Distrust of government is well founded

In response to the December 4 Perspectives column by Tom Giovanetti , "A tech tool for future tyrants":

I completely agree. I could add any number of examples to your list. I've been an international trade professional for several decades, starting with a career in the U.S. Customs Service, then moving on to private industry.

One egregious example of government not following through on a promise, much like the Texas Lottery example you cited, was in 1986. The Congress passed a Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF) for the U.S. Customs Service. This was a fee, in addition to the duties an importer must pay, collected on each commercial shipment. It was ad valorum, based on the value of the shipment, and was supposed to recover the cost of operating the U.S. Customs Service. (Never mind that Customs collected $100 for every $2 spent in its operations already, just in the duties.)

Years later, Customs needed to upgrade its computer systems, but there was no budget to do so. Both the government and the importing community agreed that the system, by then over 20 years old, needed the upgrade.

However, Customs needed $1.2 billion for the project. Where was the money that had been collected over the years under the MPF? All had been dumped into the Treasury's General Fund and spent on whatever Congress felt like spending it on. Customs had continued to have to submit budget requests and get funds appropriated from the General Fund each year for operations. No money was left for the computer systems, even though the total collections of the MPF were several times greater than the amount needed.

Another governmental "bait-and-switch" routine.

Ronald Edelstein
Richardson, Texas