The most dangerous word in Washington: “reform”


“Reform” is a DC euphemism for “somebody is about to get fucked.” The McDonald’s hot coffee case illustrates the point.

Sam Ervin, the late, famed North Carolina senator who presided over the Nixon impeachment trial, once said anytime he heard someone describe himself as a “simple country lawyer” he immediately checked to make sure his wallet was still there.

That’s how I feel when I hear one of our elected leaders (and/or any of the legion of partisan mouthpieces, lobbyists, pundits, fixers, grifters, snake-oil salesmen, carnies, pussy-grabbers, sheep-pimps, bagmen, pig-rimmers, teabaggers, human traffickers, helmet-headed pardoners, fluffers, neo-Nazi apologists, PR consultants, C-list stunt cocks, mob lawyers, jock-sniffers, budgies, free marketeers, Tennessee log jammers, kiddiefiddlers, pancake farmers, snow-droppers, rent boys, pickle-juggling numpties, Chicago-school economists, hitch polishers, ghost writers, chickenhawks, bicurious Trilterals, 5th-column catwanks, bangtails, downblousers, upskirters, piffle jockeys, lavvy-heided theocratic roasters, nard-gargling soccer moms, plonk pirates, Skull & Bones bondage daddies, inbred Templar nepotistas, goat-licks, autonecrophiliacs, semi-pro ball-washers, TV preachers, arch-deacons, Tottenham supporters or other assorted degenerates, moral lepers and sycophants infesting the Beltway) using the term “reform.” I may not yet know all the details, but one thing you can bet the farm on: somebody’s a’fixin’ to get [expletive deleted].

Let’s consider one of my favorite examples. You may remember a few years ago there was a lot of talk about “tort reform.” In essence, the argument there was a lot of frivolous ambulance-chaser driven litigation resulting in excessive jury awards. The answer, of course, was to pass a law limiting liability, and the poster-child was Stella Liebeck, the woman who spilled McDonald’s coffee and got burned.

What silliness, we were told. She wasn’t careful. It was just coffee – sure, it probably hurt, but she was suing for millions of dollars? Bitch, please. This had to stop.

Right. Except this:

Stella Liebeck coffee burns

Stella Liebeck coffee burns

Oop – sorry. NSFW.

Stella Liebeck received 3rd degree burns on her thighs (pictured above, screenshot taken from Hot Coffee) when she opened a cup of coffee to add cream and sugar. Liebeck was not driving, she was parked and sitting in the passenger seat. It was McDonald’s policy to “hold” coffee at a temperature of 190°. [emphasis added]

Third-degree burns? What’s that?

Definition of third-degree burn

:a severe burn characterized by destruction of the skin through its deeper layers and possibly into underlying tissues, loss of fluid, and sometimes shock

If the skin approaches a temperature of 160 degrees, a third-degree burn can ensue within a second. [emphasis added]

Water boils at 212°. So do this. Boil a pot of water. Take it off the burner, let it cool for a minute or so, then pour it in your lap. This is what ABC News called “the poster child of excessive lawsuits.”

And you probably fell for it, didn’t you? Don’t feel bad – I did, too.

So, “reform.” Who benefits? Well, if liability is limited, that means corporations are more or less off the hook when they harm someone, and it means the person hurt – or worse – may not be able to collect what they deserve.

For instance, say your toddler gets sick. You go to the doctor. The doc prescribes a new drug that’s supposed to be a wonder cure. Except it turns out to have previously undiscovered side effects. Your child is crippled for life. A new tort reform law limits what you can win to $1 million. You win, and after paying the lawyer you may have $600k left. And your child’s medical bills, over the course of his or her life, will run into the millions.

Starting to get the picture?

If you apply the lesson from tort reform to other types of reform, you’ll quickly realize how “reform” benefits some at the expense of others, and if you’re especially observant you may notice it tends to be the same crowd benefiting at the expense of the same others.

“Welfare reform,” for instance, is about less welfare. That is, the have-nots – or, more accurately, the have-nothings – get shafted in the name of “fiscal responsibility.” Because the hyper-rich are burdened by having to “carry” those who “won’t work.”

“Healthcare reform,” which was much in the news earlier in the year, would have resulted in huge benefits for the wealthy at the expense of the poor and elderly and eliminated coverage for 23 million Americans.

Now we’re on to “tax reform.”

The tax plan that the Trump administration outlined … is a potentially huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans. It would not directly benefit the bottom third of the population. As for the middle class, the benefits appear to be modest.

The administration and its congressional allies are proposing to sharply reduce taxation of business income, primarily benefiting the small share of the population that owns the vast majority of corporate equity. President Trump said … the cuts would increase investment and spur growth, creating broader prosperity. But experts say the upside is limited, not least because the economy is already expanding.

The plan would also benefit Mr. Trump and other affluent Americans by eliminating the estate tax, which affects just a few thousand uber-wealthy families each year, and the alternative minimum tax, a safety net designed to prevent tax avoidance.

It’s fun listening to the proponents of the proposal explaining how the “average American” will benefit. Let me give you an example.

There are ten of us. I get a million-dollar tax break. The other nine of you get nothing. The formula for mean (average) looks like this:

<x> = ∑x/N 

So add all the money we all get back together – that’s $1M – and divide by the number of us – that’s 10 – and we arrive at a mean of $100,000.

You get dick. On average, we get $100,000. Win/win.

We all know things are wrong. So when our “leaders” start talking about how to fix our problems, it’s natural that our ears perk up. However, it’s always nice to recall what Deep Throat said: follow the money.

Next time somebody starts trying to sell you “reform,” check for your wallet.


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