Suffolk Plan to Pay for Broken Tail Lights: Virtue Signaling at its Worst
By Steve Levy
If you have ever wondered how virtue signaling can lead to poor governmental policy, look no further than Suffolk County’s recent program that will pay motorists to fix their broken tail light rather than issuing tickets.
Why should taxpayers – directly or indirectly – pay for upkeep of a private vehicle after the owner neglected to do so?
It’s pretty obvious from where this proposal germinated. Over the past few years , politicians have been doing backflips trying to show the public how woke they are. Many government agencies, including Suffolk County, convened panels to come up with ways to make the government more sympatico with the residents over whom it governs.
Someone at one of these panels apparently stepped forward to say: “Here is a great idea on how to show that we are compassionate towards those who are disadvantaged. Instead of issuing motorists tickets, let’s fix their cars.” To which a government leader responded: “Hey, that sounds great. We will make those folks who are pulled over our friends and be able to virtue signal to the rest of the community how much we care.”
But in the process, they ticked off the rest of society that did the responsible thing in keeping up their vehicles. As some angry letter writers wrote, why can one individual get paid by the government/nonprofit partnership for his broken tail light, but I can’t get paid for my broken windshield? Good question.
When we divide the electorate into these winners and losers, ultimately everyone loses because we break down the social contract that exists between the governed and those who are elected to represent them. Ultimately, those who are governed agree to sacrifice certain rights so that the government will supply a sense of order and fairness. Break that cycle of fairness, and the whole system falls apart.
That’s why it’s so dangerous for the government to start canceling student loans for some, while not paying off the loans of others. The government wants to pay off the loans of doctors and lawyers, but no government officials are coming forward to pay off the loans of high school dropouts who had to buy tools for their businesses or a car to get to work every day.
A word of wisdom to the government: Stop picking winners and losers. Stop the virtue signaling and the pandering for votes from specific sections of the electorate.
If a not-for-profit wants to come forward to pay for someone’s broken tail light, the best solution is for the police to continue to issue the ticket, but perhaps notify the motorist that he or she has the opportunity to contact the not-for-profit for reimbursement.
That’s the only way this ill-conceived concept can pass the smell test.
Steve Levy is President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a NYS Assemblyman, and host of “The Steve Levy Radio Show.” He is the author of “Solutions to America’s Problems” and “Bias in the Media.” www.SteveLevy.info, Twitter @SteveLevyNY, email@example.com