Our Nation's Fat, Archaic, Dilapidated Airports Represent the Overall Decline of America

America isn’t the country it used to be, and deep down, everyone knows it. Every day, bit by bit, America is becoming more unfree, more decrepit, and more miserable. Day to day, the rot may sometimes be hard to notice. Your neighborhood or your town may be holding together or even improving, while the country slowly slides into ruin.

With brains, courage, persistence and leadership we have no doubt that America can right its own ship. But for now, the decline is unmistakeable. Eventually, it smacks you right in the face. But what is the best way to realize that America is sliding into the abyss? Two people here at Revolver have differing views on that question. One believes that traveling through an American airport is the best way to see the country’s decay, while the other proposes a different method: A trip to one of America’s many theme parks.

There is a reason that President Donald Trump singled out “third-world” airports as especially emblematic of American decline. One might even say that flying through O’Hare or LaGuardia is the best way to discover that the U.S. is now a “shithole country.”

Safetyism and Security Theater

When ordinary people fly, they have to remove their shoes at security. By now, the practice is a well-worn ritual. Younger people might even be mistaken that this has always been a standard part of security. Of course, it hasn’t always been that way.

Millions are forced to go through this ridiculous practice because of the so-called “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid, who tried to ignite an explosive hidden in his shoe in December 2001. After taking five years to think it over, in 2006 the TSA mandated that all American travelers remove their shoes before flying.

Is this necessary? Not remotely. Israel has even more reason to fear air terrorism than the United States. But guess what? Israeli air passengers aren’t forced to take their shoes off.

The idea is ridiculous. There’s no reason to believe that taking off shoes, or being forced to throw out every liquid over 100ml, has saved a single life. In fact, they may cost lives: One study found that intensified security practices reduced demand for flights. Less flying means more driving, and more deaths from traffic accidents.

After a year of COVID-19 frenzy, Revolver readers are intimately familiar with mask mandates and lockdown rules that inconvenience everyone, cost lives, and achieve nothing. But this “cult of safety” mentality was forged in the airports first, and it will remain long after COVID-19 is gone.

Everything Else About the TSA

Endless articles have already been written about the sorry state of the TSA. Americans rightfully grumble about the TSA, yet few of us understand just how bad the agency is in practically every way. A 2016 Congressional report captured a lot of the lowlights.

For one, it’s bloated beyond belief. The TSA has more than 65,000 employees, including 4,000 at its headquarters and more than 9,000 administrators scattered around the country. Just like America’s universities or its hospitals, the TSA is drowning in bureaucrats who add minimal value but hoover up billions in taxpayer dollars.

It’s also mindbogglingly inept. The TSA spent $39 million on explosive-detecting machines that didn’t work. It spent $122 million on imaging machines that were trivially easy to evade. Just like America’s military, where James Mattis was bamboozled by Theranos’s blood-testing scam, the TSA squanders vast sums on dubious technology while faltering on matters that require no technology at all.

Thirdly, the TSA doesn’t even work. The agency has suffered tens of thousands of security breaches in its short lifespan. When the DHS put the TSA to the test, they found that they were able to smuggle bombs and guns onto planes 95 percent of the time. The main factor preventing future cases of air terrorism isn’t the TSA, but a general shortage of suicidal terrorists (and the popularity of simpler attack strategies, like mass shootings or truck attacks).

All of the above failures of the TSA are already well-known to the American public. But there’s a more basic, fundamental way the TSA embodies American decline, which is rarely discussed: The TSA gathers the least-valuable, least trustworthy, lowest-functioning Americans on this side of the prison system and places them into positions of authority. 

If you want a vision of the future, imagine an obese TSA agent saying you have to throw away your toothpaste for being half an oz too big — forever.

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