Sunday, August 23, 2009

More health care ramblings

Or, why single payer is the only workable option.

1. The current system is failing. Even if we completely ignore the individual struggles of people who are stuck paying for healthcare out of pocket, or who have to stand in endless lines at "free" healthcare providers, or who have to pay out of pocket for some condition simply because they had the audacity to get a different job, the costs of the current system are out of hand. Various googling leads me to believe that healthcare costs are increasing faster than GDP and/or individual incomes. That means, to me, that there is a looming bubble ready to pop. Like the mortgages, there will come a moment when enough people simply cannot pay for it. As they continue to become ill and continue to use the resources of the healthcare system, the costs for those who still can pay will increase even more.

1b- Slightly more worst-case, we start to have more and more public health crises, straining the system and needlessly creating more costs for someone to pay. The more people who are sick, the more people who will get sick.

("Sucks for them," you might say. And, looking at the individual, yes, that's right. But for every person out there who is more sick than they could be for want of decent care, there is an employer struggling to cover their time off. There is the community of family, friends and acquaintances who get exposed to this person-as-germ-incubator. Infectious diseases, previously thought to be mostly eradicated, are on the rise. We can blame the hippies who don't vaccinate their kids on "moral" grounds, but there are plenty of kids who don't get their shots in time because their parent's can't or choose not to afford it. Infectious disease isn't eradicated simply because we get a vaccine and now we are supermen against that disease. If we are vaccinated against a disease and we get a juicy lungfull of that disease's germs, we will become ill. A vaccine simply gives our immune system a head start in fighting that disease. We still suffer the effects of our immune system doing that fighting. No, the effectiveness of vaccinations is in the so-called "herd immunity". By reducing the numbers of people who contract the disease, or the time it takes to fight the disease, we greatly reduce the chances ("vectors") that people will spread the disease. Over time, there are quite literally fewer germs out there to go around. Like with smallpox- we so greatly reduced the existence of this germ that we don't even have to vaccinate against it any more.

2- Continuing from #1 above, the relative costs of healthcare will be going up more dramatically than we predict, I predict. History has shown that the Baby Boom has wreaked havoc on public systems as they age. By no means is this a blame-game, it is simply a reality of demographics and logistics. Their sheer numbers overwhelmed school systems. A case could be made that the brute force of them joining the workforce in the 1970's caused some of that decade's economic troubles. And, in the coming decades, their sheer numbers will overwhelm the healthcare system.

3- A reality of this fact is that no matter how you do the accounting, the health of an economy is the simple arithmatic of resources versus consumption. We could have all the savings in the world, but when the crapstorm comes, someone has to pay the doctors, nurses and hospitals for their work. It won't be the future generation of old people- they will be too old or sick to work. It won't be the social security trust fund- that exists solely in the form of IOUs. When we start trying to cash in those IOUs, someone has to have the cash. Best case, we manage to be productive enough that we can pay those bills and manage to maintain a semblance of a standard of living. Probably another period of stagflation. Worst case, massive income tax rates to pay for new IOUs to pay for the old ones, massive interest rates to coax enough cash out of the economy to fund those IOUs, massive unemployment for people whose skills are no longer needed in this feed-the-beast economy combined with tremendous workloads and low pay for those people whose skills will be in too much demand. And the rampant inflation that goes along with that.

We will have won the moral victory of not increasing government spending on healthcare, only to massively increase government spending to fund all the externalities of that Phyrric victory.

4- Everyone needs healthcare. You cannot insure something that everyone needs. Insurance is one person trading their money for someone else's risk. But when everyone holds the same risk, what we call insurance is simply skimming. Since everyone has the same risk, but not everyone has money, there are fewer people to pay for the risk. Again, look at the mortgage crisis- when every mortgage holder insured their risk with every other mortgage holder, nobody was protected. Same thing applies here.

5- "But," you might say, "what difference does it make whether we spread the risk using insurance companies, rather than letting the government do it? The government is inefficient and will just add a layer of bureaucrats in the middle." My answer to that is two-fold. One, what's the difference between a government bureaucrat and an insurance bureaucrat? Maybe on the surface there's none. But a little deeper down, there is a difference. The insurance company bureaucrat is beholden to the owners of their company. To varying degrees, their job is to preserve the profitability of the company. A government bureaucrat is beholden to the government, which is beholden to the people. At least in theory, they work for their clients.

