Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't Worry, This'll Only Hurt A Lot!

As a somewhat frequent traveler, I'm having a hard time getting too worked up about the latest TSA efforts to scan and grope us in the interests of aviation safety. Some of this may stem from the fact that I've spent time in places where it is routine to get patted down before entering a shopping mall. My apathy may also be partially explained because I long ago abandoning any pretense of being allowed to maintain any dignity while traveling by air. After years of being herded like animals, treated like children, and subject to inane, ineffective, and often incomprehensible rules and regulations, it's a wonder that every regular American air traveler hasn't already been beaten into a state of resigned submission by this point. Most of us now hang our heads low as we shuffle through the security line like a broken Cool Hand Luke, "Taking it off, boss?"

My biggest concern with the TSA's new hands-on see-through approach is that it will make the current snail-like security process even longer. If I could just walk quickly through a giant scanner without having to go through the shoes-off, laptop-out, pockets-empty, liquids-bagged and then put everything back together again security shuffle, I wouldn't care if my private parts were flashed on the big screen in Times Square. Propriety for time is a trade off that I'd be willing to make, especially since we already sacrifice far too much of both when traveling today.

It's also interesting to observe how much outrage this particular example of government intrusion has generated. If the most egregious violation that the federal government was visiting upon its citizens was a pat down at the airport, this country would be in pretty damn good shape. Is the violation of your body by the TSA really worse than the violation by the IRS (and other taxing authorities) of your wallet (or your home, your car, etc)? The reason that people are so ticked off by the TSA's scan and grab is that it's such an obvious and visible instance of the government taking something away from you (privacy in this case).

Which leads me to propose a change to the way that taxes are currently collected. For years, conservatives have suggested that the IRS stop withholding taxes from paychecks and instead that every taxpayer be made to write out an annual check to the government. This way, they would truly realize how much money the government was taking from them and appreciate how painful it was to have to surrender it. I say we go a step beyond that and mandate that the IRS has to personally collect taxes from every single American by visiting their homes and physically taking it from them. These collectors would be dressed similar to the king's goons who shook down Hagar the Horrible.

While this might lead to increased costs (muscle doesn't come cheap) and inefficiencies for the IRS, the impact that this would have on the attitudes of American taxpayers and their willingness to continue to be happy to pay more a better _______ would be dramatic. If you think people are mad about government agents going through their pockets at the airport just imagine what the reaction would be if these agents were picking their pockets and cleaning out their drawers at home.