By Michael McCally, M.D., executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility - 10/05/07 06:49 PM EDT
I read Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) promotion of nuclear power (op-ed, “Nuclear power use must be expanded,” Sept. 27) with interest and bemusement. He insists on calling the sector “clean, reliable, [and] cost-effective” — twice, as if trying to convince himself.
Nuclear power is none of those things. The waste from mining, enrichment and spent fuel rods will be present for thousands of years, much of it where it was produced or utilized. Dozens of facilities were never completed or have sat idled because of cost overruns or insufficient safety provisions.
Wall Street (Inhofe’s term) will not finance these facilities because future plants are likely to cost more than $5 billion, making them marginally profitable at best. And, a recent Congressional Budget Office report predicts that more than 50 percent of proposed plants would default on loan guarantees. That’s reliable?
Physicians for Social Responsibility has long opposed the expansion of nuclear power; it is a serious threat to human health from its cradle-to-grave cycle. It also lends to nuclear proliferation, which is undermining global security.
Congress should pass comprehensive energy reform that leads the U.S. to focus on efficiency, conservation and renewable energy sources — all of which truly will be clean, reliable and cost-effective.
Trial lawyers storm capitol
From Lisa Rickard, president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform
America needs more lawsuits. That’s the message hundreds of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers from across the country have taken to Capitol Hill this week in lobbying Congress to make it easier to bring more lawsuits.
It isn’t surprising. The plaintiffs’ bar has been chomping at the bit since last November’s elections. “We are going to get things done,” declared the treasurer of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America at the time. (They’ve since changed their name to the “American Association for Justice.”)
One thing that you can say for the plaintiffs’ trial lawyers association: They haven’t disappointed their members. They’ve been working hard. No bill has been too big or too small not to slip in a liability-expanding provision.
Passing the farm bill? Invalidate arbitration agreements in meat-packer and producer contracts, so that more business disputes become lawsuits.
Or, better yet, why don’t we outlaw arbitration in all contracts so that the only realistic way to resolve disputes is with a lawsuit?
Reauthorizing Food and Drug Administration funding? Perfect opportunity to take away the federal government’s uniform consumer protection powers and allow for 50 different sets of food and drug laws — and while they’re at it, open the door to thousands of state lawsuits for years to come.
Or how about a bill funding the war on terror? Why don’t we allow each state to enact its own set of security laws and regulations? The more sets of confusing government regulations, the more the likelihood of lawsuits.
At every turn, the plaintiffs’ trial lawyers are looking to cash in on Capitol Hill. They’ve bragged to their membership that their political donations helped to elect this Congress. Now they want a return favor, asking for plaintiffs’ trial lawyer earmarks that give them the ability to bring more lawsuits.
But when they come knocking on Congress’s door, our elected officials should remember that 81 percent of American voters think there are too many lawsuits in this country. And 74 percent of voters think that lawyers benefit most from lawsuits, while only four percent believe the victims (the people that these trial lawyers are supposed to represent) get the most benefit.
So with the trial lawyers storming into Congressional offices purporting to speak for all Americans, members of Congress should ask themselves whether their constituents really want more lawsuits. I think the answer is no.