All posts by Ron Paul

Obamacare’s Unhappy Anniversary

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Last month marked nine years since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare) became law. Obamacare’s proponents promised that the law would reduce costs, expand access, and allow us to keep our doctors if we liked our doctors. The reality has been quite different.

Since Obamacare was enacted, individual health insurance premiums have more than doubled while small businesses have been discouraged from providing health insurance benefits. The increased costs of, and decreased access to, health care are a direct result of Obamacare’s mandates — particularly the guaranteed issue and pre-existing condition mandates. Another costly mandate forces most plans to cover “essential health benefits.” This mandate is why postmenopausal women must pay for contraceptive coverage.

The increase in health insurance premiums has not helped those who like their doctors keep their doctors. Instead, patients’ choices of providers are restricted to ever-narrower networks. As leading health care scholar John C. Goodman observed, the result is that a cancer patient from my hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas who obtains insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges cannot get treatment at nearby MD Anderson, one of the country’s top cancer treatment centers. If health care were a true free market, insurance companies would compete for the business of cancer patients and others with chronic conditions by developing innovative ways to give them the best care at an affordable price.

Sadly, few in Congress support free-market health care. The Democrats are divided between progressives who want to repeal and replace Obamacare with “Medicare for all,” the latest euphemism for single-payer healthcare, and establishment Democrats who want to save Obamacare by spending more money on subsidies for individuals and insurance companies.

President Trump has made some regulatory changes that make it easier for individuals to find affordable insurance. He has also recently called on Republicans to renew efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Most Republicans reacted to the president’s call the way Dracula reacts to a crucifix. These Republicans are terrified of the issue because they believe their half-hearted attempts to enact phony repeal bills cost them control of the House of Representatives in 2018.

President Trump himself does not actually want to repeal all of Obamacare. He just wants to repeal the “unpopular” parts. However, because the popular parts include many of Obamacare’s most destructive mandates, even if President Trump gets his way, Americans will continue to suffer with low-qualify, high-cost health care.

Any system combing subsidies that artificially increase demand with regulations and mandates that, by raising costs, artificially limit supply inevitably results in shortages, rationing, and lower quality. Therefore, no matter how much Democrats spend or how many “reforms” Republicans enact, Obamacare and other types of government-controlled health care will never “work.”

Instead of ignoring the issue, trying to prop up Obamacare, or implementing a single-payer plan, Congress should restore individuals’ control over health care dollars by expanding health care tax deductions and credits, as well as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Expanded charitable deductions could help ensure those who need assistance can obtain privately-funded charitable care instead of relying on inefficient government programs. Before Medicaid and Medicare, doctors routinely provided charitable care, while churches and private charities ran hospitals that served the poor. Individuals are more than capable of meeting their health care needs, and providing for the needs of the less fortunate, if the government gets out of the way.

Trump Tells the Truth: Sanctions Cause People to Suffer

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This week President Trump admitted what the Washington policy establishment of both parties would rather be kept quiet. Asked why he intervened to block a new round of sanctions on North Korea, he told the media that he believes the people of North Korea have suffered enough. "They are suffering greatly in North Korea…And I just didn't think additional sanctions at this time were necessary,” he said.

The foreign policy establishment in Washington, whether they are neocons, “humanitarian interventionists,” so-called “realists,” or even progressives have long embraced sanctions as a way to pressure governments into doing what Washington wants without having to resort to war.

During my time in Congress I saw many of my antiwar colleagues on the Left vote for sanctions because they believed sanctions are more “humane” than war. Neocons and other interventionists endorse sanctions because they know that sooner or later they will lead to war, their preferred foreign policy.

With his characteristic bluntness, President Trump has exposed this big lie. Sanctions are not a more humane alternative to war. They are just another form of war. In fact they are perhaps the cruelest form of war because they do not target the military of an adversary, but rather the innocent civilian population. As President Trump said, they make people suffer.

Sanctions are meant to make life so miserable for the civilian population that it rises up and overthrows a leader out of favor in Washington. In Iraq in the 1990s, those sanctions cost the lives of a half a million children, but then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright infamously said she thought the price was worth it. But still the people didn’t rise up and overthrow Saddam even as their lives became more and more miserable. So the neocons had to concoct some lies about WMDs and Iraq was invaded anyway. An estimated million more people were killed in that war. So much for the “humanitarianism” of sanctions.

