Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Power of Money (Part I)

Federal and state governments do not answer to their constituents, instead they answer to money. Those with the most money and hence, the most lawyers and lobbying power win. This is a sad fact of life. Obama pledge to have a cabinet free of lobbyist and soon found that was a promise that was impossible to keep. Trump has had his cabinet members sign a pledge they will not lobby after leaving the administration for 5 years. That is not perfect, but it is a good place to start.

Liberals are not happy with the Citizens United decision that allows individuals and companies to pour an unlimited amount of cash into elections. The decision says money is a way to express ourselves and hence it falls under free speech. This is true. If people can express themselves legally by burning the American flag they can surely express themselves by buying gifts for others including contributions to campaigns. Interestingly, liberals have benefited more from this decision than conservatives. The Clinton campaign received over four times as much cash then Trump (not including the 85 million Trump donated to his own campaign) and a big chunk of that came from Wall Street. But despite being outspent nearly 3 to 1, Trump won, diminishing the power of money in elections for the first time. That is a good sign because it shows it is not necessarily the amount of money you receive, but how well you spend it. Trump managed his campaign money better than Clinton because he also had to overcome obstacles from established Republicans and the biased media.

Despite seeing some encouraging signs to diminish the power of money in politics, the same cannot be said of money in public life. I am solicited for money dozens of times daily by charities through emails, adds, commercials, phone calls, and so forth. Charities, for the most part, are good. But even the best ones only have about 60% of its contributions reach its intended goal. On average, less than 50% goes to the intended goal. That is not good. For this reason, I do not like charities, but instead like to donate directly to local causes when they happen.

Another alarming aspect of money is how much it is used in civil cases (cases where people, groups, companies, or organizations are suing another group, company, organization or person for damages -which often means for money) or tort cases which involve those where someone has suffered harm or loss. Here are some alarming statics:

Civil Lawsuit Statistics Data

Annual cost to the US economy for civil lawsuits $239,000,000,000

Estimate annual cost to each U.S. citizen for civil lawsuits $812

Percent of people who believe advertising by personal-injury lawyers encourages people to sue, even if they have not been injured 79 %

Average compensation payout for injury lawsuits $60,000

Percent of punitive damages suits won by plaintiff 6 %

Average awarded in a punitive damage lawsuit $50,000

Tort Lawsuit Statistics

Tort law deals with situations where a person's behavior has unfairly caused someone else to suffer loss or harm.

Average annual number of Federal court tort cases 512,000

Percent of tort cases that went to trial 2 %

Percent of cases won by the plaintiff 48 %

Percent of successful plaintiffs that received monetary damages 84 %

Percent of cases won in bench trials 54 %

Percent of cases won in jury trials 46 %

Average length of a civil trial 3.7 days

Federal Trials by Damages Claim

Motor vehicle collision 20 %

Products liability 13 %

Medical malpractice 10 %

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