Magazine article Insight on the News

When It Comes to Stupidity, the Sky Isn't the Limit. (Waste & Abuse)

Magazine article Insight on the News

When It Comes to Stupidity, the Sky Isn't the Limit. (Waste & Abuse)

Article excerpt

Offering a policy placebo to an understandably anxious (and thus, regrettably gullible) public, President George W. Bush on Nov. 19 signed into law an airport-security bill that for the first time federalizes the passenger- and baggage-screening processes. It is based on the ludicrous premise that public employees somehow are better at frisking airline passengers and riffling through luggage to confiscate toenail clippers than their private-sector counterparts. Anyone who's stood for any time in line at any federal bureaucracy watching as surly, somnambulant, contemptuous clerks lethargically go through the motions has peered into the future of federalized airport security. And it can't be a comforting vision.

With a single pen stroke Bush also grew a federal bureaucracy by at least 28,000 people (but probably many, many thousands more when all is told); likely increased the clout of federal labor unions, which may stand as the single-biggest obstacle to real government reform; and established a brand-new bureaucracy that will fall prey to the same bumbling, waste and inefficiency as all those that have come before it. "For the first time, airport security will become a direct federal responsibility," Bush told attendees of a signing ceremony at (in an irony apparently lost on the White House) Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The "compromise" bill actually was a victory for the idea -- seemingly impervious to copious evidence to the contrary and, until recently, on the retreat -- that the public sector is somehow more able than the private sector to get an important job done (see "Is It Safe to Fly Yet? …

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