Dan Mitchell article notes: “Mayor Lori Lightfoot even arranged to have the cameras hit cars traveling just six miles per hour over the speed limit to help boost the city’s revenue. …In 2016, a former Chicago official was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for taking $2 million in bribes from a different red light camera company”

Traffic Cameras and Greedy Government

Local politicians can be just as greedy and callous as state politicians and national politicians.

Even if it means mistreating poor people.

Perhaps the best evidence for the preceding sentence is the way that traffic cameras are used to generate revenue.

Indeed, local politicians use cameras as a way of grabbing more money even if the net result is more traffic accidents!.

Let’s start with a report in Reason earlier this year. Written by Julian Verdon, it documents how government greed is the main motive for speed cameras.

Pete Buttigieg’s new National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) promotes speed cameras nationwide… But research shows that speed cameras are subject to error and actually end up serving as a means to generate government revenue. …In Chicago, where speed cameras are abundant,the camera program improperly gave out over $2.4 million in fines from 2013 to 2015. Using a random sample analysis, the Chicago Tribune estimated the number of bad tickets to be somewhere around 110,000. …In Washington, D.C., a 2014 report from the D.C. Office of Inspector General found that ticket writers made arbitrary decisions when a camera captured more than one vehicle, and they didn’t know which one was speeding. …Unsurprisingly, the misuse of speed cameras has also become a massive source of revenue for local government.

These are all good points, but they overlook the bigger issue, which is that the cameras usually are placed on streets where speed limits are set at absurdly low levels.

At the risk of stating the obvious, that’s a scam to grab money.

I’m more sympathetic to cameras that catch people running red lights since that behavior can endanger others.

But it seems governments are incapable of doing the right thing for the right reason. Such cameras are designed to maximize revenue for politicians by shortening yellow lights – even even that that approach causes more crashes.

It’s also worth noting that the companies that set up traffic cameras frequently bribe local politicians.

As one might expect, Chicago is the epicenter of sleaze, as reported by Scott Shackford for Reason.

Illinois State Sen. Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) was indicted in September on federal charges of bribery and lying to the FBI. He’s accused of accepting $5,000 and the promise of a job for an associate from a person connected to SafeSpeed, a red-light camera company. …At this point, we should not be surprised at accusations of corruption and bribery concerning the extremely active revenue-generating cameras in the Chicago area.…Mayor Lori Lightfoot even arranged to have the cameras hit cars traveling just six miles per hour over the speed limit to help boost the city’s revenue. …In 2016, a former Chicago official was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for taking $2 million in bribes from a different red light camera company…four other local officials who have faced charges in the past for misconduct connected to SafeSpeed’s work in the Chicago suburbs. …Oakbrook Terrace’s former mayor, Tony Ragucci,…pleaded guilty in May to pocketing close to $90,000 in exchange for allowing SafeSpeed to operate red-light cameras in the town. …”We all know it’s about money. Revenue. Legal or illegal. That’s why these cameras are there,” Oak Brook Village Trustee Mike Manzo said.

We all know traffic cameras are about revenue rather than safety, but it’s good that Mr. Manzo confirms our suspicions.

That’s why you should watch this video to see why Jay Beeber is a hero.

And it’s why we should cheer this anonymous heroas well.

Since I’m handing out plaudits, the people of Arizonaalso deserve applause, along with Houston’s voters.

P.S. There are even some good people in other countries.

Illinois and Fiscal Suicide, Part II

Yesterday’s column discussed Caterpillar’s decision to move its headquarters from high-tax Illinois to low-tax Texas.

Today, we have more bad news for the Prairie State.

A major investment fund, Citadel, also has decided to leave Illinois.

Is the company moving to a different high-tax state, perhaps California or New York? Maybe Connecticutor New Jersey?

Nope. Citadel is going to Florida, a state famous for having no income tax.

The Wall Street Journal opined this morning about Citadel’s move.

The first step to recovery is supposed to be admitting you have a problem. But Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker still won’t, even after billionaire Ken Griffin on Thursday said he’s moving his Citadel hedge fund and securities trading firm to Miami from Chicago.…Meantime, Democrats in Springfield continue to threaten businesses and citizens with higher taxes… It’s no wonder so many companies and people are leaving, and mostly to low-tax states. …In 2020, $2.4 billion in net adjusted gross income moved to Florida from Illinois, about $298,000 per tax filer. …Mr. Griffin has spent tens of millions of his personal fortune trying to rescue Illinois from bad progressive governance. Maybe he figures it’s time to cut his losses.

Other (former) Illinois residents cut their losses last decade.

Scott Shackford of Reason shared grim data at the end of 2020 about the ongoing exodus from Illinois.

For the seventh year in a row, census figures show residents moving out of Illinois in significant numbers. …Perhaps demanding that your excessively taxed residents give the government even more money is not the best way to keep those residents in your state… Over the course of the last decade, Illinois lost more than a quarter-million people…not even California…has seen Illinois’ population loss. …Government leaders have responded not with better fiscal management (the state’s powerful unions blocked pension reforms), but with more taxes and fees, even as residents leave.

