Virginia Hands Out 6996 Traffic Tickets In One Weekend In An Effort To Raise Revenue For The State Government

In the old days, police officers wrote traffic tickers primarily to keep people safe and to prevent citizens from breaking the traffic laws.  But in the new Amerika, all of that has changed.  Now traffic tickets are primarily viewed as a revenue raising tool for state and local governments.  For example, a federally funded ticketing blitz in the state of Virginia resulted in a total of 6996 traffic tickets being handed out this past weekend.  This most recent ticketing blitz is part of a campaign code-named “Operation Air, Land & Speed”.  Last Saturday and Sunday state troopers were ordered to absolutely saturate Interstate 95 and Interstate 81 and to issue as many traffic tickets as humanly possible during those two days.  Why?  Well, it turns out that the state of Virginia has a 2.2 billion dollar budget deficit that they are trying to deal with, and so they need to find some quick sources of cash. 

You see, state and local governments all over the nation are massively jacking up traffic fines and are starting to write a lot more tickets in an attempt to “enhance” their streams of revenue.

In other words, state and local governments across the U.S. are broke and so they need some suckers to prey on.

Not that it was ever a good idea to break the traffic laws.  But now even a minor violation can put a massive hole in your wallet.  For instance, driving as little as 15 miles an hour over the speed limit in Virginia can get you a reckless driving charge that can carry a fine of up to $2500.

So why the hefty fines?

Well, the law increasing the traffic fines in Virginia clearly admitted why they are so high….

“The purpose of the civil remedial fees imposed in this section is to generate revenue.” (Virginia Code 46.2-206.1)

Are you starting to get the picture?

But this kind of thing is not just happening in Virginia.

“Sobriety checkpoints” in the state of California are increasingly bring used as revenue raising operations.  It turns out that these sobriety checkpoints are far more likely to seize cars from unlicensed motorists than they are to catch drunk drivers.

So how profitable are these “sobriety” checkpoints?

Well, research done by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley with California Watch discovered that impounds at “sobriety” checkpoints in 2009 alone generated approximately 40 million dollars in towing fees and police fines.

That is what you call a source of revenue.

In Detroit, even the police admit that the fundamental nature of police work is changing.  Just consider the following quote from from Police Chief Michael Reaves of Utica, Michigan….

“When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement, but if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues.”

Sgt. Richard Lyons of Trenton, Michigan is even more blunt about what is happening in his community….

“They’re trying to use police officers to balance the budget on the backs of drivers, and it’s too bad. The people we count on to support us and help us when we’re on the road are the ones who end up paying the bills, and they’re ticked off about it. We might as well just go door to door and tell people, ‘Slide us $100 now since your 16-year-old is going to end up paying us anyway when he starts driving.’ You can’t blame people for getting upset.”

But some localities are converting to even more automated ways of making money from drivers.

For example, “red-light cameras” have become huge revenue raising tools in many areas of the country.  In Los Angeles, revenue from red-light cameras has doubled from $200,000 a month in 2007 to $400,000 a month at the end of 2009.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants cities and counties in his state to take things even farther.  He wants them to install speed sensors on existing red-light cameras.  Speeders caught by these sensors would face fines ranging from $225 to $325.

Don’t all of us wish we could start a business that could make so much money from each customer?

California state officials believe that these speed sensors would raise more than 300 million dollars for the state of California by the end of 2011.

All of this is enough to make one want to drive like a grandmother.

Except then they would get you for going too slow.

Seriously.

The reality is that you have to be very, very careful out there now because the nature of driving in America has fundamentally changed.

Whether it is rapidly increasing traffic fines or all of the toll roads going in everywhere, American drivers are increasingly being viewed as a big fat revenue source.

And as the current economic collapse gets even worse, drivers are going to be preyed upon even more by state and local governments.

If you have not already done so, now is the time to change the way that you drive.  Don’t give state and local governments an excuse to take even more of your hard-earned money from you than they are already.

Has The United States Become A Nation With No Economic Spine?

What are hard working Americans who have scrimped and saved and have done everything “right” financially for decades supposed to think about all of these “bailouts” and of the massive financial mess in Washington?  How are people who have handled their own finances admirably supposed to feel now that the foolishness of others is leading us all towards a horrific economic collapse?  Well, a reader named “Mae” recently left a comment that I think does a good job of communicating what a lot of hard working Americans are feeling right now: My situation is this – we have lived our lives playing by the rules: never carried debt on a credit card that we couldn’t pay off by the due date. If we couldn’t afford the item, we didn’t buy it. We always had a Christmas Club which enabled us to pay cash for the holiday. We payed ourselves first after every paycheck whether it was $10 or $100, whatever we could afford. We made double payments on our mortgage when we could which helped us to pay off our modest home 10 years early. We knew that we couldn’t afford to “have it all” so we made our choices early on and stuck with it. We sacrificed the fancy vacations in order to do large home repairs (like a new roof) ourselves. We didn’t buy expensive cars and now own one outright and carry a small loan on another. That’s our only debt besides monthly bills. We chose jobs that provided health care benefits. We did everything right…we saved and saved and saved to have a decent retirement but of course last year took half the value of our 401k.

