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Archive for September 14th, 2011

As a frequent traveler, I have a special loathing for the TSA.

And it’s not just because I get stuck in line behind families that take 20 minutes to go through security, just so the bureaucrats can confiscate toy soldiers, plastic hammers, toothpaste, and baby food.

Or poke and prod 95-year old women with adult diapers.

The TSA is even incompetent at being incompetent. The worst thing about the TSA are the long lines, even though ticket data lets the bureaucracy know exactly how many passengers to expect at any given time.

Yet with the boundless incompetence of government, they fail to adjust their staffing, leaving hapless people like me to slowly creep though long lines while growing increasingly irritated (particularly when we see the idle scanning machines that could be used).

And let’s not forget that the TSA inevitably fails when subjected to independent testing.

Here’s what Congressman Mica, in a bit of a battlefield conversion, has to say about the TSA.

They’ve been accused of rampant thievery, spending billions of dollars like drunken sailors, groping children and little old ladies, and making everyone take off their shoes. …a decade after the TSA was created following the September 11 attacks, the author of the legislation that established the massive agency grades its performance at “D-.”  “The whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats,” said Rep. John Mica (R. -Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.  “It mushroomed into an army,” Mica said.  “It’s gone from a couple-billion-dollar enterprise to close to $9 billion.”  As for keeping the American public safe, Mica says, “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years.”  “Everything they have done has been reactive.  They take shoes off because of [shoe-bomber] Richard Reid, passengers are patted down because of the diaper bomber, and you can’t pack liquids because the British uncovered a plot using liquids,” Mica said. …Mica said screeners should be privatized and the agency dismantled.  Instead, the agency should number no more than 5,000, and carry out his original intent, which was to monitor terrorist threats and collect intelligence.  The fledgling agency was quickly engulfed in its first scandal in 2002 as it rushed to hire 30,000 screeners, and the $104 million awarded to the company to contract workers quickly escalated to more than $740 million.

I’m glad Rep. Mica has had a change of heart, though I wonder about both his sincerity and intelligence.

Why has it taken so long for him to reach this conclusion? Has he proposed legislation to dismantle the TSA (that’s not a rhetorical question, I’m genuinely curious)?

And, most important, why didn’t he realize that the TSA would morph into an inefficient bureaucracy – particularly since that it what happens whenever the clowns in Washington give the government some new power and/or authority. Seems like a no-brainer.

I’m being unkind, I realize, probably because I’m going to be back at an airport on Friday.

Someday, I hope I can be one of those evil rich people that Obama demagogues about. Then I can sidestep the TSA’s hollow security theater and hop on a tax-dodging private jet.

P.S. To de-agitate myself, I’ve perused these examples of TSA humor (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

P.P.S. You won’t be surprised to discover that the Obama Administration is kowtowing to union bosses by blocking private airport screeners.

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Here’s a very good new video from the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, in which he explains why lower tax rates and fewer loopholes are the keys to a simple, fair, and competitive tax system.

Very well done. Given my video on the flat tax, as well as my video on the global flat tax revolution, you probably are not surprised by my reaction to Congressman Ryan’s contribution.

But I’m a glass-half-empty skeptic and pessimist, particularly when dealing with Republicans, so here are a few additional thoughts.

1.Why not take the logic of this video to its sensible conclusion and come out in favor of a flat tax? Yes, a half loaf is better than no loaf, but the special-interest groups and class-warfare crowd will fight just as hard against partial tax reform and they will against full tax reform, so why not go for the Full Monty?

2. I would feel much happier if people who talk about getting rid of loopholes (including Ryan) made clear that every single penny of revenue generated by eliminating tax preferences was used to finance lower tax rates. If tax reform ever becomes a vehicle for higher taxes, the exercise will either blow up or become a scam to rip off the American people.

3. There was no discussion of double taxation. Since every economic theory, even socialism and Marxism, acknowledges that saving and investment are vital for long-run economic growth, higher wages, and better living standards, this is an unfortunate omission. Given that a single dollar of income can be hit by several layers of tax – capital gains tax, corporate income tax, double tax on dividends, and death tax, this is not a trivial concern.

4. Congressman Ryan has been sympathetic to a value-added tax. Indeed, his “Roadmap Plan” includes a VAT. As I’ve explained many times before, a VAT would be fiscal poison for America. If tax reform ever becomes a vehicle for a VAT, the exercise will either blow up or become a scam to rip off the American people.

The concerns I just outlined are not a knock on the video, which obviously was designed to highlight a couple of key principles.

But I am saying that good tax policy involves more than what Congressman Ryan outlined. Lower rates and fewer loopholes are necessary conditions for better tax policy, but there are other pieces of the puzzle that can’t be ignored.

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