Lockdown in Newark Airport

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I’ ve never been especially fond of flying even prior to September 11th and am even less so now. So, for the most part if I plan on going somewhere, I’ll drive unless it’s absolutely imperative that I get there in a hurry.  On those occasions where I do travel,  I’ve never found driving to be much of a barrier for me, at least while in the continental US.  I did have to fly to a relative’s funeral in 2007 out of my local airport (Lehigh Valley International) and it was a surprisingly pleasant experience and the security measures really didn’t seem that much different than those in place prior to September 11th. The only noticeable difference was the requirement that I had to remove my shoes. 

Undoubtedly, I’d experience something vastly different now in light of the recent Christmas day attempt to take down an airliner.  That’s clearly evidenced by the chaos in Newark where they shut down one of the terminals after a security breach.   Everyone is very jumpy right now and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  There’s a lot of discussion about submitting all travelers to full body scans with a provision that you can opt out as long as you agree to a pat down by a Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) officer. 

That’s way too much hassle for me, so I won’t be flying anywhere for a long time unless I absolutely have to.  But there’s another side to this story beyond my personal issues with flying.

Without question, the economic toll for all of this security will weigh in as measured by the additional security costs and the lost travel revenue as folks who can opt out of air travel.  However, there are those who may be somewhat appreciative of the situation as providing security will be a growth industry for the foreseeable future.  This is particularly so since the TSA will outsource the screening function to outside contractors, which brings me to the the issue of Senator Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C) opposition to the nomination of Obama’s choice to lead the TSA, Erroll Southers.

DeMint is holding up  Southers’ nomination because he opposes collective bargaining for Transportation Safety Officers, even as Southers himself has been noncommittal one way or the other.  DeMint believes that somehow collective bargaining might impose some workplace rules that might endanger the public.  Of course,  neither collective bargaining nor the absence thereof had anything to do with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab slipping through security with a bomb, so I’d say the public is probably more endangered by DeMint holding up Southers nomination.

Our security is one area where we should pay and incentivize people well.  I’m wondering if DeMint’s opposition has more to do with who is contributing to his campaign rather than a personal conviction against unions.  After all, collective bargaining might mean slightly less profits to whomever is lined up to get contracts from TSA for security screening.  That’s a point for further research and I’ll provide an update if I find anything interesting, but one can definitely conclude that it’s this sort of obstructionism that has driven congress’ approval rating down to just over 20%.




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