March 21, 2016

IT’S AS IF THEY SEE THE CITIZENRY AS PREY: The brute force of government spending on autopilot.

California is filled with people who are one traffic ticket away from losing their means of independent transportation. They get a ticket for a busted tail light or a small-change moving violation. On paper, the fine is $100, but with surcharges, it’s more like $490. People who cannot pay often do not show up in court — which drives up the cost. According to the Judicial Council of California, about 612,000 Californians have suspended driver’s licenses because they didn’t pay fines. In 2013, more people — 510,811 — had their licenses suspended for not paying fines than the 150,366 who lost their licenses for drunken driving.

“For a lot of people, the car is the only asset they own in this whole damn world,” noted Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “When you take their car, you’re taking the thing that helps them make money.”

Herald is an author of a report about how traffic courts drive inequality that helped prompt Gov. Jerry Brown to institute an 18-month amnesty program to deliver Californians from a “hellhole of desperation.” Under the program, Californians can get their outstanding fines reduced by 50 percent — or 80 percent, if they make less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level. The amnesty program does not apply to parking tickets, reckless driving or drunk driving.

This is one of those issues that unites activists on the left and the right.

It should unite them to tar and feathers, but whatever.