The bottom line is that Illinois is currently losing people and businesses.

Just as it lost people and businesses last decade.

And you can see from this map that taxpayers also were fleeing the state earlier this century.

I’m guessing the state’s hypocritical governorprobably thinks this is a good thing because the people who left probably didn’t vote for tax-and-spend politicians.

But that’s a very short-sighted viewpoint.

After all, parasites need a healthy host. If you’re a flea or a tick, it’s bad news if you’re on a dog that dies.

As Michael Barone noted many years ago, that’s a lesson that Illinois politicians haven’t learned.

Illinois and Fiscal Suicide, Part I

I wrote a couple of days ago about California’s grim future.

But now I’ll share some good news. No matter how bad California gets, the Golden State probably won’t have to worry about people and businesses fleeing to Illinois.

That’s because the Prairie State is an even bigger mess. If California is committing “slow motion suicide,” Illinois is opting for the quickest-possible fiscal demise.

Politicians in Springfield (the Illinois capital) have a love affair with higher taxes. A very passionate love affair.

But the state’s productive people have a different point of view. More and more of them have been escaping.

And they are now being joined by the state’s most-famous company, as Matt Paprocki of the Illinois Policy Institute explains in a column for the Washington Post.

When Boeing announced last month that it was moving its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Va., it sent shudders through the Illinois business community and state capital.But last week, when the heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar said it was moving its headquarters to Texas, it felt more like a bulldozer ramming into the news. …If you’re an Illinois business owner or resident, as I am, the economics of staying are tough and the enticements to move away are many. …According to the U.S. Census Bureau, last year the state had the third-largest loss of residents due to domestic migration in the nation (-122,460), trailing only California and New York.

It’s easy to understand why people and businesses are leaving.

In 2017, Illinois lawmakers raised the personal income tax rate to 4.95 percent, from 3.75 percent, and hiked the corporate rate to 7 percent, from 5.25 percent. When J.B. Pritzker took office as governor in 2019, he passed another 24 tax and fee hikes costing taxpayers over $5 billion. …With 278,475 regulatory restrictions and requirements — double the national average — Illinois has the third most heavily regulated environment in the country. …Illinois owes over $139 billion in state pension debt as of last year, and local governments owe about $75 billion, which is the primary driver for Illinois’ spiraling property taxes, second-highest in the nation.

Mr. Paprocki offers all sorts of suggestions for reform, including a spending cap.

But the chances of pro-growth reform are effectively zero. The governor is a hard-core leftist (as well as a hypocrite) and the state legislature is controlled by government employee unions.

So if you’re hoping for a TABOR-style spending cap, there’s little reason to be optimistic.

And if you’re hoping for reforms that will improve the state’s “least friendly” tax climate, don’t hold your breath.

California is the Greece of the USA, but Texas is not perfect either!!!

Texas is in much better shape than California. Taxes are lower, in part because Texas has no state income tax.

No wonder the Lone Star State is growing faster and creating more jobs.

And the gap will soon get even wider since California voters recently decided to drive away more productive people by raising top tax rates.

But a key challenge for all governments is controlling the size and cost of bureaucracies.

Government employees are probably overpaid in both states, but the situation is worse in California, as I discuss in this interview with John Stossel.

Dan Mitchell Comparing Excessive Bureaucrat Compensation in Texas and California

But being better than California is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Texas fiscal policy.

A column in today’s Wall Street Journal, written by the state’s Comptroller of Public Accounts, points out some worrisome signs.

As the chief financial officer of the nation’s second-largest state, even I have found it hard to get a handle on how much governments are spending, and how much debt they’re taking on. Every level of government is piling up incredible bills. And they’re coming due, whether we like it or not. Even in low-tax Texas, property taxes have risen three times faster than the inflation rate and four times faster than our population growth since 1992. Our local governments, meanwhile, more than doubled their debt load in the last decade, to more than $7,500 in debt for every man, woman and child in the state. In Houston alone, city-employee pension plans are facing an unfunded liability of $2.4 billion. But too many taxpayers aren’t given the information they need to make informed decisions when they vote debt issues. Recently I spent several months holding about 40 town-hall meetings with Texans across our state. Each time, I asked the attendees if they could tell me how much debt their local governments are carrying. Not a single person in a single town had this information.

In other words, taxpayers need to be eternally vigilant, regardless of where they live. Otherwise the corrupt rectangle of politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and interest groups will figure out hidden ways of using the political process to obtain unearned wealth.

P.S. The second-most-viewed post on this blog is this joke about Texas, California, and a coyote, so it must be at least somewhat amusing. If you want some Texas-specific humor, this police exam is amusing and you’ll enjoy this joke about the difference between Texans, liberals and conservatives. And if you want California-specific humor, this Chuck Asay cartoon hits the nail on the head.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: