GOP Plays Politics with Human Lives

Cody Hoesly

Today's Oregonian reports that the Transportation Security Administration is firing 150 of Portland International Airport's 490 baggage and passenger screeners - that's almost one-third, making Portland, already understaffed, one of the hardest hit airports in the country.  This, when Portland is experiencing a rapid surge in the number of passengers.

Similarly,

New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport will lose 162 screeners under the new plan -- 9 percent of its screening staff. Among large airports, only Pittsburgh takes a comparable hit to Portland on a percentage basis, losing 122 of its 340 screeners, or 36 percent.

By contrast, Las Vegas' McCarran International is adding almost 250 screeners, or nearly one-third. Houston is adding 151 screeners, or 17 percent, and West Palm Beach, Fla., is going up by 101 screeners, or 50 percent.

The TSA claims that this is all just part of a regular reallignment of its relatively fixed number of personnel.  Yet one cannot help but notice that Oregon, Pennsylvania, and New York voted for Kerry in 2004, and that Nevada, Texas, and Florida went for Bush.  Moreover, Portland recently withdrew from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, much to the dismay of the Bush administration.  While the TSA is not saying so, the political implications of today's decision resound in the dirtiest of politics.

In addition to longer delays, more lost bags, and job cuts, the TSA's reshuffling will leave Portland, New York City, and Pittsburgh much more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.  When "routine adjustments" leave Red states well defended and Blue states vulnerable, it's time to tell the GOP to stop playing politics with human lives.

Comments

  • Rob Yaatenen (unverified)
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    First of all they are not FIRING 150 screeners which would imply terminating on a set day. They will get rid of them through attrition. I don't think it's as political you make it out to be but it is political in one sense meaning that the GOP didn't want have federal screeners in the first place. Why I might not agree on some things I will agree it is political. I do not think it is governments responsibility to dabble in social reform I do beleive one of its functions is to make travel safe and protect people and develop infrastructure and that's about it.

    Thanks

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    The hypothesis: the TSA reduces screeners in states that did not support Bush as highly in order to ... what? ... increase the probability of terrorist attacks in those states? Kill off blue staters? Think it through: the claim here is that leaving NY more vulnerable to terrorism is a political plus.)

    Counter hypothesis: The TSA shifts screeners based on trends in airport traffic or based on the ability of the current staff to handle the current traffic loads.

    Test: One cannot ALSO help to notice that Nevada, Texas, and Florida are among the top 8 fastest growing states. Oregon ranks 11th while New York 42nd and Pennsylvania 48th.

    What about airport traffic? In total passengers, Dallas is 6th busiest, Las Vegas is 11th busiest, Houston is 18th busiest, Orlando is 24th busiest and Miami is 27th busiest. This is from an international list.

    Portland? 36th nationally and experienced only a 5.2% increase in traffic last year.

    I love PDX. The security lines are the quickest and most efficient of any airport I travel through. But if I were an administrator reallocating a fixed set of TSA personnel, and had to judge, say, more security in Vegas, which is experiencing explosive increases in population and air traffic, and PDX, I sadly might say Vegas. And it has nothing to do with politics.

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    They were just trying to make it sound good.

    The fact is that most of these people will lose their jobs.

    Has the Oregon job market suddenly gotten better? You're not going to see many people willingly want to give up their positions, as there's nowhere for them to go.

    There aren't any other positions at the airport for them, unless they want to do custodial work or be in fast food.

    They could move to another airport... in Nevada, or Texas, or Florida. How many of these people are going to want to move to another state?

    Most of these people were hired shortly after 9-11. Oregon's job market was doing extremely poorly and a bunch of jobs opened up at the airport. These people have been very thankful that they have jobs. Now what?

    The ways they list to keep the people there typically only work well in positions that have been around long enough for people to retire, when there are other locations close, etc. Most of these people have only been working for about two years. And there's nowhere close for them to move to-- moving to another location would mean moving to another state (likely one of the ones getting more positions).

    So the fact is that no matter how nicely they want to put it, people will be laid off. The positions may go elsewhere, but these people will be without work.

    And as someone who travels through Texas (my home state and where my family still lives), I can tell you that getting through airports in Texas is easy. I've only waited more than 5 minutes once, and that's because we let a large family (more than 20 people) who were about to miss their flight ahead of us in line.

    I always go through Houston, since it's the closest to my hometown, and have been through Dallas a few times. Since I prefer non-stop flights (and hate those little "puddle jumper" planes), I don't go through Dallas much. My best friend lives there, though, so sometimes we would schedule a longer layover so I could say hi.

    The only airports I can speak for are Houston (Hobby & Intercontinental-- native people to the area refuse to call it "Bush"), Dallas, Portland, and Boston. All the other ones I've been to I've remained within the secured area, so I never had to go through the line.

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    I heard somewhere today that several airports are opting out of Homeland Security in favor of private security screeners. It would seem that perhaps PDX would do better by going private.

  • Neil gone (unverified)
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    [off-topic comment deleted. -Editor.]

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    According to the news tonight, PDX will now have fewer screeners than it had pre-9/11.

  • jaybird (unverified)
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    If it's politics at all it probably has more to do with Tom "Commando" Potter's airhead remonstrance in pulling the Portland Police out of the anti-terror joint task force. The took him, the former Chief of Police, at his word: there ain't no stinkin' terrorists in Portland.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    [off-topic comment deleted. -Editor.]

  • Neil gone (unverified)
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    [off-topic comment deleted. -Editor.]

  • Dennis I (unverified)
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    [off-topic comment deleted. -Editor.]

  • Neil gone (unverified)
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    [off-topic comment deleted. -Editor.]

  • cab (unverified)
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    [Off-topic comment removed. -Editor.]

  • Neil gone (unverified)
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    That's slick. You remove my comments but leave cab's response.

    Nice progressive world you live in.

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    Nope, Neil-gone... I've now wiped cab's too. They were posted after I wiped the others. This is a conversation about airport security, not the ACLU or Abu Ghraib.

  • Bert Lowry (unverified)
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    Jaybird:

    You wrote: if it's politics at all it probably has more to do with Tom "Commando" Potter's airhead remonstrance in pulling the Portland Police out of the anti-terror joint task force.

    I assume that you merely wanted to take a pot shot at Tom Potter. NYC and Pittsburgh are losing TSA workers but have not dropped out of the JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force). Your attempt to link screeners to JTTF is as weak as George "Bring It On" Bush's attempt to link Iraq and 9/11.

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    When I last flew, the lines were already long to get through security at PDX, and this before the "downsizing" of baggage screeners. I can't imagine how much it's gonna suck for my mother, who's still over there. If I'm lucky, she'll have to drive...

    <h2>Be prepared to arrive at the airport three hours before your flight, I guess.</h2>

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