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Missing: The airport security sequester crisis

by Candice Miller on March 12, 2013

HENRY PAYNE

Detroit News

My wait in Detroit Metro’s airport security lines Friday were longer than normal, but that was due to the seasonal spring break migration south — not a change in Transportation Security Administration staffing.

 

That’s not the sequestered chaos the Obama administration had been hyping.

 

“If you’re traveling, get to the airport earlier than you otherwise would,” warned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week, alleging that major airports had seen lines ballooning to 150-200 percent their normal size. “There’s only so much we can do with personnel.”

 

Not true. TSA officials confirmed that there have been no cuts in staffing and that lines were no longer than usual at Detroit Metro — or anywhere else. Like White House administration fear mongering over Capitol Hill janitors losing pay and teachers getting pink slips, the airport scare was a cry of wolf.

 

But Napolitano’s ploy was even more cynical because the TSA runs on fees paid by airline passengers, not general fund taxes.

 

“They run on dedicated revenue,” said U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, who sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security, which overseas the TSA. Indeed, explains Miller, since Sept. 11, passengers pay significant fees funding everything from customs inspections to TSA pat downs so the agency is self-funded — precisely so airport security is insulated from the unpredictability of the federal budget.

 

“Our fees have not been cut one penny, yet we’re being threatened with draconian cuts,” consumer advocate Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, tells CBS News.

 

Every time we step on an airplane, we pay a $2.50 security fee for TSA security. Add aviation security fees and excise taxes paid by airlines and the total — $3.8 billion in 2012 — is enough to fund the budgets of TSA and customs and immigration controls.

 

“This (budget mess) shouldn’t be our problem,” Leocha said.

 

The White House, in other words, has not only fibbed about cuts that haven’t happened — but is also willing to scare Americans over airline security that the federal government has carefully isolated to prevent such fears. What kind of public servants engage in this kind of public abuse?

 

Michigan has seen this movie before.

 

In 2007, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s second term also kicked off on a doomsday schedule as the Democratic governor and a Republican Senate played chicken with a government shutdown. Despite high unemployment, Granholm insisted on tax hikes to close the state’s yawning budget deficit rather than reform Michigan’s long-term benefits liabilities.

 

“People will die,” scared Granholm, if Republicans did not relent on their preferred spending cuts.

 

Today, Michigan’s perennial budget showdowns are a thing of the past thanks to Gov. Rick Snyder and GOP legislators who eschewed the politics of fear to balance the budget by making hard spending choices. “(The sequester) illustrates what a mess Washington is,” a frustrated Snyder told The Detroit News editorial board. “Do a budget. Do tax reform. Deal with the long-term debt issues. We’ve done all that in Michigan.”

 

Miller is also incensed by the Obama administration’s tactics. She is concerned about the impact of sequestration defense cuts on Selfridge Air Base in her district— but notes that local Macomb municipalities have had to deal with 30 percent cuts in hard times. Her own committee has had to cut its budget by 4 and 6 percent the last two years. Detroit-based Compuware this month announced a 5 percent cut in operations, closing 16 offices around the world. No drama. No predictions of Armageddon.

 

Now the White House can’t find 2 percent in the federal budget to cut without alarming airline passengers and teachers?

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130312/OPINION03/303120315/Missing-airport-security-sequester-crisis?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE%7Cs

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