It's not punishment for fun, it's the price of fun. If you're going around causing people death and financial injury, you should suffer the same!
As another poster said, it also stops people from jumping into gunfights and griefing people with various forms of suicide missions. I do think there should be a pure free roam added though, as long as this time the f*cking children don't make every game RPG only + infinite health.
Edit: Also, wasn't it $4000 late on the third? It may have been $2000 for a bit, but today I thought that I wasn't losing as much any more at all. I fell off a mountain quite a few times and kept spawning without feeling like my wallet was emptying as quick as before.