May wrapped up with stories about how the TSA was looking to raise fees in order to generate revenue and hire better people, a goal we're in favor of but a mechanism that we're less happy about. Those stories were kind of neutral, and from there it's been all downhill. An ex-con evaded security and walked on a plane in San Diego without a ticket. The agency fired 8 workers in Newark for sleeping on the job and needs to fire another 7 agents in Philadelphia for the same thing. A JFK terminal had to be evacuated after a metal detector was found unplugged. And now there's that national story about the grandmother's urn that got spilled.
In addition to just being bad, these also look bad. Even worse from a media perspective, bad news crowds out good news. The drip-drip-drip of incompetence makes it difficult to get positive attention. No one wants to write an article how many guns were intercepted in June when they can paint a picture of grandma's ashes getting scattered at a checkpoint.
Now for the political consequences, because of course there were going to be political consequences. We've written maybe too-thorough posts about why Congressional attacks on TSA usually bounce between useless bluster and worse-than-useless bluster, and it also bears mentioning that all the theatrical grandstanding about how Americans are increasingly "disgusted" by TSA is just flat out untrue. But after the month the agency had, they needed to get hauled into the principal's office and yelled at for a while.
House Republicans more or less used TSA as a pinata over a series of June hearings, alternating between bashing the agency and going meta about how it has "an image problem in the Congress." Congress is indeed preparing a one-two punch, with a renewed privatization push coming out of the House and a passengers' bill of rights coming out of the Senate. The combination of which would functionally end TSA, at least as we know it. The bills aren't going to pass and if they did they'd get vetoed by the President, but saying things is fun and so that's what our elected officials are doing this month.
Oh well. At least we've moved past the idea of mandatory on-site passenger advocates, which in addition to being obnoxious showboating was also kind of inexplicably stupid.
[Photo: mrkathika / Flickr]