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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Dan Quayle “Civic Justice”

J. Danforth Quayle wants to earn the $45,000 a year raise that President Bush secured for him through Congress. So he is applying his limited talents, on behalf of the big business lobby, to make life less safe and more painful for many Americans.

The mechanism for Quayle’s hunt is an entity called the President’s Council on Competitiveness, chaired by the Vice- President out of the White House. The Council is composed of top Bush appointees who dilute, delay or strike down government health and safety standards designed to save American workers, consumers and environments from damage or destruction.

When George Bush was head of a similar committee to ride roughshod over even modest government agency safety efforts, the buzz words were “regulatory relief.” That was in 1981. Thousands of human casualties later, resulting from blocked auto safety, occupational safety and other life-saving standards, the buzz word is “competitiveness” with overseas nations.

The essence of this buzz word is so fundamentally anti-patriotic that it should become a major issue in next years Presidential race. Wherever the United States is ahead of other countries in the just treatment of workers, consumers and the environment is where bush and Quayle want this country to go backward. Justice is viewed by these men as an obstacle to international corporate investment and trade. The corporations prefer foreign cheap labor without workers compensation, maternity leaves, health insurance and other benefits.

This is why Bush and Quayle are pushing for Trade Agreements with 106 nations that will make many protections of Americans vulnerable to repeal as “non‑ tariff trade barriers.” That is, bans on asbestos, pollution control standards, food safety rules, controls on industrial hazards and others would be viewed as so much tougher than many other countries as to violate the treaty’s definition of an unlawful trade barrier.

Yes, our local, state and national safety standards can be struck down by the terms of an international treaty that the U.S. has agreed to via the White House and Congress. Presently, for example, Canada is suing the U.S. under the U.S. – Canada trade agreement to overturn Washington’s ban on asbestos — a deadly cancer‑ producing substance. Canada’s argument: the asbestos ban is an unfair trade barrier keeping out its asbestos exports.

At the August convention in Atlanta of the American Bar Association (ABA), Dan Quayle proposed what he called “civil justice reform.” He is demanding that the already difficult task of injured people suing corporations and other perpetrators who engage in harmful wrongdoing be made much more difficult. He wants to make a worker or consumer who sues a harming company to pay the company’s lawyers fees if they lose in court. He wants to make punitive damages, as used against the Pinto fuel tank incinerations, tougher to obtain.

Quayle’s proposals before the ABA are toned down for tactical reasons. Earlier in 1986, he and Bush supported Reagan’s harsh but unsuccessful demands on Congress to limit the most seriously injured persons’ pain and suffering rights to a lifetime of only $250,000. No limitations were sought by Reagan -on insurance company premiums, profits or executive salaries — just squeeze the paraplegics. Reagan, with Bush & Quayle’s backing, also radically sought to federally reduce the authority of state judges and juries regarding the rights and compensation that could be accorded the injured and sick as they exercise their right to have their day in court.

First the Bush-Quayle regime continues Reagan’s no law and order for corporate wrongdoing by stiffing the safety and health laws, then they move to obstruct the only other outlet for justice by desperately harmed citizens — the courts.

Johnny Carson and David Letterrman make jokes about Quayle often on their nationally televised shows. But the real joke will be on the American people if they don’t throw out such cruel politicians who walk over them and their hallowed rights under the law.