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Election '08

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Another One Bites the Dust

Monday Alberto Gonzales announced that he would be stepping down from his post as Attorney General on September 17th. Gonzales is the latest in a series of Bush administration insiders to jump ship since the 2006 election that gave the Democrats the majority in both houses of Congress and was punctuated with the departure of Donald Rumsfeld.

Between the Bush administration’s unpopular war in Iraq and numerous scandals involving allegations of impropriety indicating misdeeds at the highest levels of the administration there have been few bright spots over the last nine months for the administration. With the departure of the embattled Gonzales the Bush administration will likely face another tough confirmation with the Democrat-controlled Congress. Some have suggested that Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff will be on the short list to replace Gonzales but Democrats have already made rumblings that his appointment as Attorney General will meet with strong opposition.

Some have hinted at the appointment of Joe Lieberman in a move to regain the majority in the Senate for the Republicans but there is virtually no chance of his confirmation by the Congress. Given the fact that a Republican governor would name his replacement in the Senate if he were to be appointed which would give the Republicans control of the Senate after less than a year in Democrat hands the Democrats will likely strongly fight any attempt to appoint him. Lieberman is also persona-non-grata among the Democratic ranks because in 2006 he ran against the Democratic nominee as an Independent after the Democratic Party nominated another candidate for his seat because of his close ties to the Bush administration and support for the current Iraq war policy. Some have speculated that Lieberman will run as a Republican when he comes up for re-election. Lieberman has neither confirmed nor denied those rumors.

Despite facing the likely uphill battle of more confirmation hearings President Bush made a point of calling the scrutiny of Gonzales that led to his resignation “politically motivated”. Responding to the statements by President Bush, Senator Dianne Feinstein said that the President “doesn’t get it” and that “it wasn’t unfair treatment”. In further comments she called the actions of the Justice Department under Gonzales the “politicization of the Department of Justice” and “unacceptable”.

With the rhetoric ramping up the battle lines have seemingly been drawn. Who the President will name as Gonzales’ successor is yet to be known but it is likely to be a contentious battle on Capitol Hill to confirm the next Attorney General. Once again both sides have the opportunity to offer an olive branch to the other side and work for consensus in Washington but it seems evident that neither the Democratic majority controlling Congress nor the administration are interested in finding common ground. Politics as usual would once again seem to be the next order of business.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer | Give your feedback on this article. | Visit Troy's blog at http://reform-america.blogspot.com | Visit Troy's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/reform_america

The Tort Tax or How the Legal System is Costing America

Personal responsibility is just that - personal. If you do something stupid and you get injured or hurt, then it is your own fault. It's not McDonald's fault if you get fat, it's not Phillip Morris' fault if you smoke and get lung cancer; it's your fault. One of the biggest problems facing America is that many people want to find someone to blame for everything that happens to them. Well sometimes it's your own fault, sometimes it's just bad luck and sometimes it is truly someone else's fault. But let's get away from this victimhood mentality and back to standing on our own two feet and taking responsibility for our own actions.

After being out of the country for two weeks, one of the first news reports I saw on early morning television in Miami concerned an accident at a carnival. From the report, it appears that a teenage girl got injured when she went on the tea cup ride at a carnival, got too dizzy and fell and hit her head. So naturally, at least in this country, they were going to sue.

Let me get this straight, isn't the purpose of the tea cup ride to go in circles as fast as you can to get dizzy? Don't you actually turn a wheel in the middle to make it spin even faster? Isn't that why people, like me who can't deal with being dizzy, don't go on that type of ride? Does the ride operator have to conduct pre-ride tests to determine if the person going on the ride can't deal with dizzy? Even then, they would probably be sued by people who felt they were unjustly kept off the ride.

