Earlier this week, we learned that the New York State legislature has taken a first step toward smoking out the robocall "scourge"—lawmakers' words, not mine, although I wholeheartedly agree—and today, we learn exactly why this kind of targeted action is necessary. The federal government, it seems, has not had much luck in its war on bots.

Shocking evidence: the Federal Communications Commission has fined robocallers a combined $208.4 million since 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal, and recouped only $6,790 on that staggering tab.

The Federal Trade Commission, it should be said, has done slightly better. Since 2004, it has won a total of $1.5 billion from robocallers and No-Call Registry violators in court, of which it has collected $121 million, or 8 percent of the total.

The robots would seem to be winning, successfully bombarding the nation with tens of billions of unwanted calls last year, by the Journal's count.

The problem here is partly bureaucratic: While the FCC has the power to dole out fines, it lacks the power to actually enforce those orders. That task, according to the Journal, falls to the Justice Department, and is not made easier by the fact that many entities responsible for this relentless aural spam are individual people or small outfits that can't afford the fees they rack up and can skirt collectors without too much fuss.

For that one reader who has never received a robocall, the issue here is automated telephonic communication you never signed up to receive. Politicians and charitable organizations can legally robocall you, but any kind of sales message you haven't consented to is likely illegal and probably a scam intended to snake away your money and/or personal infos. Whereas, in simpler times, you could add your number to the National No-Call Registry and (theoretically at least) block telemarketers, the Internet and automation have rendered that meager barrier more or less useless. And from the perspective of the robogrifter, the threat of a regulator crackdown looks toothless when so many fines have gone unpaid for so long, which may in turn explain why so many robocall overlords continue to act with impunity.

"It's great that we have these laws; it's great that we have public enforcement, but because there are so many calls and so many callers, the public enforcement is a joke," Margot Saunders, senior counsel at consumer advocacy group National Consumer Law Center, told the Journal. "It doesn't even make a dent."

In New York State, the Robocall Prevention Act—which passed a Senate committee vote on Tuesday—would block robocallers from contacting New Yorkers who hadn't agreed to receive their calls and texts. Violators would face between $2,000 and $20,000 in fines, depending on the tenacity of their communications campaign. Phone companies would be responsible for making free robocall-blocking technology available to their customers, and the bill would also make it easier for those customers to sue the entities that harass them.

Can I promise it would work any better than the federal government's efforts? No. Do I think it's worth a shot? Absolutely: The bill's sponsors explained that, in their districts, vulnerable residents—namely, seniors and immigrants—constantly get calls intended to fleece them into handing over sensitive personal information. "If New Yorkers had a movie about our lives, a robocall would be the soundtrack," Senator Brad Holyman of Manhattan, a sponsor of the legislation, told the NY Post. "This is the top complaint I get from constituents next to complaints about the subway."

Stop the madness!!!