5b- Derail- "blah, blah, blah, government is inefficient and is best at preserving and growing itself, not serving the people. Private enterprise is more efficient." That may be true in many cases. But that's not some Law of The Universe. It is not like people simply become better at their jobs because they work for a private company. They become better at their jobs because they have different motivations. And the motivation of private enterprise is profit. Nothing wrong with that- it is what makes the world run. The free market in an excellent allocator of resources. IF the playing field is relatively level. It is not *who* creates the incentives that create motivation, but what those incentives are. There is no reason why government can't create an environment that produces more cost efficiency than private enterprise, but lack of trying.

6- But the playing field is by no means level for healthcare as it stands. Healthcare providers are ethically and legally bound to provide certain care to anyone who shows up at their doorstep. Their ability to sell their services is crippled by that. (Not that it's a negative, but it is a reality.) Health insurance companies are crippled at every turn with regulations and lawsuits and lord knows what else; but in the contrary, are relatively protected from competition because those issues and other realities create a fairly large barrier to entry. And the healthcare consumer is crippled by the fact that we very often don't choose when our need for services will arise; we can't easily change our health insurance providers; and are in turn restricted by those insurance providers as to which services we can consume, and from whom. Not *totally* restricted, of course- we have the choice to accept care we have paid for from an unsatisfactory provider, or we can choose to pay extra for satisfactory care. But the incentives are all messed up- this incentivizes the insurance companies to provide barely adequate care to the extent someone still pays the premium. It incentivizes healthcare providers to provide not as good service to patients of insurance companies who don't reimburse them as much, and it incentivizes patients to feed extra money into the system.

6b- Or we could do it another way- add more regulation that intends to level the playing field for the healthcare consumer. The result might be incrementally better for the healthcare consumer, but it would do nothing to reduce costs. More likely it would raise costs, either paid for through government subsidies and higher premiums. The fact is, the restrictions placed on coverage by insurance companies DO reduce costs for them, because their cost structure is such that letting people make all kinds of changes all the time costs money.

7- OK, so reinsurance. Let the system stand, but create a government backed pool of funding to pay for care that is beyond what the individual policies cover, or care for people who cannot or do not pay for their care. That helps nobody. Or at least doesn't help nearly as much as it would cost. It spreads the risks and the costs unevenly. Paying for the risk is mandatory, but the reward gained from spreading that risk is not spread evenly. Providers benefit to some extent because they can be reimbursed for care they'd have to write off. Insurance companies benefit greatly because they now have no incentive to better coverage. Some individual patients benefit- the tiny slice of people who have insurance, just not quite enough insurance, will get coverage they wouldn't have gotten. But everyone else pretty much gets what they have been getting, plus a higher tax bill.


And so, single payer. Every other solution that I can see will cause undue burdon on some players, for not enough result for others. The only fair solution for everyone is to spread the risk to everyone, for the benefit of everyone.

(Yeah, life isn't fair. But that's no excuse not to try.)

My plan is forthcoming...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Healthcare

I had a couple of great ideas for titles, but other people have already used them. That's what I get for checking. Now you get nothing.

Ideas I'm fleshing out for a magical (and probably mythical) essay:

- Socialism isn't bad on its own. Socialism is bad when it is used to quell the masses, or when it is set up badly, pushing costs into the future. So many of the things we take for granted in this country (and which had an immense effect on the strength of this country) are socialist. Roads, the military, the police, the court system, trade agreements, the border patrol, etc. Socialism is a necessary "evil" in a society.

- Reforming healthcare in this country is the pro-life option. The pro-lifers claim that the rights of the child trump the rights of the parents (*). The same way, the right of a child, born or unborn, to decent healthcare. No matter what we believe about the parents' circumstances, the fact that children are born unhealthy for lack of healthcare should make us all sick. Especially when we have the resources to pay for it.

- Socializing prenatal and infant care may well end up being a net positive. I have to think that for what it costs to care for a child born with some disease/disorder that could have been prevented, thousands of pregnant mothers could be given prenatal care. Not to mention, not condemning that child to a harder life for the sake of politics.

*- Yes, it's a spurious, over simplified argument in regards to the abortion issue. It's much more meaningful here.

- Our healthcare system may well be the best in the world. That is NO EXCUSE to try to make it better. The status quo is not good enough. There is always more that can be done.

