Finally, the wall is being built.
Unfortunately, it is being erected at airport security checkpoints, between planes waiting to take off and passengers trying to reach their gates.
With each day, this obstacle grows more imposing as Transportation Security Administration agents, unpaid for weeks, call in sick, creating ever lengthening lines. In the early days of the government shutdown, most agents turned up for work assuming their paychecks would be forthcoming. In recent days, a growing number have called in sick, in some cases to take temporary jobs that allow them to pay their rent and feed their families.
This is the state of American democracy in early 2019. Our government leaders are so intent on their picayune fights and kowtowing to their political bases, they seem oblivious to the human suffering and economic harm they are causing.
OPPOSING VIEW: Use private screeners for aviation security
They are hindering the many travelers just trying to get to their destinations. They are doing even worse things to the TSA airport screeners, most of whom earn from $25,518 to $44,134 annually, plus “locality pay.”
Airport security is just one of the many areas to suffer from the record long partial government shutdown. Members of the Coast Guard became the first active-duty service members to go without pay. The Food and Drug Administration is nearing the point where it will stop approving new drugs. Tax refunds, airplane inspections, food safety and other areas could be affected as well.
But the issue of airport security is the most cruelly ironic. The TSA was created the last time there was a real security crisis, after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Now it is being undermined in the name of a border problem that falls far short of a national emergency.
President Donald Trump’s insistence on fulfilling a campaign promise to build a border wall — combined with a similarly unified Democratic front determined to thwart his ambitions — has led to the 25-day shutdown.
Some pro-shutdown apologists, generally those who don’t fly much, shrug at the travails of TSA agents. Others argue that the shutdown proves it is time to privatize the agency and get the screeners off the government payroll.
That would be a mistake. The TSA was created (and today is deployed at most American airports) thanks to a bipartisan consensus after the 9/11 hijackings that the private contractor system in place at the time had failed catastrophically.
With terrorist groups fixated on blowing up jetliners, Republicans and Democrats alike reasoned — correctly, in our view — that a federal law enforcement agency should replace a system of low bidders hired by airport authorities.
Beyond the specifics of how airport security should be run is the sheer gall of wreaking havoc on the lives of people who are just doing their jobs.
Perhaps it will take a mass walkout or a sickout by TSA screeners to force an end to this idiotic shutdown. We wouldn’t condone or encourage such a disruptive work action, but we could certainly understand if it happens.
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