Tort reform is what George W. Bush is talking about when he speaks of "getting rid of frivolous lawsuits." This is sound politics, because almost nobody likes lawyers, but while he talks the good talk about protecting doctors and small businesses, in reality, Bush's version of tort reform is yet another boondoggle for big corporations.

With an administration that has continuously assaulted all manner of consumer and environmental protections, lawsuits and punitive damages have been one of the best protections ordinary citizens have against corporate maleficence. If Bush is successful in removing or severely limiting punitive damages, corporations will have a lot less compunction about covering up illegal dumping of pollutants, lying about the effectiveness of their products, and concealing negative side effects of their new drugs when they know that even if they are found out the damages will be, say, $75,000 instead of $5 million.

Make no mistake, some tort reform is needed, especially medical liability reform, but blanket limitations on all tort settlements of the type Bush is proposing would be a severe blow to one of the most important protections ordinary citizens have against the soulless profit-seeking of large corporations - the ability to sue them in the face of government inaction - and would in some cases quite literally allow corporations to get away with murder.

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