- No, I wouldn't want the DMV or the Post Office people taking out my appendix. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure my doctor doesn't know how to work the stamp printing machine, so we'll call that one a draw.

- Rationing already happens, all the time, everywhere. There are only so many resources to go around. If there was no rationing, hospitals wouldn't need waiting rooms. In the current system, healthcare is rationed by the insurance provider. If you go over the lifetime limit, you are SOL. Pay for it yourself. If you need some procedure that is booked up solid in your approved hospitals, you wait.

- Perhaps there wouldn't need to be rationing if it wasn't so darned expensive and risky to become a doctor. Perhaps we'd be better able to care for people if the barrier to entry was talent and skill rather than the ability to fund the education. Perhaps tort reform wouldn't even be necessary.

- Talk about rationing: most states have quasi-governmental hospital boards that tell private companies where they can and cannot build hospitals. Lack of choice for the consumer, lack of choice for the entrepreneur looking to build a hospital.

- There is no appreciable choice in American healthcare. You are stuck with what your insurance company (most often, chosen by our employers) has available for you. You want choice, you have to go "outside the network" and pay more for the same care.

- We already have socialized healthcare. We all pay for Medicare and Medicaid through our taxes. We already pay for illegals and the uninsured through higher costs. The only difference is that the costs aren't fairly distributed. Those of us who pay for healthcare are already subsidizing the care for these people, but in the world's least efficient manner. (IE, waiting for people to get so sick that it constitutes an emergency and forcing hospitals to care for them because they are legally and ethically bound to do so.)

There IS a way to solve the problem that isn't "do nothing" and "communism". There IS a way to make the money WE ARE ALREADY SPENDING work better for us, while maintaining the profit motive and free choice that we claim to love so much. Moron that later...

More Illinois Hipocrisy

The text of the Illinois cell phone ban law:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=096-0130&print=true&write=
(d) This Section does not apply to:
(1) a law enforcement officer or operator of an
emergency vehicle while performing his or her official
duties;
I thought the reasoning for this law was public safety- that distracted driving causes unsafe situations that lead to harm to motorists and others. And that (it is claimed) using cell phones has been scientifically proven to be a cause of distraction. If that's true, then how is it justifiable that law enforcement/emergency drivers are exempt from this law? Certainly, they are human and thus prone to the same distractions as the rest of us. And further, they have MORE distractions going on in the driver's seat than the rest of us. How then can it be right to specifically exempt them from this law?

I can only conclude two things from this: either, we trust this protected class to not engage in this "dangerous" behavior; or, it's not really a dangerous behavior in and of itself.

Either way, it shows that this law isn't really about safe driving. If it is possible for police officers and emergency vehicle drivers to drive safely while using cell phones, then it certainly is possible for other drivers to do the same. And so, yet again, we have a law that purports to protect the public by removing freedoms from some citizens and not others. And it cannot be effective- driving while distracted is already against the law. If drivers are going to ignore that law, they will surely ignore this one. So the effect will be that police officers have another reason to pull over drivers outside of observations of poor driving, generating ticket revenue, and keeping police officers from actually policing the roads.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vista!

In attempting to learn more about this computer, and why it was working funny, I found a couple of things:

1- There are a shitload of default services running. Many of them can be disabled. One of these days I'll compile a document detailing which are which...

2- In addition, there are a ton of scheduled tasks in there. Again, most of which are mostly useless. Especially for my purposes. I don't care to use a lot of these fancy new features, especially at the performance cost. (Hint: to view tasks, right click on My Computer and choose Manage. Then navigate in the tree at the left to the task scheduler, click view in the menu, and select "show hidden tasks".)

Since I disabled services and tasks that I clearly didn't need, this computer has run about a million times faster. OK, more like twice as fast. And it's not that it was slow to begin with- right out of the box, it was quite capable. But there was a certain "snappiness" to the usage that I wasn't getting. This improved it mostly.

There is still a little "squishyness", but I blame that on the fancy Aero Glass interface. It's too cool to turn off.

(By the way, it wasn't even on "out of the box". To turn it on, right click "my computer", choose properties, choose "advanced system options", choose the "advanced" tab, click "settings", click "visual effects", and select "enable desktop composition" and "enable transparent glass". Who says Windows is complicated?)

