Friday, August 28, 2009

Completing Shirley's thought: Tort reform and the health insurance bill

To be clear: I have serious doubts about the efficacy of tort reform in driving down medical costs, and anyone who has examined Tom Baker's seminal research on medical malpractice will probably share them as well.

That said, it is politics and not policy that drives what goes into the health insurance reform bill, as Shirley quotes Howard Dean as admitting:

"The reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth. Now, that’s the truth.”

Actually, that's not the truth. It's not like the people drafting the bill wanted to take on tort reform but were somehow afraid of a confrontation with trial lawyers. Not hardly.

Here's what progressive strategist George Lakoff has always maintained about tort reform and trial lawyers:

Another multifaceted conservative strategic initiative is "tort reform," which has been made to sound like it is just about capping large damage awards and lawyers' fees. It is really a destruction of the civil justice system's capacity to deter corporations from acts that harm the public, since it is the lawyers' fees that permit the system to function. Moreover, if successful, it will also dry up one of the major sources of campaign finance for progressive candidates, which comes from trial lawyers.

And, if you need me to finish connecting the dots, Lakoff has been involved--both personally and philosophically--in the Obama campaign from the very beginning. This from Alternet in February 2008:

Why that is has befuddled many Democrats, particularly Clinton followers. How can Obama score so many wins by offering so little -- just hope -- and yet everything -- hope?

I can answer that question. It's because Obama gets it. He's been reading the George Lakoff and Rockridge Institute playbook, Thinking Points and skillfully applying it. Lakoff rewrote the progressive strategy with the concept of framing. Had my guy, John Edwards, followed Lakoff's advice and like Obama, gone lighter on the policies and heavier on the values, he might be where Obama is today. Dennis Kucinich would have won a primary or two. John Kerry might be president now. Al Gore would not have needed the Supreme Court in 2000.

Finally, this--contributions from trial lawyers to the Obama presidential campaign in 2008:

Obama, Barack $43,440,058
Clinton, Hillary $16,941,277
McCain, John $11,290,948

The Obama administration: not Change We Can Believe In, but Continuity We Can Only Whine About.

No comments: