Tort Reform: How Karl Rove Isn't Done With Us Yet

This week Republicans in Congress stood up for the right of incompetent Wall Street executives to be overpaid and undertaxed. You might GOP legislators were just making fools of themselves and can be ignored. But out of the AIG limelight the GOP was moving on other fronts with faux populist plans to protect the wealth of the wealthy.

Earlier this month the Senate Republican Conference held a discussion called “Protecting Main Street from Lawsuit Abuse.” Chaired by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the purpose of the discussion was to advance the idea that tort reform is essential to financial recovery. The idea is that frivolous lawsuits are hurting small business owners and driving up the cost of everything.

Tort reform is “a catchall phrase for legislative measures designed to make it harder for individuals to sue businesses,” wrote Daniel Fisher in Forbes. In the past several years state legislatures have passed “tort reform” measures that cap the awards juries can give plaintiffs and complicate procedures to make it more difficult for plaintiffs to file suits. These measures usually are sold to the public as being a benefit to the economy — tort reform will boost business, create jobs, and lower costs, including the costs of health care.

In practice, however, there is no clear-cut evidence that tort reform translates into lower health care costs or more jobs, and plenty of evidence suggests it doesn’t.

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