The neat thing I like about it is two-fold. And useless, but cool. First, when you hover the mouse over a running program in the taskbar, it shows a tiny screen shot of the running program. And it's "live"- meaning that if there is something moving around in that window, the screenshot shows it. The alt-tab keyboard shortcut works the same as it has, including the live shot. But for the real coolness, click windowkey-tab. Neat.

And here's a little something I tried, and liked. The computer has the 16:10 aspect ratio (widescreen) screen. Way cool for watching video, and if your workflow happens to be of the "a bunch of smaller windows all over the desktop, not overlapping each other". You can fit more stuff. But I don't generally work that way. And when I do, it's usually two windows, arranged top to bottom. Just the way my mind works. Anyway, this led to a bit of a waste of horizontal space. The Sidebar uses up some of that. And those who know me well also know that I like the taskbar on top. Well, I adjusted that: I put the taskbar on the left side of the screen. It's a little clunky looking, but I got used to it quickly. I can fit more stuff in there now, and it's more usable. If I have a ton of windows open, the normal taskbar tended to squish the tabs down to a uselessly small size. With the taskbar on the side, they are whatever size you make it, and are in a vertical list.

Hey Microsoft, here's what I'd like to see- a Windows Tuning Wizard. You fire it up, and it goes step by step through the various underbelly options of Windows in plain english, asking you what you want. For example:

1- UPnP. "If you never intend to use devices and services like [insert stuff that uses upnp here], disable this service."

2- Active Directory Rights Management client. "Are you connected to a Microsoft 200x server/domain? No? Disable this."

3- Crawl Start Pages. "Do you want Windows to [do whatever this does] automatically? No? Disable this."

4- Etc.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another sorely needed post.

1- I find it amusing that the right-wingnuts are showing their true colors. Not interested at all in the hard work of believing in something. Just interested in making sure their side wins. Screaming about how awful socialism is, and then screaming about their mortgage deductions getting cut back. Isn't that socialism? You don't have to pay your fair share of taxes because you happen to be in the right kind of debt? The mortgage deduction is just as much a transfer of wealth as any other government spending- those who don't have mortgages pay more in taxes to subsidize your lower tax bill.

2- And then the torture thing. Weren't we hearing all about moral relativity a few news cycles back? How the demmy-crats don't believe in anything, and will twist their principles in the shifting winds of the desired outcomes? Then how can you say that torture is acceptable, IF it results in good information? That seems like the definition of moral relativity to me: if the ends justify the means, do whatever you want. Abusing people is wrong, always. Whether its done to be cruel, or as payback, or to extract information.

3- Just bought a metric shit-load of auto parts. The cars are in need of maintenance, and I've got to get it done. I want the luxury of not having a car payment, I've got to do the hard work of maintaining my vehicles. And soak Amazon.com for every last cent they've got, via the Amazon Prime account I had to get. See how you like shipping me a couple of MacPherson struts 2nd day air, for free! (I also purchased two shocks, a set of inner and outer tie rods, a radiator, a set of springs, and various smaller parts)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chicago gun violence

http://www.suntimes.com/news/24-7/1477021,w-14-year-old-shot-killed-south-side-031409.article

Mayor Daley- With all due respect, passing more gun control laws isn't going to make a damn difference. Criminals don't care about the law! They WILL get the guns they desire. These crimes don't happen in a vacuum- kids get the guns from some adult somewhere. Some uncle or father or older brother or dude on the street corner gave them that gun. Want to eliminate gun violence? Throw some good old fashioned shame onto the citizens of the city- you'll never be able to police your way out of the issue. These na'er do wells with the guns come from families too- their authority figures, mothers, fathers, pastors, teachers, etc, need to take action and tell these guys that it's not OK to bring guns into their lives. You know the old saying, "guns don't kill, people do"? It's true. Every one of these dead kids is a direct result of some person deciding to pull a trigger.

Hell, there would be fewer dead kids if we taught every public school student in the basics of gun safety, marksmanship and conflict resolution. At least the criminals would hit their targets and not innocent victims. And maybe teaching everyone to have proper respect for the danger would convince a few marginal cases to NOT get that gun when they feel wronged or unsafe.

