Sunday, December 1, 2013

Life: Decoupling Economic Dependencies on Government Laws

I was going through some articles about parking ticket scams where people were given parking tickets where most have never been in the state before or was clearly not there during the time of the violation. Although there were so many things wrong with the system, what really got me thinking was when did our justice system put the burden of proof upon the victims when all they have is the hearsay of a traffic officer. Somehow, the victims now have to provide documents, lawyer fees, etc., for something they did not commit in the first place yet the law does not even produce a picture of the violation even especially after dispute. 

On a similar note... if a sign was missing or a meter was broken, the burden is on the victim to prove that it was missing or broken, yet not the burden of the government to prove that the meter was working and the sign was there. On top of that, even if you pay the fine because it is cheaper than proving your innocence a $2 convenience fee is added for paying online. 

Where did our society go wrong? Yet when come to changing the laws, some of the arguments is on how the government will compensate for the lost revenue if the law changes. What does that even have to do with the justice system? Then to kick the average citizen while they're down, they let many criminals free because of technicalities that average citizens cannot exercise due to severity of crime or too poor.

This is not an easy task for the government to balance but I think there are benefits to directing our budget to segregate where the revenue is used. Economically, I believe the problem is because they pay for programs using revenue from another program. In this case, parking tickets and violations produce a lot of revenue for the government (local, state, or federal) to pay for many programs.

To simplify the laws, I think it would be wiser to start to focus the penalties of laws towards the costs of misdemeanor crimes. Revenue produced from parking tickets can only be used towards the cost of parking issues. Taxes on tobacco or other illegal substances should only be used on programs that deal with anti-substance abuse.

This is not necessarily simpler but possible as insurance companies are able to make profit on similar type disasters. Parking issues should include some of the cost of the chance that the parking may cause the building to burn down. For example, the car parked in front of the fire hydrant so the fire engine could not effectively save the house. Part of the revenue from that parking ticket should pay for the damages on the burning house scenario. Thus inversely, the proportional percentage of the cost should be built into the ticket fine. Thus if the damages was $500k and car caused $10k of the damage, then $10k divided by number of expected fire hydrant parking violations should be the minimum to the ticket. Of course there are several other variables that needs to be included but that should be the gist of the concept.

By this same concept, income tax should be used towards our universal programs that impacts all citizens, like National Security, Social Security, National Healthcare (if it continues to exist), public education, all the court fees for defending the constitution, etc. Property tax used on programs for the property.

If we ever reach a point where one of the programs "makes a profit" then that should be saved in the government "bank" that can be "borrowed" for other programs when a disaster does occur but there is not enough funds for that program yet. If there was an unexpected hiccup, like Superstorm Sandy, recovery programs can borrow money from the "bank" to pay for the costs now. But eventually, that "debt" needs to be repaid. In the case of Sandy, since it is the welfare of East Coast residents, that should at least come out of the state income tax of the states impacted. If the US citizens want to assist, a part of the federal tax revenue can also be used. By doing this, it sets our expectations that our income tax is used to protect our welfare.

By not meeting expectations. this puts a lot of burden on the government for many things like PR, managing risks, and handling a very complex system. For example, the $2 convenience fee. We all know that online payments save the government money over hiring processors to receive mail, open mail, manually enter data, send check to bank, and all the other exceptions like overdrafting, canceled checks. Why leave such a sour taste in their own citizens by stating that it is for their convenience when most people know it is not for our convenience? The government can probably get less gripe by just by saying "because we want to fee" instead of convenience fee.

The purpose of all this is to decouple the dependencies between programs due to economic reasons. We should not be prevented in correcting a particular social issue just because it impacts the revenue, thus preventing ourselves from passing a law that is more justified.

Side Note

First, I'd like to apologize if the ideas do not flow together. I started with one idea then it morphed into something a bit bigger and just wanted to type it down as the thoughts came to me. I figured I will still go ahead and publish in-case someone happens to stumble upon this article and has some additional thoughts or reading material. I would like to revisit this thought again sometime in the future.

Another interesting thought that came to mind was my use of a software engineering term, decoupling. This got me into thinking how the government should be structured similar to a large application with a controller (federal government) with maybe something like interfaces (for state government). Basically, I think we need a plan that would refactor the code (laws) so that it is more effective. 

If there are any PhD candidates looking for a thesis (probably in Political Science or maybe Computer Science or Software Engineering), I would definitely be interested in such a topic.

Very last thought, isn't it a very terrible way to learn (or get clarifications) on certain laws by accidentally breaking them? Seriously... blocking the box, no right turns in the city proper violations, are not common knowledge nor is it common for people to check on all the laws on everything. I tell that to anyone visiting to nyc. Or not having to come to a complete stop for right turns in California. How about a warning system that fines people the minimum amount for the time of the officer to give me the warning? Instead of having your average citizens more afraid of the law than criminals. http://www.dmv.org/fun-stuff/bizarre-driving-laws.php

As if to prove that traffic laws in themselves are confusing, most areas do not allow U-turns yet I have encountered intersections with No U-Turn signs even when it is already a violation but still have random intersections without the sign within eye-sight of the previous intersection. If you do not read up on the laws, you may be tricked into thinking that it is legal to make a U-Turn at an intersection that does not have the sign. So make sure to remember that even though there may be a sign explicitly stating that violation, that does not necessarily mean that it is not a violation when a sign does not exist.


Reference

Parking Ticket Scams - People receiving parking tickets at locations they've never been to

http://charlottejhsu.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/the-896-80-parking-ticket-i-received-while-2000-miles-away/ - Not exactly never there but clearly not during the time frame of the ticket

Parking Ticket Discount (I only found NYC to have this. I thought this was interested and as stated by the article was not a lot of people are aware of this)


Convenience Fee