Sanctions often target water supplies, sewage treatment, medicine, food supply and other essentials for civilian life. After the people suffer under the “soft” war of sanctions, though, they most often are forced to suffer again as the US attacks anyway. That was the case in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. And it may soon be the case for Venezuela and perhaps even North Korea.

In Yemen, sanctions have contributed to the death of some 80,000 children from starvation. Millions more are facing starvation, yet they continue to resist Saudi and US demands that they overthrow their government.

Sanctions do not inspire people to rise up and overthrow their governments. Most civilians suffering under sanctions couldn’t throw out their rulers even if they wanted to – after being impoverished and malnourished for years they are really expected to take on their own government's military?

I am glad to hear President Trump tell the truth about sanctions. They hurt the powerless in the false hope that the powerful will change their behavior. No new sanctions on North Korea is a good start. Now how about dismantling the inhumane and counterproductive sanctions from Caracas to Damascus and from Moscow to Beirut. Let’s return to a foreign policy of peace and engagement, backed by a strong military for our defense alone.

The Green Bad Deal

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The recently-proposed Green New Deal is proof that climate change is for progressive Democrats what terrorism is for neoconservative Republicans: a ready-made excuse to expand government and curtail liberty. This radical plan would authorize the US government to seize control of major sectors of the US economy, phase out gasoline-fueled cars, make buildings “energy efficient,” and even replace air travel with rail travel.

Supporters of the Green New Deal claim that the science regarding the risk of climate change is “settled.” However, the science is far from settled. Many of the claims regarding climate change have been debunked.

Some supporters of policies like the Green New Deal have actually supported criminalizing dissent from the so-called “settled” science of climate change. This reveals the authoritarianism of some people demanding Americans give up real liberty and prosperity because of phantom fears of impending environmental disaster.

Like all forms of socialism, the Green New Deal suffers from what Ludwig von Mises identified as the “calculation problem.” Knowledge of the most efficient use of resources is conveyed by prices set in a free market. Prices reflect individuals’ subjective preferences regarding the best use of resources. When government uses force to remove resources from the marketplace, it makes it impossible for the price system to function, leaving government officials and private citizens unable to determine the most efficient use of resources. That is why every attempt at government management of the economy inevitably reduces the people’s standard of living.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has dismissed concerns regarding the almost 100 trillion dollars ten-year cost of implementing the Green New Deal by suggesting that Congress simply make the Federal Reserve pay for it by creating new money. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s claim is rooted in Modern Monetary Theory. This theory states that, when government controls the currency, it need not worry about running up large debt for welfare and war; it can have the central bank print more money to pay for more government.

Modern Monetary Theory is not modern. The Federal Reserve has facilitated the growth of government by printing money since its creation. It is no coincidence the birth of the Federal Reserve was immediately followed by the rise of the welfare-warfare state.

Whether done to monetize the federal debt or to jump-start economic growth, the Federal Reserve’s creation of new money harms the economy. In fact, Fed-induced distortions, caused by actions including money creation and interest rate manipulation, are the root cause of the boom-and-bust cycle that plagues the American economy. The Green New Deal would, in addition to its other negative impacts, hasten and deepen the inevitable Federal Reserve-caused economic crisis facing America. It would also increase the hidden and regressive inflation tax.

Ironically, the Green New Deal also would likely damage the environment. History shows that the most effective way to protect the environment is with a free-market economy that respects property rights. Therefore, those concerned with protecting the environment should support the free market, along with a legal system that holds private property owners accountable when their actions damage the environment or harm other individuals or their property.

Is Trump Really About to Attack Venezuela?

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Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered the last of the US diplomats out of Venezuela, saying their presence was a “constraint” on US policy toward the country. The wording seemed intended to convey the idea that the US is about to launch military action to place a Washington-backed, self-appointed politician to the presidency. Was it just bluster, designed to intimidate? Or is the Trump Administration really about to invade another country that has neither attacked nor threatened the United States?

While US Administrations engaged in “regime change” have generally tried to mask their real intentions, this US-backed coup is remarkable for how honest its backers are being. Not long ago the National Security Advisor to the president, John Bolton, openly admitted that getting US companies in control of Venezuelan oil was the Administration’s intent. Trump Administration officials have gone so far as mocking the suffering of Venezuelans when a suspiciously-timed nationwide power failure heightened citizens’ misery.