And not for nothing, maybe the police department would be more effective if they quit trying to be aggressive and shifted that effort into being vigilant and proactive. It's simply un-American to have mobile squads of heavily armed quasi-soldiers driving through neighborhoods having no contact with their fellow citizens. There is a culture of fear in the police department- far too many officers fear and even sometimes hate the citizens they took an oath to protect. That doesn't make for good interactions with the public. Have your officers interact with the communities- not just public relations guys lecturing to block clubs, but every officer. Walk beats, chat with the people on their porches, build trust. If these officers believe it is unsafe to do this, your police department has failed. If it's unsafe for heavily armed police officers to walk the streets, what must it be like for regular citizens?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mileage tax??

I have had multiple mood swings on this subject, and finally wrote the following on the r-squared energy blog. As usual, my opinions are somewhat contradictory to themselves. I have socialist leanings when I believe the goal is beneficial to society at large, or that a market based solution would be too costly in dollars and/or in reduction of the desired effect. Social Security and unemployment insurance, for example. These programs are most effective being government mandated and run- if they have effective oversight and maintain their goals of being safety nets and not entitlements. But for other things, like this, I believe in a much more market based approach- government has to collect taxes because it has these roads to maintain. But the benefit to society and the benefit to the individual users isn't always equal- there's no reason a hermit in a shack in Montana, or a car-less city dweller ought to share equal burden for road maintenance. Charge the users what it costs to maintain. Users will decide if the costs are worth it- they can alter their transportation choices to fit their needs and budget.

(I suppose a true market based solution would have the government sell off the roads to private investors and let them deal with it. I'm not sure that's workable.)

(I also forgot to account for existing toll roads- I would imagine it wouldn't be difficult to have a system that subtracts out miles driven on private roads. The tollway entity could send out coupons once a year as well as share the data with the federal computer system. Drivers could proudly present their coupon (or hell, sell them) and the federal system would make sure the data is valid.)

Comment begins.... NOW:

At first glance, I too thought this was a ridiculous idea. After seeing the comments on how this might be a more long term solution seeing that gasoline will go away some time in the next 1000 years, it started to make a little more sense.

However, the costs seem to outweigh the benefits. This is not the kind of infrastructure we need to be building. Everyone seems to have looked at the London gate-tax as some kind of perfect example of how technology can solve a problem, where it really shouldn't be. It's a unique situation where technology just happened to be the easiest solution. Same thing as the EZ Pass system- technology is the right solution. But that doesn't mean that technology should be used to solve everything.

If you look at the various problems that need to be addressed: lack of funding for the road system, encouragement of fuel efficiency, and the erosion of funding that would occur as gasoline usage gets reduced, I think a multi-pronged approach becomes necessary.

At the moment, adding more kinds of taxes doesn't seem like a good idea. But when IS it a good idea? I would propose that a mileage based tax does need to be put into effect. But that a gasoline tax needs to remain.

How this should be implemented is thus:

Mileage taxes based on odometer readings. It's already illegal to screw with odometer readings, odometer readings are already something people are accustomed to paying attention to when they buy and sell cars. Further, in most of the populous areas, people already have to take their cars in for safety/smog checks where the odometer reading is taken down. And further again, people have to pay for license plates every year. Why not combine the processes? Every year, you have to go to a facility. They run the various tests, they give you the approval and a bill for the year's plate sticker. That bill comprises:

1- the cost of the plate sticker and
2- some kind of facility charge. this is up to the states to determine. There are a variety of ways to incentivize these costs- free of charge if you show up and your car meets the standards. A higher charge if you dont' and have to come back. A higher charge if you want to make an appointment and avoid the lines.
2- the federal mileage tax, which would be shown as each drivers' share of the costs of the roads.

Then, at the gas pump, install stickers that detail the various taxes on the cost of the gasoline. Possibly with a chart that shows the per mile costs at a couple of different MPG levels.

This would, I think, have the following effects:

1- conservation at all levels- the fewer miles you drive, the less resources you use up and the less it costs you.

1b- a removal of the tragedy of the commons problem with the roads. When a resource seems free, people tend to overuse it.

2- openness- drivers will have real data that shows how their behavior/needs cost society and thus themselves money. If I believe I need to drive a lot of miles or need a large, low MPG vehicle, I can see what that costs me. Perhaps I can see that all the driving I do really IS worth the extra $200 it costs me a year. Or I can see that it isn't.

3- efficiencies in government services/requirements. Why should we waste everyone's time and tax dollars having multiple places one needs to go every year, when we can have one place that does everything in less time?

