Obama proposes new traveler security taxes. Don’t double (or triple) TSA’s funding, cut the organization back!

by Charlie Leocha on September 28, 2011


If the President has his way, you will be sending TSA twice (soon to grow to three times) as much money with which to harass, scan and grope you. This is part of his “jobs program.”

Believe it or not, President Obama wants to increase, immediately, the current airport security tax from $2.50 per segment (capped at $5 each way) to a flat $5 per one-way ticket. By 2017, he wants to ramp the tax to $7.50 per one-way ticket or $15 per round trip.

This means everyone who flies on a non-stop or direct flight will be faced with a 100 percent increase in the security tax. Later all travelers will face incremental increases in this tax over the next five years resulting in another 50 percent increase.

The administration’s ill-conceived transportation security taxes are hitting every traveler in the country and hitting the airlines that are the driving force of economic development — creating jobs not only from direct hiring, but from associated businesses and regional corporate development. If someone thinks raising the costs to fly is the way to create jobs, they need their heads examined. If they think that giving more money to TSA is going to endear them to the American public they are even crazier.

Domestic airline travel has been shrinking recently and the airlines have reduced capacity since 2007 by more than 10 percent to meet falling demand. Overseas travel has taken a massive hit with last year’s Department of Commerce numbers showing a drop in travel to Europe of 7 percent, to South America a 17 percent drop, to Asia an 8 percent drop and to Central America an 11 percent drop.

Making matters worse, the President plans to earmark these funds for TSA, an agency that is out of control and has never been properly controlled by Congress which has oversight responsibility.

Even one of the founders of TSA, Rep. John Mica (R-Fl.) has turned on the bloated agency.

TSA is a bureaucratic nightmare, with over 60,000 employees and top heavy with supervisory and administrative staff. At TSA headquarters, where 30 percent of employees are supervisors, the average salary is over $105,000. Thirteen percent of field employees are supervisors. This is a massive bureaucracy that cannot effectively ensure the safety of U.S. transportation systems, and something must be done to improve the agency’s performance.

These new airline taxes and fees that will immediately double the amount most passengers pay to fund the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and later triple that tax are totally misconceived and will enlarge one of the most disturbing organizations in the country and one of the most secret and least audited and controlled.

Here is the exact wording from The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction. Read them and weep. Better yet, let your congressman or congresswoman know that you think these kinds of taxes are misdirected.

From page 22:
The Administration proposes both to raise the fee and change the manner in which it is collected. …

    • Replace the current “per-enplanement” fee structure with a “per one-way trip” fee structure so that passengers pay the fee only one time when traveling to their destination.
    • Remove the current statutory fee limit and replace it with a statutory fee minimum of $5.00, with annual incremental increases of 50 cents from 2013 to 2017, resulting in a fee of $7.50 in 2017 and thereafter.
    • Allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to adjust the fee (to an amount equal to or greater than the new statutory fee minimum) through regulation when necessary.
    • Set aside a specific amount of fee revenue to be returned to the General Fund for deficit reduction over 10 years.

The proposed fee would collect an estimated $8.8 billion in additional fee revenue over five years, and $24.9 billion over 10 years. The Administration’s proposal would direct $15 billion to be deposited into the General Fund for debt reduction, with any additional revenues
in excess of this amount being applied as offsets to TSA’s discretionary appropriations.

Someone once said, “If you aim taxes at the wealthy, you end up hitting the middle class right in the pocketbook.” (Or, maybe I just made that up.) But, President Obama’s new flurry of transportation taxes and fees that are supposed to only hit Americans making $200,000 and more seem to be whacking directly at the middle class without first passing through the “rich.”

These security taxes and fees are only the beginning of the President’s assault on the air transport sector of the economy, one of the most vital to the production of jobs anywhere across our fruited plains. I will cover the other tax and fee increases embedded in the presidents proposal in future columns.

Do you think it is a good idea to double the amount of money passengers have to pay TSA as a way to balance the budget? Or, do you think taking a look at how TSA is spending our money right now might be a better idea?

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  • BenRobbins

    Triple the tax, pay down the deficit, buy completely automated scanners that can’t be accused of sex crimes – OR – we could require everyone to fly naked and save billions, all while terrifying the jihadists. You pick. 

  • Tony A.

    This is not a discussion on whether you like or don’t like the TSA. This is a discussion of WHO should fund the TSA – travelers or all the taxpayers. As far as I know, the $2.50 per enplanement security fee is not enough to pay for the TSA. So, the TSA gets supplemental funding. Why should ALL the taxpayers (most who don’t fly or cannot afford to fly) pay for those who fly? Yes, you can argue that the TSA expenses are bloated but that’s another story. In all fairness, those who fly should pay the full burden of their flying.

  • Kairho

    I’m not a fan whatsoever of the TSA.  But so long as someone needs to pay for them it should be the users of the service, not the taxpayers in general. It should necessarily be a use fee rather than a general fund contribution.

  • Cliffordpwoodrick

    I do not mind the extra fee BUT I want Congressional oversight which may reduce the bloated organization.

  • Cutch1951

    I completely agree that users (travelers) should fund the TSA, which is not the demon agency you seem so outraged about. This amount of tax increase will help lower the deficit, and I seriously doubt that anyone will refuse to fly due to a higher tax.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZG6PI6BSOYOPOZQNHNWWRHMPF4 Johnfrombremerton

    Looks like the left is trying to lock up another 60k votes with those bloated salaries. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YJOFCUW4S62AICSGYG562VMHZY Marje

    Anyone actually believe that the powers-that-be give dip what we proles think about this issue?
    One more indignity, raising the price of the ticket, to pay the wages, of the guards, on our train, to the end of the tracks. 