According to media reports, Vice President Mike Pence is angry with the Venezuela coup leader, Juan Guaido, because he promised the whole operation would be a cake walk – just like the neocons promised us about Iraq. Guaido said hundreds of thousands of protesters would follow him to the Colombian border to “liberate” US aid trucks just over the border, but no one showed up. So Pompeo and the neocons made up a lie that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s thugs burned the aid trucks to prevent the people from getting relief from their suffering. Even the pro-war New York Times finally admitted that the Administration was lying: it was opposition protesters who burned the trucks.

Was the US behind the take-down of Venezuela’s power grid? It would not be the first time the CIA pulled such a move, and US officials are open about the US goal of making life as miserable as possible for average Venezuelans in hopes that they overthrow their government.

Congress has to this point been strongly in favor of President Trump’s “regime change” policy for Venezuela. Sadly, even though our neocon foreign policy of interventionism has proven disastrous – from Iraq to Libya to Syria and elsewhere – both parties in Congress continue to act as if somehow this time they will get it right. I have news for them, they won’t.

Even weak Congressional efforts to remind the president that Congress must approve military action overseas sound like war cries. In Rep. David N. Cicilline’s (D-RI) statement introducing his “Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act” last week, he sounded more hawkish than John Bolton or Elliott Abrams! The statement makes all the arguments in favor of a US military attack on Venezuela and then – wink wink – reminds the president he needs authorization beforehand. As if that’s going to be a hard sell!

So is President Trump about to attack Venezuela? At a recent US House hearing, one of the expert witnesses testified that such an invasion would require between 100,000 and 150,000 US troops, going up against maybe three times that number of Venezuelan troops in a country twice the size of Iraq. With a lot of jungle. All for a “prize” that has nothing to do with US security. If the president makes such a foolish move he might find the current war cheerleaders in the Democrat Party changing their tune rather quickly. Let’s hope Trump changes his tune and returns to his promises of no more regime change wars.

Bipartisan Attacks on the Second Amendment

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The House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would expand the national background check system to require almost everyone selling firearms, including private collectors who supplement their incomes by selling firearms at gun shows, to perform background checks on the potential buyers. The bill has a section purporting to bar creation of a national firearms registry. However, the expanded background check system will require the government to compile lists of those buying and selling guns. In other words, it creates a de facto national gun registry.

Similar to the experience with other types of prohibition, making it more difficult to legally buy a gun will enhance the firearms black market. Criminals, terrorist, and even deranged mass shooters will thus have no problem obtaining firearms.

It is no coincidence that the majority of mass shootings take place in “gun-free zones,” where shooters know their targets will be unarmed. This shows that any law making it more difficult for Americans to own and carry firearms makes us less safe. If Congress really wanted to reduce the incidence of gun violence, it would repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act. This law leaves children easy prey for mass shooters by mandating that public schools be “gun-free zones.”

A nationwide system of gun registration could be a step toward national gun confiscation. However, antigun bureaucrats need not go that far to use the expanded background check system to abuse the rights of gun owners. Gun owners could find themselves subject to surveillance and even harassment, such as more intensive screening by the Transportation Security Administration, because they own “too many” firearms.

Republican control of the White House and the Senate does not mean our gun rights are safe. Republicans have a long history of supporting gun control. After the 1999 Columbine shooting, many Republicans, including many who campaigned as being pro-Second Amendment, eagerly cooperated with then-President Bill Clinton on gun control. Some supposedly pro-gun Republicans also tried to pass “compromise” gun control legislation after the Sandy Hook shooting.

Neoconservative Senator Marco Rubio has introduced legislation that uses tax dollars to bribe states to adopt red flag laws. Red flag laws allow government to violate an individual’s Second Amendment rights based on nothing more than a report that the individual could become violent. Red flag laws can allow an individual’s guns to be taken away without due process simply because an estranged spouse, angry neighbor, or disgruntled coworker tells police the individual threatened him or otherwise made him feel unsafe.

President Trump has joined Rubio in wanting the government to, in Trump’s words, “take the guns first, go through due process second.” During his confirmation hearing, President Trump’s new Attorney General William Barr expressed support for red flag laws. California Senator and leading gun control advocate Dianne Feinstein has expressed interest in working with Barr to deprive gun owners of due process. It would not be surprising to see left-wing authoritarians like Feinstein work with right-wing authoritarians like Barr and Rubio on “compromise” legislation containing both a national red flag law and expanded background checks.