We engaged in some fairly risky behavior in Costa Rica. We took a zip line tour through the jungle trees. We drove, including the underage members of our families, ATV's across the beach and through the jungle at high rates of speed. We went snorkeling in the open ocean. We took numerous small boats across the ocean and down crocodile filled rivers. Never once did we sign a liability waiver or a notice that we were engaging in hazardous activities that could result in injury or death. Could we have gotten hurt? Yes, and there were some minor injuries from the ATV excursions, but it was up to us as adults to determine if we wanted to engage in the activities and take the risks associated with them.

The explosion of liability lawsuits and the desire of people to want to sue for just about any perceived injury or injustice are completely out of control in this country. How many millions of decisions are made every day based on the fact that, "We better do this to cover ourselves in case we are sued"? Not because it is necessary, but just as insurance from getting sued.

How often have you heard even children say something about suing someone for some perceived wrong. It has become a national mindset and it is not good for the country.

The Tort Tax is a major drain on this country. It has been estimated recently by authors McQuillan and Apramyan that our current legal system and the desire of everyone to sue is costing this country as much as $865 billion per year, or to put it another way, $9,827 per year for a family of four. If people were actually paying this amount directly out of their pockets there would be revolt in the streets, but instead, this is a hidden levy on all Americans and costs each of us every day.

Here's where the costs come from and how we get hit with those costs every day.

First, there are the costs of litigation which are added to the cost of every product we buy every day.
No matter what anyone makes these days there is the very real chance that someone is going to sue the maker of that product because they were "hurt" using it. Doesn't matter if they did something entirely stupid, surely the manufacturer is still somewhat to blame. Next time you are in a hardware store look at all the warnings on ladders to see all the ways the manufacturer has to warn the user to try and prevent themselves from getting sued and it still doesn't prevent that from happening. In our office building there was an entire law firm that did nothing but represent ladder makers against lawsuits and they had to move because they needed more room for more lawyers.

Second, medical liability is a major factor in increasing health care costs. The fear of being sued has prompted many doctors to routinely engage in defensive and expensive medical practices by ordering extra tests and sending people to specialists just to cover themselves in case some one decides to sue. It has also caused a severe shortage in several medical specialties such as obstetrics as doctors just get tired of being sued for things that are completely out of their control.

In the current health care debate the question needs to be asked, "How many more people would have health insurance coverage if the cost of medical insurance was much lower?" Also, an interesting side note is that in the medical systems that Michael Moore held out to be excellent examples of universal care around the world there is almost no recourse for medical malpractice, regardless of how incompetent the doctors might be.

Third, innovation is also stifled by the cost of litigation in this company. It doesn't matter how well a product works or what benefit it has if there is the slightest chance that someone can figure out a way to improperly use it and hurt themselves. Also, as companies have to pay ever increasing costs for their product liability insurance they have even less to spend on developing new products which, in turn, causes less economic growth.

The bottom line of all this is that, as President, one of the main aspects of American life that I would attempt to reform would be that of legal liability. I'm not for letting someone off the hook if they truly develop a faulty product and put it in the marketplace or if they are truly responsible for injuring someone else, but at the same time we need to be a nation of adults and take responsibility for our own actions.

How would I work to reform legal liability since most liability questions are state issues and not the responsibility of the Federal government?

  • I would do so by appointing Federal judges who believe that people should be responsible for their own actions.
  • I would appoint Federal judges who believe that life itself is risky and that sometimes bad things just happen and no one is at fault.
  • I would appoint Federal judges who believe that it should be easier for people who are sued to collect their defense costs when they beat those that sue them.
  • I would appoint Federal judges who believe that the practice of medicine is not an exact science and that unless doctors make blatant errors that maybe they aren't to "blame" when things don't work out exactly how people believe they should.
I don't know about you, but this family of four could sure use an extra $9,000 worth of purchasing power that we don't have now because of the cost of everyone always wanting to sue and win the legal lotto.

Frank McEnulty - Independent Candidate for President - | E-mail Comments on this article. | Visit the campaign website at http://www.frankforpresident.org

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