Random Acts of Government Stupidity

As I’ve written in prior posts, I travel a lot on business. Over the course of a year, I average about two airline flights per week. That’s about 100 times per annum I have to take off my shoes, put them in a little bin, pull my laptop out of my bag, take everything out of my pockets and endure a full body scan with a government agent giggling at my private parts behind a screen somewhere. To say it’s a pain in the arse is an understatement.

So, I was excited when TSA selected me for their Preferred Traveler Program. To enroll in this program you undergo a one-time, deep-dive background check, but then you get streamlined through security at the airport. To my amazement, I passed the background check (many thanks to all my high school friends who lied for me). Now, when I depart from an airport that has implemented the PTP, it should be much easier (let me count how many have been able to get up and running in the year since I enrolled – let’s see, OK, carry the one, and the total is…..one). The good news for me is the one airport is Miami International. Since my primary office is in Miami and I live in Maryland, I fly there a lot. Being in the PTP means you go through a separate screening line, your shoes stay on, your laptop stays in your bag, your belt stays on, junk stays in your pockets, liquids stay in your bag, your coat stays on, etc. You just put your bag through the X-Ray and walk through the metal detector. Total elapsed time from when your boarding pass and ID are checked to completion of security screening: approximately 30 seconds. Nice!

Sounds great, right? Probably even a shining example of how our government has become smarter and more efficient. Perhaps even vindication for Obama and all the liberals who want to turn over the entire economy to the government to run.

Time out – there’s more to the story. First of all, in order to get my boarding pass and ID checked, I have to stand in the same line as everyone else. As a percent of total waiting time at any airport, the time from back of line to ID check is about 70-80% and actually going through X-Ray is about 20-30%, at most. So, right off the bat, this potentially time-saving program is mostly a waste. Every time I leave MIA, I stand in line for 15 minutes waiting to have my ID checked while 6 TSA agents stand idle in the PTP screening line. When I finally get there, they always joke about how lonely they are. Your tax dollars hard at work.

TSA Hard at Work

But, wait, it got even more absurd today. After the 15 minute wait to get my ID checked, the TSA agent who checked my ID and scanned my boarding pass pointed to the longer regular line, not the PTP line that had been 100% empty since I arrived. I said, “Hang on, I’m in the Preferred Traveler Program. I get to go over there.” He said, “No you don’t. When the computer scans your boarding pass, it decides when you get to go to that line. Today it didn’t send you there. It’s about 80% of the time.”

Oooookay. That makes sense. Create a program to enhance efficiency, but then decide that 20% of the time you’ll be inefficient, just for the hell of it. I groused a bit, but since I wanted to get home, I stopped just short of telling him how idiotic that is.

What’s the moral of this story? Moral? Moral? Crap – is there a moral? Oh, yeah, there is. And it’s not that I have a tough life and have to wait in regular lines with the huddled masses, though I welcome your pity for that injustice if you’re inclined to give it. No, the moral is that our Federal Gummint is still incapable of doing anything efficiently. I understand that I probably won’t get your pity for having to wait a little longer in line. But, let’s rewind the clock and think about my tale of woe in a different context.

Suppose instead of TSA, I substitute OHS (Obama Health System). Suppose instead of a special line to get me through security faster, this is an OHS program for diabetics to get their insulin more efficiently because tight glycemic control is the number one predictor of downstream co-morbidities (cardiovascular disease, blindness, amputation, etc.) in diabetics. Further suppose that under the OHS Preferred Diabetics Program (PDP), diabetics get their insulin more quickly and efficiently. Except 20% of the time they show up at the pharmacy and present their PDP card, the pharmacist says, “Oh, sorry, this program only allows you to get your insulin 80% of the time. Today it says you can’t get it.” Seriously, how is that any more far-fetched than my experience at MIA today?

You could come up with countless similar examples and none of them make a smile creep across your face, as I know it did when you read that Robertson had to wait in a longer line. The point is – large organizations don’t run things very efficiently. Our Federal Government is the largest organization in the land. They’ve never run anything efficiently or, as my experience at the airport today illustrates, even sensibly. When government inefficiency and stupidity means me having to wait in a longer line at the airport, it’s kinda funny (for you, not me). When it’s your or your loved one’s healthcare, it’s not. I’ve written in the past about how Obamacare will hurt the little guy a lot more than the wealthy. But, let’s be clear – it will hurt us all.

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About Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is an amateur writer and professional provocateur
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2 Responses to Random Acts of Government Stupidity

  1. Tim says:

    I don’t buy it.

    Let’s start by getting the facts right.

    First, this is a pilot program that started less than five months ago. Here is where you can verify that fact. http://www.tsa.gov/press/releases/2011/1004.shtm So there are still some wrinkles to iron out with a brand-new program. Amazing. Of course, private enterprises never experienced difficulties with brand-new initiatives, right?

    Second, this is not just in effect at the Miami airport. It is currently in effect at eight airports, and will expand to almost 30 this year. Here is where you can verify that fact: http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/escreening.shtm

    Finally, your premise is a bit difficult to swallow. You take anecdotal evidence from your experience as one participant in a brand-new program applicable to a whole lot of people, and from that you conclude that all government programs are inefficient. Sorry, I’m not convinced.

  2. Dang, Tim to the rescue of Uncle Sam. I love the patriotism! A few points – first, it’s my blog so I get to make up the facts. Second, as you may have noticed – I have a certain tongue-in-cheek style. And, finally, the fact that they are in 8 airports vs. 1 was not exaaaaactly germaine to my overall point. My point was that when the government runs shit, it runs poorly. Nothing in your comment does anything to refute that point. My experience was not anecdotal in the least. The TSA agent told me (and my experience confirmed) that they vet you for this program, then you don’t get to use it. The preferred line is always 100% empty while the other lines at MIA move at a snails pace. Our government has done nothing to improve safety while making travel 10x more of a pain since 9/11. Classic government inability to run ANYTHING efficiently or effectively. If you had to deal with TSA twice a week like I do, I’m pretty sure you’d agree! Thanks for commenting!

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