The usual battle lines are being drawn in the upcoming fight over Social Security and tort reform. Mostly it’s nothing new; labor unions, AARP and trial lawyers are squaring off against Big Business and their legions of prostitutes, er, uh, legislators and call girls, oops, lobbyists whom they’ve purchased.
One fairly recent change: It used to be you could “follow the money” and see who’s donating to which candidate. Now it’s more and more common for corporations to give their bribes anonymously to an umbrella group such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the Club for Growth. This way you can still purchase an election right out from under the American people, but you don’t have to crawl out from under your rock and show us who you are.
The battle over tort reform is divided into several specific battles: relegating all class action suits to a federal court; limiting medical malpractice claims; and reducing “frivolous” asbestos claims.
We’ve all heard of corporations that declare bankruptcy in order to wriggle out of a union contract, paying medical claims, paying pension benefits, etc., and other than being “bankrupt” they’re just going about their business completely unhindered.
Some of the biggest abusers of bankruptcy protection are the firms that owe money for asbestos claims. Asbestos litigation has “driven” more than 70 companies into bankruptcy. I’m not accusing all companies of abusing the system; some companies (and likewise some people) are actually bankrupt and some are just hiding from their responsibilities.
But the legislators and lobbyists campaigning against asbestos litigation are trying to get political leverage out of the “bankruptcies” of these firms that owe money for asbestos claims. They’ve declared bankruptcy to get out of paying the money they owe for asbestos-related illnesses, and now they’re trying to use this “bankruptcy” to gain sympathy and political mileage.
It’s sort of like that overused cliché about the kid who murders his parents and then cries “I’m an orphan” at his trial.