The TSA, only slightly more popular than the IRS, is about to become the IRS.
On Monday, security fees on plane tickets will rise significantly, making air travel more expensive. Fliers currently pay $2.50 for a nonstop flight and $5 for a connecting flight to cover the costs of Transportation Security Administration screenings. That will increase to a blanket $5.60 for all flights. And if you book an itinerary that has a layover of more than four hours, your connection will count as a separate flight — and get a separate, additional $5.60 fee.
But that new fee isn’t really a fee at all. Starting next week, it’s a tax.
The increase was approved by Congress in December, but not to bolster TSA spending on personnel and equipment. It’s a general fund levy to reduce the federal budget deficit. In other words, the extra money takes a direct flight into the black hole that is Washington, D.C. This tax increase, slapped on already-expensive transactions simply because it’s an easy collection mechanism, will fund everything from congressional travel to Veterans Affairs “performance” bonuses to IRS destruction of employee hard drives.
And the revenue generated by the increase amounts to a rounding error — not even $1.3 billion per year over 10 years. For heaven’s sake, President Barack Obama just asked for almost $4 billion to address the country’s immigration crisis on the Mexican border. The TSA tax money has been spent before the first dime is collected.
And it’s brutally unfair. Why should frequent travelers — especially business fliers — suddenly be forced to pay a higher annual federal tax bill simply because they purchase a lot of airline tickets? Now that TSA “fees” are no different from income taxes, travelers should be able to apply part of these higher charges toward withholding on their IRS returns.
Worst of all, taxpayers will pay even more for the highly intrusive, woefully ineffective security measures instituted in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The maddening pat-downs of children and the elderly, intended solely to make the flying public feel safer, do nothing to make us safer. Airline passengers themselves remain the last, best line of defense against suicidal jihadists. And in the post-9/11 era, they’ll never, ever allow anyone to hijack a commercial jetliner again.
Of course, all baggage, whether carry-on or checked, should be screened. But a private security company could do a better job — and do it cheaper — than the TSA.
Best of all, contracted screeners wouldn’t pull double duty as tax collectors — one more reason to privatize the TSA.