My years in Congress taught me that few politicians can be counted on to protect our liberties. Most politicians must be pressured to stand up for freedom by informed and involved pro-liberty citizens That is why those of us who understand the benefits of liberty must remain vigilant against any attempt to erode respect for our rights, especially the right to defend ourselves against private crime and public tyranny.

Did Bolton Blow North Korea?

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President Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un last week was criticized by both parties in Washington long before Air Force One even touched down in Hanoi. Washington’s political class seemed terrified that the nearly 70 year state of “war” with North Korea might actually end. In the end the only positive thing they could say about the meeting was that Trump apparently walked away with nothing to show for it.

The location of the meeting – Hanoi, Vietnam – serves as a great example of what can be won in peace versus what is lost in war. After losing nearly 60,000 US service members in an unnecessary war that took a million Vietnamese lives, the US loss of the Vietnam war resulted not in a communist takeover of southeast Asia but something very different: the domino theory failed because communism was destined to fail. Now we are close trading partners with an increasingly pro-market Vietnam. The result of trade and exchange versus war is a better life for all.

Unfortunately for Washington, the real lesson of Vietnam has not been learned. That is why the Republicans, Democrats, and the entire mainstream media spoke as one against President Trump’s decision to take a bold step and actually meet again, one-on-one, with one of our “enemies” to see if we can avoid nuclear conflict.

One leading Democrat, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), attacked Trump for meeting with Kim because speaking to the North Korean “gives him legitimacy.” Does it make any sense that we should not even speak with our nuclear-armed adversaries because it gives them “legitimacy”? He’d rather have a nuclear war as long as Kim remains “illegitimate”? This is sadly the kind of thinking that prevails in Washington.

The media reported that Trump walked away from the meeting before the scheduled signing ceremony and closing press event. The talks broke down, it was reported, because Kim demanded an end to all sanctions before any reduction in North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Washington sighed with relief and said all together, “better no deal than a bad deal.”

Meanwhile the North Koreans held a rare press conference clarifying that they only asked for partial sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling one of their main nuclear facilities. Further, press reports began to surface that National Security Advisor John Bolton threw additional demands on the table which led Kim to draw the meeting to an early close.

Who’s telling the truth? We likely won’t know. But given Bolton’s strong opposition to any kind of peace agreement with North Korea it’s hard to doubt that he had something to do with the blow-up of the summit. As the New York Times reported over the weekend, while Trump’s advisors were shocked when he decided to meet Kim face-to-face the first time for negotiations, John Bolton wasn’t worried at all. As the Times writes, “Mr. Bolton told colleagues not to worry. The negotiations, he said, would collapse on their own.” And so they did.

Will Trump continue to allow his diplomatic efforts to be undermined by his own staff? Let’s hope the president will ignore Washington, ignore the neocons, and continue to work for peace with North Korea.

Emergencies Do Not Trump the Constitution

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After Congress rejected President Trump’s request for 5.7 billion dollars for the border wall, the president declared a national emergency at the southern border. Present Trump claims this “emergency” gives him the authority to divert funds appropriated for other purposes to building the border wall.

President Trump’s emergency declaration is not just an end run around Congress. It is an end run around the Constitution. Article One of the Constitution gives Congress sole authority to allocate federal funds.

While President Trump’s order may be a particularly blatant abuse of power, it is hardly unprecedented. Most modern presidents have routinely used so-called national emergencies to expand their power, often at the expense of liberty. For example, Present Franklin Delano Roosevelt used “emergency powers” to justify internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two.

President Trump, like other recent presidents, is relying on the 1976 National Emergencies Act for legal justification for his emergency declaration. This act gives the president broad powers to declare national emergencies for almost any reason. All the president need do is inform Congress he has declared an emergency. Once the emergency is declared, the president simply needs to renew the declaration once a year to maintain a state of emergency. Since this act passed, 59 emergency declarations have been issued, with 31 of those still in effect.

Another statute giving the president broad “emergency” powers is the Defense Production Act. Under this law, the president can force private businesses to produce goods for the military. The law also enables the president to impose wage and price controls and even make loans to private businesses. All a president need do to invoke these vast powers is submit “findings” to Congress that “national security” requires the president seize near-dictatorial control of certain industries or even the entire economy. According to the Congressional Research Service, some presidents have invoked the Defense Production Act without making the required findings to Congress, and the act has been used to justly federal interference in areas having little or nothing to do with national defense.

