The TSA’s $1.4 Million Coin Toss

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on April 9, 2016 in Money Saving Strategies, Personal Finances

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
Woody Allen

Today we take a step back…draw a deep breath…and dare to cast a skeptical eye at the weird and wonderful world around us.

As far as we can tell, in matters of money… politics… education…modern man routinely rushes to make an ass of himself.

Oh, how the gods must be laughing!

Reading the news, it’s getting harder to tell fact from fiction…satire from reality…a genuine scoop from an outright dupe.

It reminds us of the old Mark Twain quip: “If you don’t read the papers, you’re uninformed. If you do read them, you’re misinformed!”

As we scan the headlines, we don’t know whether to laugh, cry…or buy a tin foil hat and head for the hills.

See for yourself…

Here’s one from Geek Magazine:

“TSA paid $1.4 million for Randomizer app that chooses left or right.”


“The app randomly chooses whether travelers go left or right in the Pre-Check lane,” the article helpfully explains. “That way, nobody can predict which lane each person is assigned to and therefore can’t figure out how to avoid the random checks.”

Apparently, the app itself “only” cost $336,000…the remainder of the contract, awarded to IBM, went on…training? Here’s a video of the app at work…


Right or left? The TSA’s $1.4 Million Question…

Now, your editor is no tech genius. He still reads books made from trees…and makes notes in the margins with things called “pencils.”

But something tells us $1.4 million is a lot to pay for technology that essentially mimics a coin toss.

Here’s an idea. There are 65,000 warm bodies on the TSA frontline. Let’s assume half of them are bright enough to flip a coin. How about we agree to give each of these relatively gifted agents two quarters (one “primary” coin and one “back up” coin, for when the first one is inevitably lost).

Heads = left lane. Tales = right lane.

Total cost: $16,250…a saving of roughly $1.38 million (and change).

Yes, we can hear the thunderclouds clapping. Zeus is rolling on the floor laughing (or ROFL as the kids say).
Here’s another headline, sent to us by a dear friend:

“Failure To Get Into Private College To Be Most Financially Responsible Act Of 17-Year-Old’s Life.”

That one’s actually from The Onion, a popular satirical site.

It’s a fake, in other words. But it’s funny because it could be true. As reported before in these pages, student loans may well be the next bubble looking for a pin in the era of modern monetary whimsy and charade.

Let’s see…how does this work again?

Ah yes. First, the Federal Reserve creates trillions of dollars ex nihilo…or “out of nothing.” These freshly conjured currency units then filter through the economy, in the form of EZ credit, looking for one boneheaded investment after another.

Along the way, institutions like Sallie Mae and a handful of the Big Banks (Citi, Wachovia, Wells Fargo) extend student loans to impressionable youths, who are encouraged to think a master’s degree in medieval folk chants will guarantee them a middle management position in a reputable firm, with a salary large enough to repay their exorbitant debts.

Officially publicly traded corporations, these loan houses are really just state-coddled institutions. They work hand-in-hand with regulators (to preserve a strictly limited competition landscape) and the endless supply of cheap money means there is always more to lend to people who can’t afford to repay it.

To be sure, the money doesn’t actually go to the vacantly chanting graduates…it passes through their hands like Pabst Blue Ribbon passes through a beer funnel.

Rather, it ends up in that other bureaucratic molasses, the “education system”…and the hordes of parasites, hangers on and non-teaching “administrators” who contribute very little to actual learning but a whole lot to the cost of getting an “education.”

Today, there’s over a trillion “funny munny” dollars in outstanding student loans…and no conceivable way to repay them.

Can you hear that, The Savvy Retiree Daily reader? It’s not a tsunami…it’s Poseidon slapping his godly knees…Athena doubled over in mirthful tears…Hermes convulsing in delighted shrieks…

But wait, there’s more!

Here’s one from the Wall Street Journal:

“Chase ATMs to Limit Withdrawals…”

According to the story, “partly due to heightened regulatory scrutiny, banks are paying more attention to large cash transfers that could be a sign of money laundering or other types of shady activity…”

Hold on a second…

Heightened regulatory scrutiny… Shady activity… Large cash transfers…

Our recollection of history might be a little bit fuzzy here…

But is this the same J.P. Morgan Chase that was handed $25 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout money in 2008 as part of the government’s controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)?

You remember TARP, don’t you? The back room, 11th-hour deal cobbled together by a handful of insiders that saw hundreds of billions of dollars funneled into the coffers of the nation’s “too-big-to-fail” institutions during the financial crisis?

This being the crisis, you’ll remember, that these same regulators didn’t see coming and/or were powerless to prevent?

Hmm…we’re beginning to see how this works.

The government transfers $25 billion of taxpayer money to one of the biggest banks in the country as and when it sees fit…

But an individual withdrawing more than $1,000 from an ATM in a single day somehow constitutes “shady activity?”

Sounds like what’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.

The story goes on to explain that “Banks must also file a Currency Transaction Report for cash transactions over $10,000 in one day, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN.”

Ten grand…you know, that’s just about the cost of one year’s tuition for state residents attending public colleges.

Pay that paltry sum in cash and the government requires the bank to file a report monitoring your activity…

…all while, at the same time, it spends millions on coin-toss technology and billions on bailouts for the country’s richest bankers.


Oh, how the gods must be laughing!

T&P Tool Shed

The Education Revolution

By the staff of Truth & Plenty

As college fees rise (leaving inflation rates and college aid in the dust) and the value of a degree continues to be questioned (over half of employed graduates were working in jobs that didn’t require a degree according to a 2014 survey) the free-education movement has begun to gather some serious steam.

But if you’re waiting for some benevolent figure from on high to decree free education for all…I’m afraid you’ll be waiting a very long time indeed.

This is a revolution that won’t be fought on the streets and it certainly won’t be won in congress. It’s an online revolt and it’s already in full swing. Sites like Corsera, EdX and even a number of ivy league schools, including Harvard, now offer higher-level courses for free—a move that’s ushering in a fresh attitude towards education and employment.

According to career expert Dan Scwhabel, it’s early days yet, but “more and more companies are looking outside of traditional degrees for talent.”