Federal Triangle: Legal Corruption
With increased frequency, print media describes actions and problems inflicted by the legal profession on our political system and society at large. An insightful book, "The Case Against Lawyers," written by Catherine Crier of the television program Court TV, is both readable and of value to industry because it discusses how dangerously uncontrolled the U.S. legal system is and cites measures that can be applied to correct abuses.
Origins of the American legal problems are quite understandable. The founders saw lawyers as the "disinterested class" to install and manage the rule of law, and indeed they did in the beginning.
It was a French observer of a young America, deTocqueville, who warned in 1840 that "lawyers form a power that envelops society ¿orks in secret ¿nd in the end models it to its own desires," and indeed they have as we witness today. He recognized the human frailty of desire for power within the American "government of laws," which is now manipulated and corrupt. Recall that 42% of the House and 61% of the Senate Members are lawyers as are essentially all the 70,000 lobbyists who work the Hill. (I know; I was a lobbyist for years, an engineer and the only non-lawyer lobbyist I ever met.) Recall also that in the last Presidential election year, lawyers and their firms led the list of all sectors giving money to candidates, $29 million excluding unregulated "soft money," 67% of which went to Democrats. A total of $3 billion for political contributions in federal campaigns was a three-fold increase over the prior cycle of 1996.
Do not be so naeve as to think contributions are made for altruistic reasons; money provides access to the political system. Access is critical to manipulate the process of writing laws, mostly tax and subsidy laws that result in rules favorable to the persons giving money. As one news reporter commented, "Forget those quaint notions that political parties exist to elect candidates." Republican and Democrat parties alike exist to exercise power with the objective of using that power to make money for their benefactors who sustain them in office. Cynical, yes, but true.
This industry-government unholy alliance exists and is controlled by lawyers. Recall that half of the largest 100 world "economies" are corporations, not nations. The top 200 corporations employ under 1% of the world workforce but account for one-third of the world's economic activity. The top 500 corporations conduct 70% of world trade. In this country between 1989 and 1995, a majority of foreign and domestic corporations paid no income tax. From 1996 to 1998, 233 of the top 250 U.S. corporations lowered tax liability by over $25 billion based solely on expensing of stock options to management. Since tax breaks account for about half of corporate welfare, politicians have learned to make beneficial tax laws impermanent, causing industry to return at intervals to exchange campaign contributions for tax favors. Is this a corrupt system? Yes, and this is the way our government works. The so-called campaign finance reform measures touted by the press and politicians cannot even be classified as a pathetic joke.
In this climate of "money and power," public participation in political processes has rapidly declined. Worse, public acquiescence and even encouragement of shoddy practices, now institutionalized by the legal system, has heightened in recent decades. Alleged discrimination, claimed disability, lack of acceptance of personal responsibility and failure to assume prudent risks and accept attendant outcomes has prompted lawyers to create new ways to enrich themselves while making a mockery of justice and the rule of law. Class action suits now make outrageous awards to those who have not suffered harm, and worse, most awards are divided as "equivalents" (coupons) among all entities of a class while a few plaintiff lawyers divide a third of a large settlement paid in cash. The public has been silent on these practices, due in part I think, because lawyers have found ways to dumb-down jurors from a pool of more and more functionally illiterate in the public and in that pool are an increasing number of people who truly believe that "when its my turn, I'll get mine." As author Crier states, America has fallen away from being a nation with a population believing in a shared value system.
There will certainly be casualties along the way, but American industry leaders must stiffen against the onslaught of political correctness, rules with form but no purpose, acceptance of insidious government corruption and perversion of reason by lawyers. This means pushing back when the rules and regulations of OSHA, EPA, EEOC or IRS encroach, as they do. Accepting responsibility is the key to acquiring and regaining the power to instigate change. The national soul is at stake.