There used to be a fond joke about who shall pay for a needed improvement--a bridge to Nowhere, let's say. How will we raise the money? "Well," says the little girl, "why doesn't the government do it?" Because government money, in her view, is free.
Now governments have reached the same conclusion: they can let business pay! So billion-dollar settlements are simply announced--by the president of the United States, by federal agencies, by attorney generals, and of course by governmental agencies in other countries who know a good thing when they see it. The latest victim of these pile-ons has been Volkswagen, the naughty German company that tweaked its engines so that they'd behave differently when being tested for emissions. Aha! A pinata that rained money upon politicians everywhere, without the bother of a judge and jury!
Alas, there is no free money. To recoup its finances, Volkswagen has announced a restructuring plan that, among other things, will result in the lay-off of thirty thousand VW workers around the world. Perhaps some of them can find jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency.