Thursday, January 22, 2015

Joan Claybrook comments on Obama's "cut regulations" and "rein in frivolous lawsuits"

"[Obama has] issued an edict that says that every 
government agency ought to cut regulations."

AMY GOODMAN: Joan Claybrook, you’re a leading consumer advocate. You’re the president emerita of Public Citizen. You’re here in Park City at the Sundance Film Festival — actually, we played a clip of a movie yesterday called Hot Coffee, where you talked about legislation that limits people’s ability to access the courts. But first, overall, your response to what President Obama had to say last night?
JOAN CLAYBROOK: Well, first of all, I think that this was his first campaign speech of 2012, and he was attempting to preempt the Republicans from going after some of the things that he’s advocated. And the thing that — but the thing that really bothered me the most was that he’s going to cut domestic spending for programs that are essential for Americans. And I look at his new framework of being a business-friendly administration and say to myself, have they earned this? Have the Wall Street guys who robbed and plundered America, have they earned a seat at the table from this president? Have the guys who harmed homeowners and sent all these poor families into foreclosure, have they earned a seat at the table in a, quote, "business-friendly" administration? Not to me.
I also look at the whole issue of regulation. He has issued an edict that says that every government agency ought cut some regulations. Now, we’re not talking about some obscure thing. We’re talking about the environment, global warming, health, safety, pharmaceutical issues, auto safety, truck safety — all these issues that matter every day to Americans. And what that sends is a message. It sends a message to the civil servants who sweat to try and get these issues dealt with and to protect the American public that their president isn’t going to support them if they get into a controversial issue. And every regulation, almost, is controversial, because somebody doesn’t want it, particularly Big Business. And it sends a message to the business interests that they can go with impunity and oppose these regulatory programs, and they know that the President is probably going to clamp down on the people who are issuing the rules. And these rules matter. They really matter, when you have, for example, a very controversial one pending is hours of service for truck drivers. And it kills 5,000 people a year and injures, you know, almost 100,000 people a year. Just think of the consequences for American families with just that one rule. And then it sends a message to Congress, and particularly Congressman Issa of California, who is the new head of the Oversight Committee, who wants to go after the regulatory program, who went to the business interests and said, "What do you want to kill?" So, I see that the President is not really addressing the issues that matter to American people.
AMY GOODMAN: [Darrell] Issa, believed to be, I think, the wealthiest member of Congress.
JOAN CLAYBROOK: Yes, right, right.
AMY GOODMAN: "Step away from the car" is his line. I think it’s in his voice.
JOAN CLAYBROOK: Right, right.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s where he got his wealth —
JOAN CLAYBROOK: That’s right. Right.
AMY GOODMAN: — from the — what was the — the system for protecting cars, the car alarm system.
JOAN CLAYBROOK: Right, right.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn for a minute to something else President Obama talked about, and it’s about limiting what they call frivolous lawsuits. This is President Obama in his State of the Union address.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This means further reducing healthcare costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. The health insurance law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the healthcare law would add a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama talking about "medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits." Your response, Joan Claybrook?
JOAN CLAYBROOK: My response is that I am outraged to hear this. First of all, they’re not frivolous lawsuits in the medical malpractice area, because the lawyers who take these cases don’t get paid unless they win. So they’re not going to take frivolous lawsuits. That’s the first thing. Secondly, medical malpractice kills between 40,000 and 100,000 people a year. Five percent of the doctors cause 55 percent of the medical malpractice in this country. The medical system does not discipline themselves. And so, the only way that you can have any kind of redress against repeat offender doctors is to have the opportunity for people to sue and to make sure that these doctors are eventually disciplined. The harm is horrific. [sounds like the same pattern as the auto industry and NHTSA]
And what he wants to do is to put a cap on damages, so that the President is deciding the value that these poor people who are injured should get, and the individuals are then limited, under such arbitrary caps, caps on the amount of money they can recover, they’re limited to that amount. And I met a family that was in this Hot Coffee movie that had awarded — the jury awarded them for their baby who was born with brain damage. They were awarded almost $6 million. The cap on damages got them $125 million. So who pays the difference?
AMY GOODMAN: One-point-two-five.
JOAN CLAYBROOK: Oh, $1.25 million, sorry. And so, who gets the difference — who pays the difference? It’s the state, the taxpayers. They have to pick up the care. And this family have no capacity to make sure their child is taken care of when they die. And it’s a 24/7 job for the mother to take care of a brain-damaged child. And she gets no compensation whatsoever. And the doctor walks away scot-free.