Now, I’m expected to sit back and watch Bush, Congress and Obama bail everyone out because they didn’t have the fiscal discipline to manage their money?? I’m supposed to feel bad for people who bought homes they couldn’t afford? or cars they couldn’t pay for? or $1000 cell phone bills? or $20,000 in credit card debt? HELL NO! I’m livid! If I ran my checkbook the way Washington is running the national checkbook, I’d be thrown in jail!

All we can do now is educate as many people as possible about what is happening and hopefully vote all these s.o.b.’s out of office and replace them with fiscally conservative candidates who will vote for term limits. The days of a career politician are over. I don’t know if we can turn any of this around – it will take a lot of hard work to make the tough decisions, but they have to be made if we’re to survive. How many people have the guts to work through this? Not many…we’ve become a spoiled, selfish, arrogant and hypocritical nation with no spine.

Liberty Silver Coins

The Credit Card Trap: How U.S. Credit Card Companies Are Sucking The Financial Life Out Of The American Consumer

There have been very few things more damaging to American consumers over the past couple of decades than credit card debt.  Easy credit has enabled many of us to live absolutely fabulous lifestyles, but outrageously high interest rates, ridiculous penalties and predatory fees have sucked the financial life out of millions of American families.  It is very easy to blame the rapidly exploding debt of the U.S. government for the economic collapse that we are now experiencing, but the truth is that tens of millions of Americans have created their own personal economic disasters by overusing credit cards.  The temptation of easy credit has been too much for millions of Americans to resist, but now all of that easy credit is proving to be incredibly difficult to pay back, and massive debt problems are literally tearing many American families apart.

It is hard to underestimate how devastating credit card debt can be to a family.

According to the credit card repayment calculator, if you owe $6000 on a credit card with a 20 percent interest rate and only pay the minimum payment each time, it will take you 54 years to pay off that credit card.

During that time you will pay $26,168 in interest rate charges in addition to the $6000 in principal that you are required to pay back.

That does not even account for any penalties or fees you may have to pay.

Are you starting to get the picture?

The reality is that credit cards are one of the greatest inventions for sucking the wealth out of middle class American families ever invented.

Just consider the following facts….

*According to the United States Census Bureau, there are approximately 1.5 billion credit cards in use in the United States.

*At the end of 2008, the total credit card debt piled up by American consumers was over 972 billion dollars.  This is an amount that is greater than the GDP of the world’s 122 poorest nations combined.

*78 percent of American households had at least one credit card at the end of 2008.

*The top 10 credit card issuers control approximately 88 percent of the credit card market.

*The average U.S. college graduate leaves school with more than $2,000 in credit card debt.

So is Congress doing anything to protect American consumers?

Well, some of the key provisions of The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, commonly known as the CARD Act, go into full effect for all credit card providers on February 22nd.  In particular, starting on the 22nd limits will be imposed on when credit card issuers can raise rates on existing card balances.

But the truth is that this new law doesn’t really do much to protect us.  U.S. credit card companies will continue to be able to engage in highly predatory practices.  The following are just three examples….

#1) According to Pamela Banks of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, there are no current federal laws that cap credit card interest rates.  In fact, CNN is reporting that interest rates on some major bank credit cards are now as high as 36 percent.

#2) New laws only address the existing fees charged by credit card companies.  So credit card companies are working hard to invent all kinds of new fees and penalties that will get around the new laws so that they can keep sticking it to American consumers.  For example, Citibank is now charging some consumers with a fee if they put less than $2,400 on their card annually.

#3) In anticipation of the CARD Act going into effect, many credit card companies have been aggressively bumping up the minimum payments for many of their customers.  Chase, one of the biggest credit card providers, recently increased the mandatory minimum payment for many consumers by 150 percent.  MBNA, Citibank and Bank of America have announced that they are doubling minimum monthly payments on credit card balances for many of their customers.  These increases have been absolutely devastating for many families who are on a tight budget.

The bottom line is that we all need to get out of debt and we all need to stop using credit cards.  It is financial insanity to end up paying two, three, four or five times as much for an item as it cost in the store.  We have been making the big banks rich by spending money that we do not have.

So if we are going to accuse the U.S. federal government of horribly wasting our money, we have got to be certain that we are geting our own financial houses in order.

But for many American families it is already too late.  It is hard to pay off debt if you don’t have a job and you are about to lose your home.  In fact, many American families find themselves literally being torn apart by financial stress.

Unfortunately, economic times are not going to get any easier.  If you are able, get out of debt while you still can.  Now is the time to tighten our belts and to prepare ourselves and our families for what is ahead.

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