not satisfied with nibbling away at the welfare state, already the thinnest in the industrialized west, conservatives have spent more than twenty years demonizing lawyers and ridiculing victims in order to eliminate a uniquely american right, rooted in the seventh amendment, that allows juries to assess damages in civil courts for corporate misbehavior
. in europe and japan, governments compensate victims; in this country, it is often done, haphazardly, by entrepreneur-lawyers. the same lawyers are more successful in another, quite accidental way: regulating and punishing companies that pollute, maim or cheat--a critical function at a time when government does less and less to force them to act responsibly
. fifteen state attorneys general recognized this when they called on the senate to dump or amend the class-action bill.
so we've got an fda that's not protecting consumers from harm, and pending legislation that makes it almost impossible for people who are hurt by drugs approved by the fda to sue for damages. the question must be asked: how is the public going to be protected if the fda remains weak and if private lawsuits are cut off?
you might ask the same question all over government these days. pick an agency - not just the fda, but the securities and exchange commission, the consumer product safety commission, the federal trade commission, and so on. they're supposed to protect the public. but they're all understaffed, their budgets have been whacked, and many of them are in the pockets of the very companies and industries they're supposed to regulate. at exactly the same time, republicans are clamoring for what they call "tort reform." tort reform is a nice way of saying that people who are harmed by companies shouldn't be able to sue them and collect damages