Section 606(c) of the Communications Act gives the president “emergency” power to seize control of every television network, radio station, smartphone, laptop, and other electronic devices.

Emergency powers are not the only means by which presidents violate the Constitution. The 2001 authorization for use of military force (AUMF), which only authorizes the president to use force against those responsible for the September 11 attacks, has been used to justify military interventions that have no relationship to those attacks. The 2001 AUMF has been used to justify mass surveillance, indefinite detention, and even “kill lists.” Fortunately, Representative John Garamendi has introduced the Walter B. Jones Restoring Power to Congress Act that would pay tribute to a true champion of peace by repealing the 2001 AUMF.

Many neoconservatives and progressives who defended prior presidents’ abuses of power are critical of President Trump’s emergency declaration. These “never-Trumpers” will no doubt resume their love affair with the imperial presidency when the Oval Office is again occupied by someone who shares their agenda.

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on a resolution terminating President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency. Hopefully, this precedent will be used against all future presidents who use spurious claims of national emergencies to expand their powers and shrink our liberties.

Walter Jones and the Vote to End US War on Yemen

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In a fitting legacy for my friend Walter Jones, Jr. who passed away last week, the US House made history by voting in favor of H.J.Res. 37, a resolution “Directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” As George O’Neill wrote in the American Conservative magazine this week, the historic 248-177 victory for a bill demanding the end of the US participation in the nearly five year Saudi war of aggression “reflects how many hearts and minds were influenced by the late Congressman's tireless efforts.”

Walter Jones did not care who controlled Congress. He was happy to join forces with any Member to end the senseless US global military empire, which sends thousands of young men and women off to patrol foreign borders, overthrow foreign governments, and needlessly put themselves at risk in missions that have nothing to do with the safety and security of the United States.

US participation in the Saudi war on Yemen is a classic example of the abuse of the US military that made Walter Jones most angry. When the Saudis decided in 2015 that they wanted their puppet to be Yemen’s president, they launched a brutal and inhuman war that many call the worst humanitarian disaster of our time. Millions face starvation as Saudi bombs and US sanctions combine to create a hell on earth that is unrelated in any way to US national security.

Why this ongoing support for Saudi death and destruction in Yemen? Washington’s neocons have successfully promoted the lie that the Saudi attack on Yemen is all about preventing Iran from gaining more strength in the Middle East. Ironically it was the neocon-backed US attack on Iraq in 2003 that provided the biggest boost for Iranian influence in the region. Now, after Iraq’s “liberation,” Baghdad’s ties to Tehran are closer than ever.

Meanwhile, who exactly are we supporting in Yemen? Even CNN, normally a big backer of US military actions overseas, has noticed something funny about US participation in the Saudi war on Yemen. As a CNN investigation found this month, “Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have transferred American-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen, in violation of their agreements with the United States.” Does that sound like we are on the side of the “good guys” in this battle? We are helping the Saudis arm al-Qaeda? Is this really a smart move?

So we should be encouraged that Walter Jones’ legacy is being honored in the House vote to end the US participation in the Yemen war. While US “humanitarian” aid is being used as a weapon for regime change in Venezuela, the warmongers in Washington have never lifted a finger to help those suffering from a real genocide in Yemen.

If the Yemen War Powers resolution passes the Senate, which is likely, Congress will have provoked the first veto from President Trump. Such a veto should not discourage us. Even the strongest army cannot stop an idea whose time has come. Ending senseless US wars is an idea whose time has come. We can thank Walter Jones for his role in making it so.

President Starts a War? Congress Yawns. Threatens to End One? Condemnation!

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Last week’s bipartisan Senate vote to rebuke President Trump for his decision to remove troops from Syria and Afghanistan unfortunately tells us a lot about what is wrong with Washington, DC. While the two parties loudly bicker about minor issues, when it comes to matters like endless wars overseas they enthusiastically join together. With few exceptions, Republicans and Democrats lined up to admonish the president for even suggesting that it’s time for US troops to come home from Afghanistan and Syria.

The amendment, proposed by the Senate Majority Leader and passed overwhelmingly by both parties, warns that a “precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from the on-going fight…in Syria and Afghanistan, could allow terrorists to regroup.” As one opponent of the amendment correctly pointed out, a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is hardly “precipitous” since they’ve been there for nearly 18 years! And with al-Qaeda and ISIS largely defeated in Syria a withdrawal from that country would hardly be “precipitous” after almost five years of unauthorized US military action.

