Zero Lawsuits,|and Counting

     BRATTLEBORO, Vt. – I haven’t seen any lawsuits from the disaster that hit Vermont.
     Hurricane Irene did a lot of damage here – more than $500 million to roads and bridges alone. That may not sound like much in this day and age, but it’s half of the state’s annual budget.
     Not half of the state’s roads budget – half of the budget for everything.
     The governor said the total damages will be more than $1 billion: the state’s entire income for a year.
     But I haven’t seen any lawsuits about it yet, and Courthouse News covers all the federal and superior courts in Vermont.
     Vermont is one of the most politically liberal states in the nation – maybe the most politically liberal of all. It’s the only state in the Lower 48 that George W. Bush did not visit when he was president, and I can understand why. On town meeting day Brattleboro approved a motion that the police chief arrest the dude for war crimes if he showed his face here. Cheney, too. And Brattleboro’s not the only town that did it.
     Yet just a generation ago, Vermont was the most solidly Republican state in the nation.
     I don’t think Vermont’s changed much in 30 years. I think the United States slid way out to the right underneath Vermont.
     The reason I bring this up is that Republicans for years have been hollering about “tort reform.” They say that liberal lawyers sue our poor, overtaxed corporations for light and transient reasons; that the liberal lawyers do this to line their own pockets, and hurt the American economy by doing it.
     This is nonsense, of course. The Republican Party and its entire congressional delegation is just a big fat waterboy for corporations. As proof I offer the fact that no one has sued anyone yet for the $1 billion in damages that Hurricane Irene did to Vermont. Hundreds of people lost their jobs, at least temporarily. People lost their houses.
     Oh, I imagine someone here will sue someone else for something, sometime, for what happened during the hurricane. Maybe they’ll sue an insurance company or two. But they haven’t done it yet.
     The reason for this is that Vermonters really are self-reliant and independent people. They know that nature can knock you on your ass if you don’t watch out. And sometimes it’s nobody’s fault.
     Whose fault was it that your great-great-granddad’s great uncle built his house by a creek back in 1791?
     Who you gonna sue for it?
     So, as I said, we haven’t seen any lawsuits yet for damages from Hurricane Irene.
     The FEMA people have been great. They’ve been all over the state, just about begging Vermonters to ask for help. They’ve been helpful as can be. A far cry from the days of Hurricane Katrina.
     Now, if people in the most liberal state in the nation have not sued anybody for $1 billion in damages, you would think the tort system here don’t need reforming.
     In fact, the people who have been whining for years about “tort reform” – which, don’t you forget it, are just code words – the people who have been whining for years about tort reform are the same people who say that the U.S. tax system is unfair to millionaires and billionaires.
     I don’t believe it is unfair to them. I don’t believe the tort reformers in the Republican Party – and that’s just about all of them – believe that either.
     The fact is, people who really are independent and conservative don’t whine. They certainly don’t whine at the drop of a hat, which is all you hear Republicans doing these days.
     The Republican Party, from John Boehner on down, should do what the people of Vermont did when disaster struck: shut their mouths and get to work. Their job is to help the United States, not to get themselves re-elected, not to shove their ideology down our throats.
     But the Republican Party today is nothing but a bunch of goddamn crybabies. And the people they spend most of their time crying about are millionaires and billionaires, who could buy and sell the Republican Party – and already have.

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