4- this would also, I'd imagine, have a stimulating effect on the automobile makers. when people see that the '83 Lincoln they are driving around costs them extra money, they might decide to buy a more efficient car. Further, if this has the effect of the states mandating safety checks where they didn't have them before, it would increase the overall safety level of the vehicles on the roads, and encourage people to maintain their damned cars...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I thought that's what the yellow light was for?

I guess I'm starting to get old. It really is starting to fry my chops when I see the utter silliness that the various governments and especially legislatures engage in.

Most recently, it was Cook County. They started installing those "county highway 1234" signs on their roadways. Makes sense- if there's a problem with a road, you'll know who to call. Then people started crying that it was "confusing". How is that? Every other county does it. The roads didn't change locations, Pulaski is still Pulaski. There's just a small sign on a few lightpoles that say that it's a county road instead of a city or state road. The same sort of signs have been there for years! Do I suddenly forget where I'm going because there's an Illinois 64 sign on North avenue? OMG, I *was* on 95th street, and I don't think I made any turns, but now the sign says I'm on 12 AND 20? Am I going in two directions at once??! So the county quit putting them up. Now wait a minute. If it was in the public interest to start putting them up in the first place, how does that change because some people don't like it? Your job is to do what needs to be done, even if some people don't like it. How are we going to make any progress if you can't have the fortitude to explain why a decision is right or wrong, in spite of the complaining?

Now this lunacy. Good job reinventing the wheel, idiots! We already have a perfectly good solution to this problem. It's been around for a few years now, most people have probably even seen it in action. The yellow light. It goes on to alert drivers that the signal is about to turn red, and that they shouldn't enter the intersection. If people are complaining that they are getting nabbed by the red light cameras, one of two things is going on:

1- They are just griping- they tried to run a yellow and got caught.
2- The yellow lights aren't timed properly.

I looked it up once, when I got nabbed by a red light camera myself. Too lazy to look it up now, but the DOT standards are basically this: you take the speed limit, the length of the intersection, the time it takes to react, the time it takes for a vehicle to stop at the speed limit, and you mix that all together so that the light is on long enough for the following to be possible. If a car is approaching an intersection and the driver sees the yellow light go on, the driver has enough time to make the decision whether he has enough time/room to stop or not. If he does, he applies the brakes and stops before the red light comes on. If he doesn't, he continues through the intersection safe in the knowledge that the red light will not come on until he has safely cleared the intersection.

Now, I remember when I got the red light ticket. I was driving, possibly exceeding the speed limit slightly, and I saw the yellow light. I remember deciding that I was in a hurry and that it was "close enough". I'm generally a good driver, and as a rule, don't blow red lights, but I do remember that I was cutting it close. Later, when I was watching the video of my infraction, there was probably a good second from when the light went from yellow to red until my car actually entered the intersection.

Now, I'm not complaining. The yellow light probably was within specifications, and I probably made a bad decision. But if there is a public safety issue where drivers feel like they don't have enough notice to stop safely, the prudent solution is to use the system that's already in place, and add a second or two to the yellow light. It would hurt no one, would tend to increase safety, would give those who blow red lights no excuse for their actions, and wouldn't be a ridiculous boondoggle installing a bunch of new equipment at every damned stoplight in the city.

It seems like a win-win situation. Shouldn't the role of government be to make fair laws, give the citizens all reasonable opportunity to be able to follow those laws, and then to enforce those laws ruthlessly? If we find ourselves in a situation where we are needing to make exceptions for certain infractions, or changing reality to reflect the laws, the law needs to be changed. The laws need to be written in such a way that no exceptions are necessary. The exceptions are *in* the law. If the situation at hand contains an exception, then the person is not guilty. It's not good justice to have situations where laws are fuzzy and enforcement is fuzzy, and one's guilt or innocence depends on chance. Bring on the automated traffic enforcement! But temper it with sane, sober laws that aren't up to interpretation or that aren't tailored to "catch" people at the margins, but instead tailored toward encouraging legal and safe behavior. Adding a couple of seconds to yellow lights does just this- it adds a little slack to the marginal cases, and makes darn sure that when someone is caught, they are for sure guilty of making a bad decision and have no excuse for their behavior.

Not only is this more just, it would tend to create more respect for the law. People, at least somewhat reasonable ones, will tend to see that the laws are a bright line of behavior that's clearly unacceptable, instead of how so many see it now, as a sort of fuzzy line that one crosses only within their tolerance for chance.