Diary

Too many lawyers

Just a few thought on the mid-term elections that are now just over a year away.  In a recent Associated Press poll, only 28% of respondents said that they argeed with the way congress is handling the issues.  This would seem to indicate that the other 72% of Americans either do not trust or have a severe lack of confidence in the current members of congress.  Their approval numbers are roughly the same as George W. Bush’s when he left office in January of this year.  Clearly, it’s time for some more CHANGE, and I think it’s time we ask ourselves what kind of people we want representing us in Washington D.C.   

Currently, of the 100 Senators in Washington, 54 of them are lawyers.  In the House of Representatives the percentage is not quite as high but there are still 162 members or 36%, who are law school graduates.  While I recognize the necessity of lawyers in society, the argument can be made that they should not make up the majority of our government.  I believe this to be contrary to the intentions of the founders of our nation when they sought to provide “checks and balances” in all areas of government.  James Madison wrote about preventing the tyranny by a government in the same hands in Federalist  paper #47.

 “ No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value or is stamped with the  authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty than that . . . the accumulation of  all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one,  a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be  pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Today, lawyers make up roughly one half of 1% of the total population, yet the judiciary, the legislative and the executive branches of the United States government are all dominated by members of the bar association.  We’ve been electing lawyers to Congress for the last 30 or 40 years, and now when legislative bills are written there is such a degree of complexity and are so extensive that few people other than a lawyer can wade through all the legal jargon and understand them.  I think we may be forgiven for believing that this is perhaps intentional, enabling congress to sneak things past the American people by using language the average American either does not understand or have the time it takes to decipher.

On Sep. 17, 2007 Rep Bruce Braley,  (D-IA)  introduced to the House of Representatives H.R. 3548 or the Plain Language in Government Communications Act.  Though this bill has yet to be taken up by the Senate it would establish plain language as the standard style for all government documents that are issued to the public.  The plain language standard would apply to any document that explains how to obtain a government benefit, a service or how to file taxes.  It covers all letters, notices, publications, forms, and instructions.  It does not however cover federal regulations or proposed laws in the United States Congress, which means it does nothing to address the manner in which bills are written.  It may come as no surprise then that Congressman Braley is a lawyer.  Prior to being elected to congress in 2006, Mr. Braley specialized in representing workers who had been injured on the job or were terminated unfairly.  In other words, he made his living by suing people.  Reminds me of another attorney turned politician who made a lot of money chasing after ambulances.  Former Senator John Edwards was a “personal injury lawyer” before getting into the racket known as politics.  Mr. Edwards claimed in his presidential campaign a few years ago that there are now “two Americas”, one for the super rich and another one for everyone else.  I don’t need to tell you which one he lives in. 

Aside from the fact that lawyers always seem to make things more complicated than they need to be,  I often have questions concerning their common sense and even their integrity.  (shocker)  We all know the story of the woman at McDonalds who spilled coffee on herself and then sued, but that is far from being an isolated incident.  In 2002 a man from New York filed another lawsuit against the same fast food chain because he became obese eating nothing but their hamburgers.  Both of these cases won in court and the plaintiffs and their lawyers were awarded millions of dollars.  The silliness does not stop there though, just ask the tobacco companies who have paid billions in lawsuits.  Regardless of your views on smoking, people should be well aware of the dangers posed by cigarettes.   There’s been a warning label printed on the side of each pack since 1966.

In the movie “Wall Street”, Gordon Gecko coined the phrase; “Greed is Good”.  The phrase could be the national motto for the legal profession because your average lawyer is the embodiment of greed.  Only a person consumed by greed would have taken the case of a woman in New York City who decided to commit suicide by laying down on the subway tracks.  She survived, sued the city and was awarded $14.1 million dollars.  Last, but not least, there is the thief from Framingham, Massachusetts who stole a car from a parking lot, drove off and crashed the car.  The thief was killed in the accident but his family sued the parking lot owner for making it too easy to steal a car from the lot.  Cases like these and many more across the country have all been made possible by attorneys obsessed with  the desire for more money and a “win at any cost” attitude.

There is a recognized need for tort reform in this country, but I submit that it will never happen as long as the majority of elected leaders are lawyers.  The Plain Language in Government Communications Act needs to be re-written to require that all congressional bills are written in simple to understand english.  It has been promoted before that a so called “Good Faith Debate” requirement be added to the bill that would require all bills be posted on the internet in plain English for a specified amount of time before they can be voted on in congress.  We’ve heard politicians give “lip service” to transparency before but have never seen actually seen it happen, and I don’t believe we ever will as long as the place is dominated by career politicians and lawyers.  Yet we Americans continue to elect these same people to represent us in the halls of congress and trust them with the future of a nation.  Maybe it’s time we began looking for a different kind of leader to do the job.

When it comes time to vote in the next election, I encourage everyone from all sides of the political spectrum to select people who do not have a law degree.   We’ve had enough of people with a “win at all cost” attitude who are willing to take whatever side or position that benefits them the most.  We need people who actually know what it’s like to make a payroll or balance a budget with limited funds.   It’s time to send some people to Washington who understand what it’s like dealing with all the regulations created by other people.  A college education is a fine thing, but maybe a person who works in a factory might be able to do a better job in congress than someone who went to Harvard or Yale. 

Some people might say that  I’ve given lawyers a bad wrap here, and maybe I have.  There are probably some very decent people in our country who just happen to practice law for a living, but I figure why take the chance?