Ep3

    Yves I never understood why the right wing was so in support of moving airport security to a govt function. It was a bailout of the incompetence (and underfunding) by the airlines. Then it was saying that the govt can do this better than private industry. Is it because for all the things right wingers say the govt can’t do, security and defense are the one thing they can do right?

    1. Pespi

      TSA/Homeland security were important parts of security theater, justified lots of huge handouts to favored parties and contractors. The privatization was probably always in the plan, remember how TSA employees were attacked only a few years after the program started?

      1. JustAnObserver

        I’m not quite sure about this BUT IIRC the attacks on the TSA you mention were not on TSA employees but on the 1000s of “independent” minimum wage contractors they were using. Again IIRC it got so bad/embarrasing that the TSA took it all back in house. Of course the funding wasn’t increased to compensate so …

        In other words the TSA has already been through 1 round of de facto privatization and now those Congressional nutcases are going to do it again ??

        Recall: This whole TSA thing has come up as a result of the last security review which showed appalling lapses across the board. You could practically roll through security with the muzzle of an AK-47 poking out of your carry-on and the magazines rattling round in your backpack.

        Note: I would agree that most of what the TSA does is theater but the 5-10% that may have some actual function needs to be done in-house. Of course that begs the question of precisely which 5%. Like that old comment from an advertising director “I know 60% of my budget is wasted but I don’t know which 60%”

  4. lyman alpha blob

    While I do despise this privatization game plan in general, rather than funding the TSA better to keep it public in this case I’d much rather see it abolished along with the whole DHS.

      1. Mark G. Woodworth, Ph.d

        TSA as public sector union vs. privatized is a battle between parties wanting to gain campaign contributions.

        There has always been a means for private security at airport. I fly to/from Sanford International (FL) and they do not have TSA. Works very well. There are several others airports too.

        The notion of government TSA as federal employees came with the herd panic just after 9/11 along with Homeland Security anti-democracy power consolidation. Their administration wasted money on a series of stupid and expensive technology purchases (probably linked to crony capitalist campaign funding) instead of hiring professionals, started down the rabbit hole with plastic baggies, 2 oz of liquids, taking shoes off, and letting burka clad women through while molesting 88 year old wheelchair bound handicapped ladies.

        Then TSA unionized. AFGE which gives 97 percent of $16 million of extracted union dues to Democrats.

        TSA was founded by Bush Admin. under the impression that only dot gov could do security right. Paranoia. Then Democrat Mineta, Transportation secretary wanted it to be composed of more bureaucracy federal employees, so they could ultimately get more Democratic Party-oriented public sector union power.

        The Rs see privatization as a means to get more crony capitalist supplied campaign funds back.

        Like all federal programs, TSA simply sucks. Ordinary sheeple just see it more often. The feds can’t do anything right. They hire the worst people they can find, usually their friends and family, due to union/politics/Title VII quota bs.

        If flyers just struck by refusing to fly for two week, the airlines would put so much pressure on the entire security theater complex would cave and things could go back to normal. Whatever that is.

        But they won’t. BAAAA!

  5. Lawyercat

    The worst of both worlds. An overbroad and ineffective policy mandate is the problem with security theater. The TSA should do less. Privatization means that the policy will be equally bloated, but there will be an extra layer of administration and bureaucracy. And another step away from accountability. So the same police state, but now with private masters and some extra waste for profit margins.

  6. RUKidding

    TSA has run better at times, but then, of course, the GOP cut the budget. And what a surprise! Then it doesn’t run as well. I’ve heard lots of excuses for the long lines. The one that “amused” me the most is that TSA has high turnover, and that’s why they don’t have enough employees to handle the work. When I state that the GOP cut their budget, and that’s why there’s not enough employees, I get hit with looks of disbelief.

    Sad to say that there’s a huge disconnect – the propaganda is working quite well for the PTB – between what happens in Wash DC and how things play out for Main Street. Citizens only listen to propaganda; don’t get the facts.

    TSA will be the new privatization rip off scheme ala the Prison Industrial Complex.