Senators supporting the rebuke claim that US troops cannot leave until every last ISIS fighter is killed or captured. This is obviously a false argument. Al-Qaeda and ISIS did not emerge in Iraq because US troops left the country – they emerged because the US was in the country in the first place. Where was al-Qaeda in Iraq before the 2003 US invasion the neocons lied us into? There weren't any.

US troops occupying Iraqi territory was, however, a huge incentive for Iraqis to join a resistance movement. Similarly, US intervention in Syria beginning under the Obama Administration contributed to the growth of terrorist groups in that country.

We know that US invasion and occupation provides the best recruiting tools for terrorists, including suicide terrorists. So how does it make sense that keeping troops in these countries in any way contributes to the elimination of terrorism? As to the “vacuum” created in Syria when US troops pull out, how about allowing the government of Syria to take care of the problem? After all, it’s their country and they’ve been fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda since the US helped launch the “regime change” in 2011. Despite what you might hear in the US mainstream media, it’s Syria along with its allies that has done most of the fighting against these groups and it makes no sense that they would allow them to return.

Congress has the Constitutional responsibility and obligation to declare war, but this has been ignored for decades. The president bombs far-off lands and even sends troops to fight in and occupy foreign territory and Congress doesn’t say a word. But if a president dares seek to end a war suddenly the sleeping Congressional giant awakens!

I’ve spent many years opposing Executive branch over-reach in matters where the president has no Constitutional authority, but when it comes to decisions on where to deploy or re-deploy troops once in battle it is clear that the Constitution grants that authority to the commander-in-chief. The real question we need to ask is why is Congress so quick to anger when the president finally seeks to end the longest war in US history? 

Shut Down the TSA!

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Hard as it is to believe, airline travel recently became even more unpleasant. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees being required to work without pay for the duration of the government shutdown resulted in many TSA workers calling in sick. The outbreak of “shutdown flu” among TSA employees forced some large airports to restrict the number of places mandatory TSA screenings were performed, making going through screening even more time-consuming and providing one more reason to shut down the TSA.

Airline security should be provided by airlines and airports. Private businesses, such as airlines, have an incentive to ensure their customers’ safety without treating them like criminal suspects or worse. Security personnel hired by, and accountable to, airlines would not force a nursing mother to drink her own breast milk or steal a stuffed lamb from a wheelchair-using three-year-old and subject the child to such an intensive screening that she cries “I don’t want to go to Disneyworld.” Those who claim that the TSA is necessary to keep us safe should consider that the Department of Homeland Security’s own studies show that TSA’s screenings and even the intrusive pat-downs are ineffective at discovering hidden guns, explosives, and other weapons.

TSA employees have no incentives to please, or even care about the well-being of, airline passengers. Instead, their jobs depend on pleasing politicians and bureaucrats. If we have learned anything since 9/11, it is that most politicians are more concerned with appearing to be “doing something” about security than actually reducing the risk of terrorist attacks. That is why politicians’ response to 9/11 was a series of actions — such as creating the TSA, passing the PATRIOT Act, and invading Iraq — that trade our real liberties for phantom security. Sometimes, pro-TSA politicians will bemoan the TSA’s “excesses” and even call for “reforming” the agency in order to pretend they care about their constituents’ rights.

Restoring responsibility for providing security to private businesses will encourage the development of new and innovative ways to more effectively provide security. In a free market, airlines and airports could compete for business on the basis that their flights are safer or their screening is less unpleasant then that of their competitors. If airlines were able to set their own security policies, they would likely allow pilots to carry firearms.

Private companies also strive to be consistent in providing services. Therefore, a company providing private security would never inconvenience its customers because of a “temporary shutdown.”

Because government operations are funded by coercive taxation rather than voluntary choices of consumers, federal officials cannot rely on the price system to inform them of whether they need to increase or decrease spending on airline security. In the private sector, businesses that charge more for security — or any other good or service — than individuals are willing to pay lose customers. Also, if businesses do not spend enough on security, people concerned about safety will be unwilling to use their services. Privatizing airline security is the only way to ensure that the “correct” amount of resources is being spent on airline safety.

In the 18 years since Congress created the TSA, the agency has proven itself incapable of providing real security, but more than capable of harrying Americans and wasting taxpayer dollars on security theater. Congress should permanently close the TSA and return responsibility for security to private businesses.