There’s a new epidemic sweeping the nation – a blue flu – but it hasn’t cost any lives yet and it isn’t likely to. This isn’t a virus, of course, but a sort of tongue-in-cheek way of referring to an abnormal increase in police or security personnel using sick leave. This time, it’s the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that has caught the bug.
This most recent shutdown – and just a partial one, at that – began December 22. We’re 19 days in, and unless something happens by Friday, this will become the longest in the nation’s history – yet society does not seem on the brink of collapse. Most people across the country remain unaffected, many of whom – the less politically minded folk – are still blissfully oblivious.
…TSA is one of those byproducts of 9/11 that does more harm than good.
The hardest hit by this, like any shutdown, are the federal employees required to continue working for no pay – well, at least none until this is all over. Still, there’s no telling how long this is going to last, and people have to eat. While the administration always sees a large number of call-ins right during and immediately after the holiday season, this is the illness that has stricken so large a number of TSA employees now: the desire to get paid for their labor.
NBC reports that about 5.5% of the TSA workforce skipped last Friday at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. CNN reported the prior week that 170 called out at John F. Kennedy International.
A Good Call
Brian Turner, a TSA officer in Philadelphia for six years, told NBC that if he doesn’t get paid, he’ll have to look elsewhere:
“We are a paycheck to paycheck family, we have a mortgage payment. We have credit card payments. We have car payments. Utilities. And we also have childcare. So with half our income gone, it is very concerning. I have to keep food in the kitchen, and I will have to make that call at some point.”
As the shutdown drags on, how many others will consider new careers? Who can blame them? How many of us would continue going to work each day if we knew our paycheck wasn’t coming anytime soon? Leaving is an entirely reasonable response – a good call, actually.
No Need for TSA
And the country won’t be any worse off for the loss of agents. Sure, the lines might take a little longer to process at the airports, but eventually the agency will bounce back – or be disbanded, though that’s almost certainly too much to hope for. As long as there’s the promise of money and federal benefits dangling on the hook, another sucker will bite. Sadly, TSA is one of those byproducts of 9/11 that does more harm than good. It’s insanely expensive and we don’t actually get anything but hassle in return.
A leaked TSA report, covered by ABC back in 2015, showed that airline security was about 95% ineffective. The Department of Homeland Security sent secret teams through the lines to see if they could get weapons and fake explosives onto planes. Busted, right? Nope. Of the 70 attempts, the TSA failed to catch 67.
Airline hijackings weren’t exactly common in the U.S. to begin with, but they’ve been even rarer since the 2001 attack. There have only been two terrorist attempts involving an airplane in the nearly two decades since. In both cases, someone attempted to detonate a bomb mid-air. Think about that for a moment. Only two people tried to blow up airplanes since September 11, 2001 in the U.S. and both made it past TSA, only to be stopped by passengers. That’s right, passengers – not even air marshals.
The Real Plague
As it always has before, this epidemic of the blue flu will pass. TSA officers will either go back to work or move on to greener pastures, only to be replaced. The net change will almost certainly be unperceivable, if not nonexistent. The true plague here isn’t folk calling in – it’s the wasteful, ineffective, and entirely unnecessary tax-funded agency they’re ditching. Unfortunately, this will prove a life-long ailment. There’s a cure, but we’ll likely never get it.