Tag: Transportation in the United States

Spice That Up For You?

I’m assuming this is not perverts pretending to be TSA agents so they can put stuff in our drinks:

The latest — well, not the latest, actually, just finally picked up by the mainstream media — is that TSA agents, while randomly roaming around at the gate, well past the checkpoint, are not only singling out passengers for yet another grope or a paw through the bags, but also “testing” the beverages they’re drinking.

I know — I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you can’t make this stuff up.

Yes, dear reader, that water or coffee or soft drink in your cup, the one you bought after you passed through the checkpoint, in the so-called sterile area? That could contain a bomb! And you didn’t even know it!

Thank heavens the TSA is here to save the day. As they dip their little Magic Bomb-Detecting Stick into your beverage, be sure to smile and thank them. After all, they’re Keeping You Safe.

TSA defends the practice here, calling it layered security. I call bullshit. I am long past being generous with TSA. I don’t think it’s even security theater anymore. I think they are seeing how far they can push us until we stop complying.

The day is coming when we will see video of TSA agents manhandling someone because they didn’t want their drink sampled or their kid groped. And, to TSA and their bootlicking proponents, this will just mean we have to empower them all the more.

The Slowest Stimulus

Barack Obama is supposed to talk jobs tonight. Of course, what he’s really going to talk is spending, likely on our “crumbling infrastructure”. Gregg Eastebrook has a roundup of what our efforts to deal with this cost:

*Boston’s Big Dig, mostly funded by the federal taxpayer though benefits went exclusively to Massachusetts, was supposed to take 10 years at a cost of $6.2 billion in today’s dollars. Instead it took 21 years and cost $22 billion.

*The Washington, D.C. metro is building a mainly federally funded extension from its current Virginia terminus to Dulles Airport. The next leg of the project was just priced at $3.1 billion for 11.5 miles – that’s $270 million per mile, not for subway but for above-ground rail on the median of a highway the public already owns. The price is so extreme that even Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, representing an administration that loves to spend borrowed money, says the price must be cut.

*My home county, Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., wants $1.9 billion for a 16-mile trolley line which would be mainly funded by federal taxpayers though the benefits would go exclusively to Maryland. That’s $121 million per mile for simple above-ground construction of trolley line.

*The federal government just gave contracts to renovate the Reflecting Pool that fronts the Lincoln Monument. The renovation is expected to take 18 months — longer than it took to build the pool in the first place, 90 years ago when machinery was much less efficient.

*Baltimore wants the federal government to fund a new light-rail line for the city. Set aside why taxpayers in Nebraska or Wisconsin should pay for a system solely for the convenience of Marylanders. In line is projected to cost $2.2 billion for 14.5 miles, about $2,400 per inch, entirely for above-ground work. Construction is projected to require nine years. That’s a pace of 1.6 miles per year. At that pace the First Transcontinental Railroad, completed in 1869 using far less machinery than available today, would have taken more than a thousand years to build.

*On the George Washington Parkway that runs along the Potomac River in the nation’s capital, there is a Depression-era humpback bridge that needed replacement. In January 2008, federally funded contractors began work on this small, low, four-lane, short bridge (80 yards) that crosses a shallow channel. Almost four years later, the job still is not finished. In the 1950s, the three-mile long, 140-foot high, seven-lane Tappan Zee Bridge, spanning the Hudson River at a deep point, took less time to construct. At the pace of the humpback bridge project, the Tappan Zee Bridge would have taken two centuries to build.

And he doesn’t even get into high speed rail. The fact is that we’ve spent hundreds of billions on infrastructure with very little improvement.

Eastebrook sites two reasons for this ridiculous inefficiency: Davis/Bacon rules that require union wages and work rules that stop construction when speciality work is needed. I would also add enormous regulatory requirements such as environmental impact studies. But the key point here is that, when you see infrastructure spending primarily as a jobs program, paying people to stand around or push pencils is a feature, not a bug. The more time and money a project costs, the more stimulating it is.

Keynesians can trot out their “aggregate demand” argument all they want. It still amounts to paying people to dig holes and fill them up again, which has almost no economic multiplier. If these projects are so important to the health of our economy, the Left should be the first ones insisting on efficient spending. But spending is the end, not the means.

Update: I think I muffed an important point. Infrastructure spending is a much about patronage as it is about jobs. If jobs were the priority for Obama, he would have relaxed the Davis/Bacon provisions. This would either have cut the cost or increasing the number of hires while decreasing their average pay.

He still could work with the GOP to relax Davis/Bacon to make federal spending more efficient in terms of jobs per dollar. But his union allies would never allow it.

The TSA Pushback

Our wonderful TSA reached new lows recently with their pat down of a baby and a groping of a MIss USA contestant that reduced her to tears. And they’re finally beginning to reap some pushback.

First, Texas:

The Texas House of Representatives late on Thursday approved a bill that would make invasive pat-downs at Texas airports a crime, after a former Miss USA said she felt “molested” at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport last month.

Transportation Security Administration agents could be charged with a misdemeanor crime, face a $4,000 fine and one year in jail under the measure.

The proposal would classify any airport inspection that “touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person” as an offense of sexual harassment under official oppression.

Of course, TSA will respond to this by shunting everyone into the X-ray scanners — at least until Texas outlaws them too. But I like the idea of the states wresting his issues from the Feds, who clearly don’t give a shit and will support anything as long as it has a big red “security” label on the front.

Or maybe not. Congress is moving too. The House Appropriations just put out its draft budget.

The bill includes $7.8 billion for the TSA, an increase of $125 million over last year’s level, and $293 million below the President’s request. These funds will be used to sustain the current cap level of 46,000 full time screening personnel, and for explosive detection systems, security enforcement, cargo inspections, Federal Air Marshals, and other TSA activities. The bill also includes an additional $10 million to address air cargo threats. However, the bill does not provide $76 million requested by the President for 275 additional advanced inspection technology (AIT) scanners nor the 535 staff requested to operate them.

This is just a minor thing in the ongoing budget war (we hit the debt ceiling today). But maybe … just maybe … someone’s getting the message.