- They ain’t all “Paul Blart”
In the aftermath of 9/11, it was recognized that airline safety — and by extension, the safety of American civilians — was not being well-served by the private security services employed exclusively by airlines and airports in the years leading up to 9/11. As cut-throat as the third-party contractors who notoriously locked their employees in Walmart overnight, private security was maybe one step more dignified than outsourced janitorial services, just not as well paid.
Thus was born the idea of the TSA. The logic for the federal government taking control of airport security was simple and straightforward: if airport security workers became federal workers — with all the rights and privileges of federal workers, including the right to form or join one of the unions that represent other federal employees — the job would attract a better calibre of candidate.
TSA screeners would not just make better wages and enjoy benefits and job security not offered your typical mall cop. No, TSA screeners would be “true professionals,” and recognized as civil servants, with opportunities to graduate to jobs as park rangers, FBI, Secret Service, or accountants at GSA (should that be their goal). In the absence of this rationale, there was simply, no other reason for the government to take over the job of providing airport security.
But Congressional Republicans have for decades been so hell-bent on breaking unions — so opposed, generally, to the economic and social mechanisms that brought us the relative economic equality and widely shared prosperity of the “Greatest Generation” — that, national security be damned, they insisted TSA employees never be allowed to unionize, nor to ever otherwise enjoy the wide range of benefits typically enjoyed by federal civil servants. While calling into question Democrats’ patriotism and willingness to fight the “global war on terrorism” — because Democrats at the time made a half-hearted stand to create the TSA jobs as originally envisioned — those same Congressional Republicans in fact permanently compromised our vital national security, creating a new underclass of sub-federal employees, all in the name of busting unions and hating the “gub-mint.”
As a result, the very point of creating TSA in the first place was contravened. And instead we enjoy the morass of airport security as we experience it today, where minimally skilled workers, paid sub-standard wages, and stuck in the ultimate dead-end job, inflict misery on the traveling public in ever increasing doses, while doing little or nothing to improve airline security.
President Obama and his proposed appointee to head the TSA, former FBI agent Erroll Southers, are absolutely right to try and correct this situation, and welcome low-level TSA employees fully into the family of federal employees. But Republican demogoguery has once again reared its head, most notably in the person of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who refuses to let Southers’ nomination go foward. And even in light of last week’s failed penis bombing, Senator DeMint is ready to hold national security hostage to his dreams of a world where every sweat shop is free:
We can only hope that part of what “change” means is that, despite the hysteria surrounding the recent terrorist attempt, DeMint will be called out for the American-hating pimple that he is. There are some signs that Democrats will stand up for the principle of making the necessary changes at TSA — including civil service status and union membership if employees so desire — long overdue at TSA, and which may, after nearly a decade, begin the process of creating a truly professional security apparatus for air travelers. South Carolina Democrats have certainly been pulling no punches:
We can only hope Congressional Democrats will show the same spine demonstrated by their South Carolina brethren, and finally ask the all-important question: “Why Does Jim DeMint hate America?”