Good reporting from Wirepoints, based on articles from Reason and Pro Publica, about the City of Chicago pushing low-income motorists into bankruptcy. These sources focus on the twin injustices of punitive ticketing and fines, and aggressive impoundment of innocent motorists’ cars. Of course parking restrictions, liability insurance requirements, and traffic rules need to be enforced, but it’s pretty clear that Chicago Police and other municipal actors see this as a source of revenue to pay their salaries and pensions, more than as an enforcement mechanism. The statistics imply a racist motive as well.
But that’s not the point. The point is, why do people with low incomes need to own cars? Why can’t they get where they need to go by transit? The answer, of course, is that in most affordable neighborhoods transit is sparse: Buses run slowly and infrequently, and quit early. Rail is only a bit faster, and most lines also lack 24-hour service. Relatively few jobs are reliably accessible within an hour, or even two hours travel time. And with the demise of neighborhood retail, cars are almost essential for shopping. Schools, libraries, other government facilities have large free parking lots even it they’re poorly-located for transit and pedestrian access. So of course people who can’t afford to own and operate automobiles find they’re compelled to have them.
This doesn’t justify the municipality stealing money and property from residents already living on the economic edge. It just makes it worse.
Many of us have long assumed that a strong demand for labor results in less crime. At least, less of the kind of crime people get imprisoned for. And of course we assume this works most strongly for people at the bottom of the economic ladder, a category which includes most of those released after serving time in prison.
Now we have a study (or more precisely, a report on a study because the original source is behind a paywall) which confirms this assumption. Basically, those released into a strong economy are less likely to return to prison than those released in slack times. Because the study was apparently done at the county level, there would be enough cases that it’s not a statistical artifact. From the abstract:
[B]eing released to a county with higher low-skilled wages significantly decreases the risk of recidivism. The impact of higher wages on recidivism is larger for both black offenders and first-time offenders, and in sectors that report being more willing to hire ex-offenders. These results are robust to individual- and county-level controls…
So, since taxing privilege rather than production is an economic development tool, we can also assert that it is an anti-crime measure.
The Washington Post says that Richmond, CA has reduced shootings by paying violent offenders up to $1,000 per month to be less violent. The murder rate declined by 50%. Even tho the cost of this program is less than the cost of adding one cop to the force, isn’t it wrong to bribe criminals to not commit crimes?
Of course it’s wrong, but it seems to work. So what if, instead of giving money to violent criminals, we gave money to everybody, thru a citizens dividend?
The Richmond program also hires mentors to help the beneficiaries stay out of trouble, which is an additional necessary component of a program like this.