Class Struggle at the Airport

I've always thought that the real reason conservatives recoil in disgust from the idea of "socialized" health care is their belief that in a system like Britain's (actual socialized care) or Canada's (private care, socialized insurance), the wealthy can't buy more care than anybody else. In practice that's not really true—most single-payer systems include some kind of supplemental private insurance you can get that will give you more perks than the common folk, like a private room when you're admitted to the hospital. But the point is, American conservatives are deeply committed to inequality as a fundamental principle of resource distribution. Whatever we're talking about—iPads, cars, education, health care—rich people ought to be able to use their money to get more of it than the rest of us. What's the point of being rich if you aren't elevated beyond the teeming masses during every moment of every day and in every aspect of your existence?

Maybe I'm caricaturing them because I'm a liberal, but I don't think so. The question is, are there any areas of life where we all should have to suffer the same hassles and indignities, no matter what our net worth? I'm not begrudging a millionaire his Porsche, but if I have to wait at the DMV for two hours to register my used car, he ought to have to do the same for his finely crafted piece of German engineering. And what about the airport?

More airports around the United States will soon allow passengers to go through security without removing their shoes, light jackets, and belts.

The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its expedited screening program called PreCheck to 60 new airports by the end of the year and is increasing the number of lanes for the program at the 40 airports that currently offer it.

PreCheck passengers also can leave laptops and small liquids in their carry-on luggage.

It's almost enough to make you think that the requirement to remove your laptop and the prohibition on liquids are more security theater than real security. But here's the the rub: if you want to join PreCheck it'll cost you $85 (and a background check). Granted, that's not exactly a king's ransom, but your average family of four who goes to visit Aunt Gladys once a year isn't going to fork over $340 over and above their already expensive tickets for it. So you end up with a system where the wealthy and expense-accounted breeze on through, while the rabble have to suffer through all the ridiculous, demeaning, and ineffective hassles that the TSA can come up with. It's not exactly the plot of Elysium, but we're getting there.

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