    Yeah, Govt can’t get the job done… when it’s not funded properly. And even if funded properly, then the propaganda wurlitzer will churn out the usual misinformation about bloated bureaucracy, too much spent on management, and all the other usual tropes. All citizens, no matter how they vote, have been duly trained to respond to these memes and tropes with demands for privatization.

    Cha Ching!!!

    1. washunate

      It doesn’t have anything to do with the budget, though. It’s the pornoscanners and shoe removals and 3 ounce liquid limits and boarding pass checks and so forth that takes time.

      1. RUKidding

        I only agree with you only in part. Yes, all of that takes time, but when they had enough staffing, the lines moved through much faster. When the budget was cut, they lost a lot of staffing, and the lines got much longer and slower to process.

        I fly a lot. I witnessed this personally. The processes you mention – shoe removal, etc – have been in place since the get-go. If anything, most flyers are more adept at the process and faster to respond.

        The lines are longer, in no small measure, due to not enough staff. Often I see pornoscan stations idle due to not enough staff to manage them. That’s where the bottleneck occurs.

        1. washunate

          I don’t know what evidence there is to support that supposition, though. You’re assuming good faith when that’s what’s in question. I would propose that you fell for the publicity stunt if you are referencing the specific recent big lines. TSA clearly made a purposeful management decision to make it as painful as possible in order to apply pressure to get more money (and also as a way to pressure citizens to voluntarily enroll in PreCheck). It was a form of bureaucratic extortion, not substantive failure. Notice it happened primarily at the key hub airports that would maximize attention and pain. And notice, too, that TSA made no effort to alleviate the problem. If they were genuinely short of hands, for example, then they would have suspended the more labor intensive things to focus on speeding up the line. The effect also would have been uniform across entry points (for example, from international flights to domestic flights) rather than focused on the main public entry point of domestic flights.

          After all, the TSA procedures are not codified in law. They are regulations created and implemented by management. In fact, if one of my, uh, ‘sources’, is reasonably correct, the precise TSA regulations are themselves sensitive information that is not available to the public. TSA personnel aren’t even allowed to tell passengers exactly what the rules are. Or in the bureaucratese of the TSA website:

          TSA has evolved from a one-size-fits-all security screening approach to a risk-based, intelligence-driven strategy designed to improve both security and the passenger experience. This approach permits us to provide expedited screening for trusted travelers and to focus on high-risk and unknown passengers at security checkpoints.

          As far as the scanners specifically, the reason they are idle is because TSA bought too many. Which becomes a wonderful justification for more money. Now that we have these machines, we need people to run them!

  7. washunate

    I’m fully on board with tackling the general problem of privatizing valuable public services. But this article is more than a little tone deaf on this particular public service.

    …beginning to view the TSA as a bloated symbol of government waste…


    What is Arria suggesting here? The problem with TSA is not that it is being especially poorly run right now. The problem is that it exists. If liberals are using TSA as an example of a federal program that needs more funding, they are wildly off base, miscalculating both the substantive value of the program and the public opinion optics thereof.

    1. Optic

      I’m responding to you just because you’re at least the second person on this thread suggesting that the TSA should be abolished completely. My question is what do you guys suggest instead of the TSA?

      I dislike security theater as much as anyone else, but why can’t the elimination of that be mandated from the top, and what would go in place of the TSA? The honor system of flight security checks?

      1. inode_buddha

        Why does the TSA need to be replaced? They should be abolished, full stop. We now know to lock cockpit doors, etc. The metal detectors etc that we used before 9/11 still work just fine. The whole thing bugs me because IMHO the entire exercise was just an excuse for more govt over-reach. Its not like I worry about terrorists, I have a better chance of getting hit by lightning while mowing the lawn. Frankly, no, they don’t scare me. And I live in NY just blocks from a regional airport.

        1. Optic

          I still don’t understand what you guys are saying when you say that the TSA should be abolished. Are you saying that passengers boarding commercial airline flights should no longer go through any security checks, or are you saying that we should go back to the pre-TSA days of a mish-mash of private security contractors doing the airport security checks?

