In this Congress, the partisan battles surrounding fiscal policy have been fought through a series of “cliffs,” “ceilings,” and other assorted deadlines. The latest: a December 13 target for a special committee chaired by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to develop a long-term federal budget blueprint.
A bipartisan agreement that addresses unsustainable entitlement programs, keeps spending in check, and simplifies our convoluted tax laws would certainly be welcome news. Unfortunately though, several media outlets are reporting that any such deal is likely to contain “revenue raisers,” among them major increases in the fees paid to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This is a terrible idea that should be denied permission to leave the proverbial gate, much less to take off.
For one, our federal government is not suffering from a revenue problem. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that federal revenues as a share of the economy will exceed the recent historic average each and every year for the next decade. The trouble is, federal spending will also exceed its average over the same period, despite Congress agreeing to much-needed caps on part of the budget just two years ago. That means another surge in deficits is on the way.
Furthermore, while we can all agree that transportation security is of the upmost importance, can TSA really get the job done? Americans deserve an answer to this question from their leaders. Between 2007 and 2012, TSA’s budget has increased by 18 percent with its workforce also growing by 13 percent. Over the same period of time, the number of customers being screened decreased by 75 million people or roughly 11 percent. This budget boost cannot be justified when compared to the slowing demand for its services (not to mention the growing national debt, which now exceeds $17 trillion).
In addition, TSA already exacts a large financial toll on the private sector. Last year, as a way to underwrite a budget approaching $8 billion, the agency collected more than $2.3 billion in “security taxes” from airlines and their customers. This amount represents a 100 percent increase since the TSA’s inception in 2002, all in spite of air travel decreasing during the past six years.