To avoid Detroit’s Fate Chicago looks at Revenue Generation from Speed Cameras

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 11th, 2013

Week in Review

The City of Detroit bankruptcy shows how the massive costs of a city’s public sector are strangling these cities.  Promises of generous pensions for a long retirement and free health insurance up until you die are just promises these cities can’t pay for.  So some (like Detroit) raised their tax rates so high that people left the city in droves.  Further reducing the tax base.  While other cities turn to other revenue generating schemes (see Speeders were plentiful in camera test run by David Kidwell and Bill Ruthhart posted 8/12/2013 on the Chicago Tribune).

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel rolls out his long-delayed speed camera plan, new numbers his office released suggest that drivers who speed in Chicago could rack up way more in fines than a cash-starved City Hall initially projected.

The mayor had hoped to bring in $30 million this year. But results from a monthlong test of the automated camera system indicate the city could reap well into the hundreds of millions of dollars in the program’s first year.

City transportation officials argue that estimate is overblown, but the test period statistics the mayor’s office released Friday reinvigorated critics who argue that the program is more of a cash grab than the child safety measure Emanuel sold it as…

City transportation officials put estimated first-year revenues at $40 million to $60 million, arguing that several factors will cut down on the number of tickets actually issued.

For starters, they argue that it’s incorrect to estimate revenues based on the test program. They suggest the money will never reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars because of a number of factors. The most important: the fast learning curve of Chicago drivers…

Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th, who voted against the speed camera program, said the number of speeders captured on the test cameras supports her insistence that the main motivation is to generate more city revenue.

“I guess this is just going to be a city for wealthy people, that’s where we’re headed,” she said…

The speed camera rollout was scheduled for closer to the start of the year, but it was delayed after City Hall came under scrutiny following Tribune reports of an alleged bribery scandal involving its 10-year-old red light camera program.

Making the streets safer for children is a noble goal.  But like their red light camera program it’s all about the Benjamins.  The money.  And they love cameras because they can rake in the money without having to put more costly public sector workers (i.e., cops) onto the streets.  That is, they’re outsourcing these costly union jobs to machines.  To minimize their labor costs.  Just like corporations try to minimize their labor costs.  Because union workers are very, very expensive.

But like every government revenue policy they’ve overstated the expected revenue from these cameras.  Just like a higher cigarette tax rate reduces cigarette tax revenue.  Taxes, and these revenue cameras, change human behavior.  Actually achieving the stated purpose for them (better health if people don’t smoke and safer streets if speeders are punished).  Which means though they have a burst of revenue in the beginning it will eventually taper away.  Requiring a new revenue generating scheme.  And then another one to replace that one.  And so on.  On and on.  Forever and forever.  Instead of doing the simpler thing.  And the thing that would work best.  Forever and forever.  Just stop spending so much.

If the public sector union enjoyed pensions and health care benefits like they do in the private sector there would be no Detroits going bankrupt.  Because there would be no generational theft.  These workers would provide their own pensions—401(k)s—and pay a much larger portion of their health care expense.  And they would work into their Sixties (or more) like the rest of America.  Instead of retiring in their 40s or 50s.  To enjoy a retirement that in some cases lasts longer than their working career.  This would solve the budget problems of the big cities.  Instead of passing it on to future taxpayers who were not included in those generous contract negotiations that they find themselves stuck paying for.


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Britain is looking to sell the Royal Mail to escape Out of Control Pension Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 13th, 2013

Week in Review

The United States Postal Service isn’t the only postal service flirting with the idea of privatization.  So is the Royal Mail.  And, predictably, some are not happy about making government jobs like private sector jobs (see Royal Mail privatisation ‘will lead to soaring prices and job losses while taxpayer keeps debts’ by Graham Hiscott posted 7/11/2013 on the Mirror).

STAMP prices will soar and jobs will be slashed when the Royal Mail is privatised.

The warning came from critics as the Government announced its controversial plan to kick off a £3billion sale.

It is feared the sell-off could see a big chunk of the company snapped up by foreign investors, with investment banks raking in millions in fees.

So while the Treasury pockets a pre-election windfall, the taxpayer will still be paying for Royal Mail’s £12billion pension deficit.

Chuka Umunna, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, said it amounted to “nationalising its debts and privatising its profits”.

This pretty much says it all.  Pension costs are so out of control that the only way the Royal Mail can survive is with huge government subsidies.  And if they cut those subsidies they will have to pay for those pensions with the revenue from stamps.  Which means stamp prices will have to rise to replace those lost subsidies.  So these government workers can continue to enjoy those generous pensions.

Britain has an aging population.  Like most of the developed world.  People are living longer.  Giving them more time to suffer more diseases.  Raising the cost of pensions and health care for retirees.  Ponzi schemes like state pensions worked when there was an expanding population growth rate with more people entering the workforce than were leaving it.  But those days are long gone.  As are the days of defined benefit pension plans.  Where today they only result in unfunded pension obligations.  And companies like the United States Postal Service and the Royal Mail unable to pay their bills.

The reason why unions resist the privatization is that these business models cannot survive in the private sector.  For their labor costs (pay and benefits) far exceed anything available in the private sector.  And the only way they can keep those generous pay and benefit packages is by having the taxpayer subsiding their cost.  But if they go private and it costs $7.50 to mail a utility payment people aren’t going to mail their utility payments anymore.  And people will see the true cost of union labor.  Which means either unions must match the pay and benefit packages they have in the private sector.  Or they will lose all their union jobs.  Because no one is going to pay $7.50 to mail a letter.


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