          1. Steve Gunderson

            Not all airports in the US utilize the TSA for screening, some use private contractors, eg Kansas City (MCI).

          2. washunate

            Hi Optic, I wrote out a longer, thoughtful response yesterday because I think you are asking a very good question, and I think I have a substantive answer. It was eaten by the DDOS monster (which seems appropriate on many levels).

            So let me just offer this: The TSA engages in unconstitutional searches, makes air travel more of a hassle, and costs a lot of money for little return. What more of a reason is needed to wind it down? It has never been a legitimate organization.

            Or to say that differently, what value is created by having federal enforcement of standards for ID checking and screening? The TSA doesn’t even screen “boarding passengers” (usually; that’s been another tactic employed occasionally over the years, actually checking passengers at the gate). You make it sound like the pre-TSA days were chock full of people hijacking airplanes with shampoo bottles and handguns when in fact driving to the airport, breathing the air pollution, or a wide variety of other activities, are actually far more dangerous than the air travel itself.

  8. washunate

    P.S., Yves, I apologize, I’m going way over my quota of comments on this post, but as I’ve been thinking about what Arria wrote, I really can’t believe we are treating this as a serious subject.

    The authoritarianism of the power tasked to TSA is so wrong, so beyond the pale of what ought to be acceptable, that to present it in the framework of budget talks and the privatization debate is to accept the larger fascist framework that this is okay, that it’s just a policy dispute.

    “Papers, please…” is one of the fundamental demarcations between a free society and a totalitarian one all over the world. And in our specific context, unreasonable searches are explicitly un-American. The policies implemented by the Department of Homeland Security with respect to TSA searches are neither underfunded nor a victim of privatization. They are inherently unmanageable, by any actor, public or private, interested in a free and open society.

  9. Synoia

    The TSA is either a classic example of Government subsidies to private industry, or its is not. The question is who shoal exercise police power, and to whom are the holders of police power accountable.

    Privatizing transfers police powers from the states to private individual, who I’m sure would not abuse such police powers. Much.

    I understood Republicans understood police powers and wanted many more police in their authoritarian dreams, expect they do not like police unions, police employment benefits and police pensions.

    Heads up dear Republicans: You have to pay the enforcers, or they will be come you worst nightmare…they have the means and know where you live…

    Oh wait – that might work. I support the Police!!! (Go for it guys, pass the popcorn).

  10. Ranger Rick

    The TSA? Privatized?

    The real question is how could it be more privatized than it already is? The employees are all contractors and the equipment is all made by the lowest bidder.

    1. Steve Gunderson

      The rapescaners were definitely not made by the lowest bidder. They were made by Michael Chertoff’s company.

  11. Wayne Gersen

    This article does a good job of describing how “various government functions are made incompetent by cutting their budgets without reducing their duties”… but the real poster child for the algorithm for privatization of public services in public education where a government functions is being defined as incompetent by cutting its budgets while expanding its duties! And because too many public schools— especially those in the suburbs where affluent families provide financial support when the state cuts back on funds— are NOT incompetent the neoliberal government bought into tests that help prove one of their functions is failing.

  12. JerryDenim

    Wow. I kinda just skimmed the article and contents but everyone seems to have already forgotten that the TSA itself was a post-9/11 reform of an already privatized airport security screening system which was a complete failure and a national embarrassment. The private security contractors providing airport security pre-9/11 were cutting every corner possible to maximize profits, including hiring known felons and terrorists while falsifying background checks. That’s why the TSA was created: Because a patchwork network of rag-tag bargin basement security contractors were not delivering any kind of security so the government was forced to step in and create the TSA. Americans have incredibly short memories.

    1. washunate

      What specific lapses in security concern you?

      How do national ID standards, keeping nonticketed passengers out of airport terminals, making people take their shoes off, restricting liquids, no fly lists, pornoscanners, enhanced pat downs, and similar activities prevent these lapses?

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