Since his re-election in November, my Congressman remains concerned about getting the "word" out to his constituents that he is in Washington solely to "work for the people of his district!" Included in our first mailing of the New Year (thanks to the Franking Privilege, the taxpayers pay for the design, printing and mailing of his "Constituent Mailings"), is a tear-off end that can be returned to his office (just add YOUR postage) outlining areas you agree he should "work" on this year. Included in the areas or issues are "Eliminating frivolous lawsuits," "Revising the Tax Code to enable Businesses to hire more employees," "Calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment," and finally "Demanding Congress work with the President." Seems fairly straight forward right? But give them a little thought.
On at least three spots on the mailing is the quote "I work for YOU." But eliminating frivolous lawsuits actually does not assist citizens at all. In fact, curtailing product and personal liabilities are the exact same objectives of the US Chamber of Commerce! We live in a Country that trusts citizens to pass judgment in the jury box on life and death matters in death penalty trials, but we don't trust those same folks to determine the level of damages one is entitled to if they are the victim of willful or malicious negligence? What gives here? Remember the story of the woman scalded by her cup of coffee from McDonalds? Remember the laugh lines told on the late night shows? Some folks even started a "Stella Award" for idiots harmed from engaging in ridiculous actions and then suing someone else for big bucks. Except most if not all of those alleged cases never happened and were not true. In fact, the woman who sued McDonald's was only seeking her medical costs for multiple surgeries incurred as a result of coffee no human could possibly drink without seriously harming them self. In fact, McDonald's had over 400 complaints about the temperature of their coffee before this woman was so severely burned, yet they ignored those injuries and complaints. And the facts of the case were not even close to those reported in the news and used by interest groups in their efforts to limit our rights to sue wrongdoers. The woman was not driving and the car she was riding in was stopped. The heat from the coffee was so high, it weakened the cup it was poured in.
So what exactly is a "frivolous" lawsuit anyway? No matter how ridiculous a lawsuit, wouldn't you think a judge and/or a jury would be wise enough to rule it so without laws limiting recoveries for damages? Again, juries can determine life or death but not awards for damages? What if it is NOT a frivolous suit and damages are warranted, but they are capped by laws - laws lobbied for by interest groups representing manufacturers? And don't claim physician's malpractice insurance premiums would be lower with caps, because in states that have instituted caps on malpractice claims, premiums have still gone higher, guaranteeing more profits to the insurance industry!
The other irony of the mailing is the call for a balanced budget. Our Congressman is the only one from Florida on the House Ways and Means Committee. If anyone has power to balance to budget or tinker with the tax code, he does. Is he really telling his constituents that our Congressional leaders are so weak, they can't work at reducing the deficit without being forced to do so by law? Perhaps we should begin to find others that can do this work without requiring a Constitutional Amendment? If GOP leaders in Congress truly wanted to revise the Tax Code, why haven't they already begun to do so? They have been in charge of the Ways and Means and the Appropriations Committees (they control the Code) for over 2 years now! Talk is cheap, yet we continue to allow it!
Of course we all want Congress to work with the President, however, just after receiving his mailing, I received an e-mail poll from him asking if we agree the debt ceiling should not be raised and allow the government to default on our debts. After you answer the poll, it gives you a current statistic on how the poll has been answered. Amazingly, 68% claimed we should allow our government to default. And the guy asks if we think Congress should work with the President? If we default, the government (including Congress) would essentially be shut down. What's left to work on anyway?
So just think about the notion that my Congressman really is "working for his constituents" next time he sends out a mailing at taxpayer expense. One thing is for sure, those mailings are not cheap. Perhaps we can afford a few less mailings and more work from Congress?