  • Dunker

    How many of the 3000 people who died September 11 were flying?  The purpose of the inspections is supposed to be to safeguard air travel, and the potential impact of a terrorist attack using an airplane on the general public. Why shouldn’t those who are supposedly being protected on the ground also contribute something toward that protection??

  • donj

    Hmmm, a bit overheated.  (1) TSA needs to self-fund. (2) Training needs to be w-a-y upgraded. (3) The TSA agents on the line in airports need to be upgraded greatly in their skills and pay. (4) We’re going to get only the level of professionalism that we travelers pay for.  (5) Americans have close to zero understanding of risk assessment and tolerate risk less well (rationally) than any other nation,,,and THAT is expensive.

  • Tony A.

    We already do. As far as I know ALL of us fund the military, the CIA, the Police and FBI etc.
    They have a major role of keeping out country safe. But not all of us FLY.

  • Tony A.

    sorry typo I mean OUR country safe

  • Robert Bergman

    Charlie – Your presentation of the facts is incorrect.  I hope it’s due to misunderstanding the current tax system rather than intentionally trying to distort the amount of the tax increase. 

    The AY security tax for a one way trip is currently either $2.50 or $5.00, not $2.50 for all one way trips as you state.  It depends if there is one leg or more than one leg.  There would be no tax increase for those that that connect through a hub on their jouney.  They currently pay a $5.00 tax included in their ticket.  Likewise, someone with a four leg round trip currently pays $10.00, the same amount at the President’s proposal. 

  • Charles Leocha

    Thanks Robert. I thought the original sentence that made the difference between segment and one-way ticket was clear. I have changed the wording to, “…the current airport security tax from $2.50 per segment (capped at $5 each way) to a flat $5 per one-way ticket. By 2017, he wants to ramp the tax to $7.50 per one-way ticket or $15 per round trip.” Everyone flying non-stop or on a direct flight will face an immediate 100% increase in this security tax and later a 50% increase assessed incrementally through 2017.

  • A1270272

    “Allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to adjust the fee (to an amount equal to or greater than the new statutory fee minimum) through regulation when necessary.”

    Very interesting.  I hadn’t seen that clause before.

    So in practice, the fees are not necessarily limited to $5 or even $7.50.  Big Sis or her successors could raise them to whatever they want, without Congress passing a law to allow it.

    I’ve got a great idea.  If the TSA is underfunded, why don’t we cut out huge chunks of it’s fat instead of raising taxes?  

    Or even better, let’s eliminate this fascist organization altogether and let the airlines pay for their own security again, just like every other business.  This would also have the effect of people paying for the services that they use, which is one of the arguments some people make for this TSA tax increase anyways.

  • Tony A.

    Charlie, would you know the total cost of the TSA per year and the total number of enplanements within the USA per year? It would be nice to know what the real cost of the TSA per enplanement is. And if that actual cost is charged 100% to flyers, then they (flyers) might just get hurt painfully enough and behoove them to march towards Congress.

  • Charles Leocha

    Tony,
    I’ll look for those figures tomorrow. I know that currently the security fee only covers around a third of the TSA budget, that has (I think) more than doubled over the past decade.

    The other point is that more than half of the money collected is being earmarked to go into the general funds and not to security. Why should airline passengers pay an additional tax for the general fund when others do not have to.

    More tomorrow. BTW here is the exact wording from the President:

    “The Administration’s proposal would direct $15 billion to be deposited into the General Fund for debt reduction, with any additional revenues
    in excess of this amount being applied as offsets to TSA’s discretionary appropriations.”

    It is in the post, but I didn’t point it out clearly.

  • Tony A.

    Charlie, I did some reading. According the the DHS:
    http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/budget_bib_fy2011.pdf
    The latest (FY2011) TSA budget is $5.56B for Aviation Security.
    The TSA makes about 625 million screenings a year.
    That translates to a budget of approx. $8.90 per screening.

    Note that the FAA says that there were only 635.3M enplanements in 2010. And that was a tiny 0.7% increase from 2009.
    http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=12440

    I don’t think # enplanements = # screenings since some connections are air-side and do not require another screening. Nevertheless, if we use last year’s numbers (TSA budget $5.214B for AVSEC divided by 635.3M enplanements), then the cost per enplanement was approx. $8.21.

    If passengers only pay $2.50 per enplanement (capped at $5 per direction), then the shortfall is about $5.70. So did taxpayers subsidize travelers at this amount per enplanement in 2010? Am I using fuzzy math?

    Please note that the Aviation Security (AVSEC) budget does *not* include the budget for Air Marshals. They cost another 950M for 2011.

    So, what I am saying here is that even if Pres. Obama gets what he wants, it (the $5 or $7.50 per direction or trip) is not even enough to pay for today’s cost.

  • Charles Leocha

    If we take your math, that makes things worse with the President keeping 60 percent of the collected new revenues for the general fund. Not good politics any way we can look at it.

  • Karlakatz

    That argument falls flat when used by folks who’ve never had children, but have to pay for schools:  If something benefits “society” as a whole, then society as a whole must pay for it.

  • Tony A.

    Those folks who do not have children were also educated by the school system when they were young. It’s just payback time.

  • Tony A.

    Those folks who do not have children were also educated by the school system when they were young. It’s just payback time.

  • Foundinvt

    flight safety should be 100% funded by fliers ? 
    No impact to folks on the ground for flight security ?

    Pentegon and Twin Towers points to flight security being a national issue.

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