TSA Still Awful After 17 Years

The problem is that monopoly bureaus like the Transportation Security Administration do not value Americans’ time, and they have little incentive to operate efficiently.

TSA

by Chris Edwards via CATO Institute

It has been 17 years since the federal government took over security screening at the nation’s airports, and they still haven’t figured out how to schedule more screeners during busy times.

The photo is yesterday afternoon in Denver. It took 26 minutes to get through the line. Leaving from Dulles a couple days earlier it took a ridiculous 46 minutes.

The problem is that monopoly bureaus like the Transportation Security Administration do not value Americans’ time, and they have little incentive to operate efficiently. Why did the Denver airport have just four security lines open yesterday when this facility gets 58 million passengers a year?

The photo makes clear that the mob scene generated by the bureaucracy creates a major security problem in itself with respect to possible lunatic bombers. Dulles at 46 minutes was even more frustrating and more of a mob scene.

Both airports are vast structures that cost billions of dollars to build. Yet the government does not seem interested buying a few more machines and adding screeners. Government monopolies do not, or cannot, properly trade off costs and benefits.

The ultimate solution to this government-caused congestion problem is to privatize both airport screening and the nation’s airports, as I discuss here and here.

But a good first step would be to devolve responsibility for screening to local governments. The City of Denver, for example, would have a strong incentive to invest in screening lines because the local economy gains huge benefits from the airport. The faraway bureaucrats in Washington apparently couldn’t care less about Denver’s economy or the frustrations of local residents and visitors.


Chris Edwards is the director of tax policy studies at Cato and editor of www.DownsizingGovernment.org. He is a top expert on federal and state tax and budget issues. Before joining Cato, Edwards was a senior economist on the congressional Joint Economic Committee, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and an economist with the Tax Foundation. Edwards has testified to Congress on fiscal issues many times, and his articles on tax and budget policies have appeared in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and other major newspapers. He is the author of Downsizing the Federal Government and coauthor of Global Tax Revolution.

Edwards holds a BA in Economics from the University of Waterloo and an MA in Economics from George Mason University. He was a member of the Fiscal Future Commission of the National Academy of Sciences.

This article was originally posted at CATO. You can view the original here.

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