Is The TSA Effective?

Yesterday morning I was driving to my Mom’s then going to my doctors appointment. As usual when I am in the car, I was listening to talk radio. I really can’t help that I enjoy it. With the attacks at Moscow Airport, most people via media were talking about the effectiveness of the TSA. And let’s be honest, we’ve, rather the media, have been talking about the TSA for awhile now. And while I see each side of the argument entirely, I had to take a minute and actually evaluate one thing I wondered if anyone else was evaluating. But I will get there, in time. First I wanted to paraphrase the two sides of the argument to the best of my ability. Side One is against, or rather they find the TSA ineffective. They reports and stats that have flooded in have helped to boost their argument. Side Two still sees the TSA as being effective in general for the purpose of them in the beginning when they came in. They too have reports and stats to back up their argument. Hence why both sides have equally great arguments and why I can see both sides.

tsaNow I don’t travel a lot at all. I have traveled prior to 9/11. I remember Brent walking me to the gate with Brodie when she was little. I remember flying to see my father when I was younger and my mom walking us to the gate. I know, easily, know what it’s like to wait outside security for someone to deboard a plane and board a plane. The first time I flew after 9/11 I wore flip flops. I was told to take them off. I was honestly dumbfounded. If you know me and my hooves you know that very little can be stored in any shoe I wear including flip flops. Regardless. I understand why they were doing it.

Brent travels ALL the time. He’s got airports down to an art and any time I do fly, I always ask him for advice and ways around airports because he’s seen so many of them. He really could be a travel expert with all the time he’s spent on planes and in airports in the past six years. I probably could be a travel agent with as many plane tickets and hotel rooms I book. Either way, him and I have even discussed the effectiveness of the TSA.

As I said though, there is one thing I ponder and I wonder if anyone else has taken the time to ponder this thought too.  Say we phase out the TSA. Say we go towards the side of people who do not believe the TSA is effective or even worth being in place anymore. When it comes to statisitics, I went first to the TSA Website to gather some. This is what I got for general purposes:

Today, approximately 48,000 Transportation Security Officers serve on TSA’s frontline in 457 U.S. airports. They use their training and experience to effectively and efficiently screen approximately 2 million people a day.

Now, I want you to sit back for five minutes and the numbers soak in. Approximately 48,000 people. That is PEOPLE. Not fake people. Real people. Like you and I.

Next I want to quote another statistic.I’ll do it with an image.

unemploymentYou can click that image to make it larger. But let me lay it out for you, as of December 2010 according the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has an unemployment rate of 9.1%. Now because we are going to stay with stats for a minute, I am going to quote an article from 2009 by the NY Times. I’m not a fan of quoting outdated information or information from the NY Times, but it will help, you’ll see.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, jumped to a 16-year-high of 7.2 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. The growing army of the unemployed, at 11.1 million, is nearly 50 percent bigger than at the start of the recession a year ago. (NY Times article: Jobless Rate Hits 7.2%, a 16 Year High.)

So nearly two years ago with an unemployment rate being a 7.2 %, it was a 16 year high, I can only imagine that a 9.1% is much higher. Correct? So now we will go back to that 48,000 people working for the TSA. We are just going to phase them out because we all deem them ineffective.

Can someone who is good at math now tell me what that is going to do for unemployment? And while you are at it, tell me, how many of those 48,000 people have more than one children or are feeding more than their own mouths? For statistical purposes, let’s say that 3/4 of the 48,000 people have not only their mouth and bills to care for, but 2 other people. Let’s do the math.

3/4 of 48,000 = 36,000

Now 36,000 of those people have 2 other people to care for, feed, etc.(requiring money = a paycheck)

36,000 x 2 = 72,000

That’s 72,000 people who could possibly be homeless, require government assistance and more.

That is roughly 2,000 people less than the population of College Station, Texas. Which by the way for the stat on that, look it up on the Census website.

So, now that I laid out the facts, I ask you this – if we phase out or deem the TSA ineffective, what happens to those 48,000 people and their families?


  1. It’s always good to see someone take a quantitative angle on complicated questions like this. Unfortunately, I think you’re asking the wrong question.

    Instead of focusing on the 48,000 TSA agents (or their dependents) lets go back to that earlier statistic: 2 million people screened every day. Suppose each screening, optimistically, takes 1 minute. That means 33,333 people-hours wasted by the TSA daily. Assume each of those people could have earned $10/hour doing something else (a low estimate, given business travelers, executives, etc) meaning $333,333 worth of time wasted daily. Over the course of a year, that’s roughly $122 million out of our GNP, thanks to the TSA. Basically, society would be better off by $122 million yearly if those 48,000 people were flipping burgers, or digging holes and filling them in again, instead of working at the TSA.

    To answer your question, “what happens to those 48,000 people and their families?” they go and get productive jobs instead. You seem to be defending government make-work programs, which are a bad idea even if they produce something of value, and are a terrible idea when their product is inconvenience and wasted time.

    • No no definitely not defending government programs. Should I be asked to take a side of whether I think the TSA is useless or not, I’m leaning towards useless. I’m in agreement on that part. I’m just curious as to what would be a answer or solution to the fact that our unemployment rate is high and then we are going to put 48,000 people out of work also which seems to me only adds to problems like tax dollars being spent towards government assistance etc. I realize there is no easy solution to this and I’m sure those higher up would come up with the answer i.e. actually phasing the jobs out giving them ample time to find another job and not just kicking them to the curb. I guess my real point to this question or raising this question was to say, while we all may agree TSA is ineffective – let’s find the solution to the problem and problems that can arise.

      Thank you for stopping by though and the way that you put it with $122 million out of GNP sure did raise my eyebrows and make me reevaluate!

  2. Lauralee Hensley says:

    Many of those unemployed by such a move, should have some of the skills needed to work in prisons that are finding it hard to keep guards in various areas of the country.