How Safe Is that Flight? Auditors Question Airport Security

How Safe Is that Flight? Auditors Question Airport Security

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

A government spat between Congress and the Transportation Safety Administration yesterday raised a question: Is the TSA trying to stonewall a congressional committee looking into reports suggesting the agency may be failing in its $7 billion-a-year mission to safeguard airports and air travel from terrorist threats?

At the start of Wednesday’s TSA: Are Airports Safe? hearing, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT ) immediately pointed out a glaring absence from the witness panel—the TSA.

Related: Poor Maintenance Could Make that Airport Scanner a Dud

Chaffetz said the committee had invited TSA acting administrator Melvin Carraway, but the agency offered a lower-level official in his place.

“The Department of Homeland Security objected to [Carraway’s] presence on the panel because they felt it was demeaning to have the acting director sit on the same panel as a private sector witness,” he said, referring to Raffi Fron, president of New Age Security Solutions, a company that provides security systems such as video surveillance.

The hearing was prompted by two separate but equally scathing watchdog reports that question the TSA’s ability to effectively screen passengers.

“Our audits have repeatedly found that human error— often a simple failure to follow protocol—poses significant vulnerabilities,” DHS’s IG John Roth said—adding that despite offering hundreds of recommendations the TSA has failed to assure that its mission is succeeding.

Related: Report Says TSA Wasted $1 Billion on Screening Program

DHS stood by its decision not to send its acting administrator. An agency official told The Fiscal Times that the department only participates in congressional hearing panels with other government agencies—not with private-sector witnesses in order to avoid conflicts of interest. 

A spokesperson for the committee said that “witness invitations are not transferable” and that the “DHS does not dictate how we run our hearings.”

This isn’t the only roadblock the Oversight Committee has run into with the TSA. During the hearing, Chairman Chaffetz showed off a heavily redacted document he had requested from the agency—saying even members of Congress had “exceptional” difficulties getting information from them.

The committee spokesperson said House Oversight is currently looking into other ways the TSA has frustrated congressional inquiries—and what kinds of action can be taken.

Chart of the Day: Dem Candidates Face Their Own Tax Plans

Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren participate in the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston
MIKE BLAKE/Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Democratic presidential candidates are proposing a variety of new taxes to pay for their preferred social programs. Bloomberg’s Laura Davison and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou took a look at how the top four candidates would fare under their own tax proposals.

Quote of the Day: The Health Care Revolution That Wasn’t

Benis Arapovic/GraphicStock
By The Fiscal Times Staff

“The fact is very little medical care is shoppable. We become good shoppers when we are repeat shoppers. If you buy a new car every three years, you can become an informed shopper. There is no way to become an informed shopper for your appendix. You only get your appendix out once.”

— David Newman, former director of the Health Care Cost Institute, quoted in an article Thursday by Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times. Levey says the “consumer revolution” in health care – in which patients shop around for the best prices, forcing doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms to compete with lower prices – hasn’t materialized, but the higher deductibles that were part of the effort are very much in effect. “High-deductible health insurance was supposed to make American patients into smart shoppers,” Levey writes. “Instead, they got stuck with medical bills they can't afford.”

Congressional Report of the Day: The US Pays Nearly 4 Times More for Drugs

A pharmacist holds prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D.  at a local pharmacy
REUTERS/George Frey
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The House Ways and Means Committee released a new analysis of drug prices in the U.S. compared to 11 other developed nations, and the results, though predictable, aren’t pretty. Here are the key findings from the report:

  • The U.S. pays the most for drugs, though prices varied widely.
  • U.S. drug prices were nearly four times higher than average prices compared to similar countries.
  • U.S. consumers pay significantly more for drugs than other countries, even when accounting for rebates.
  • The U.S. could save $49 billion annually on Medicare Part D alone by using average drug prices for comparator countries.

Read the full congressional report here.

Chart of the Day: How the US Ranks for Retirement

Ken Bosma / Flickr
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The U.S. ranks 18th for retiree well-being among developed nations, according to the latest Global Retirement Index from Natixis, the French corporate and investment bank. The U.S. fell two spots in the ranking this year, due in part to rising economic inequality and poor performance for life expectancy.