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A high price for a bitter banana
Futures and Commodity Market News ^ | 11.14.05 | E. Ray Walker

Posted on 11/17/2005 3:14:27 PM PST by Dr. Marten

WASHINGTON, Nov 14, 2005 (Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service - Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service via COMTEX) --

I have sinned. I bought a banana ... at Wal-Mart.

For this, I am doomed.

My late stepfather, bless his soul, warned early and often of the evil of out-of-town (-state, -country) conglomerates descending on our small Virginia town and putting his pharmacy and other locally owned businesses out of business.

He was prescient. The conglomerates did come (out on the main drag, not downtown), and now our little town is struggling.

His was a sermon I've tried to follow as much as possible ... until recently. In a strange town and in need of a breakfast banana, I could find no other grocery store open at night except that behemoth best known for low wages and few benefits. Desperate, I walked in and bought a banana ... thus violating a family commandment: Thou shalt not aid those who seek to take away your bread and butter.

Of course, this was not the first time I'd broken that commandment. Fact is, it is impossible to live in a large city today and not patronize a CVS or RiteAid, a Sears or Home Depot, a McDonald's or Burger King. There are no alternatives. I'd come to grips years ago with the fact that, like it or not, I had to deal with these businesses.

But Wal-Mart is something else: A company known for low wages and part-time hours; that foists its workers' family health-care costs on taxpayers (Medicaid); that makes warm-and-fuzzy, flag-waving, we-love-America TV commercials while exploiting cheap labor in China to the tune of $15 billion in goods shipped the United States in 2003. (Woe unto any Chinese worker who protests labor practices.)

Low prices are good; the more, the better. It's the shifting of Wal-Mart's labor costs onto taxpayers that doesn't sit well. Wal-Mart acknowledges that 46 percent of the children of its employees are uninsured or on Medicaid. So when they need medical care, guess who picks up the tab? All businesses could lower their prices if they could dump their costs of business onto someone else.

Concerned that its public image needs some serious polishing, Wal-Mart sponsored a conference Nov. 4 in Washington to discuss the company's effect on the economy and individual communities. Not surprising, the economic research firm hired by Wal-Mart issued a report claiming that the company "has been economically positive for the U.S. economy." That report went on to assert that Wal-Mart saved each American household an average of $2,329 in 2004.

That's a lot of bananas!

At that same conference, however, other studies were presented that offered a different view. In fairness, these studies were offered after Global Insight, Wal-Mart's hired economic research firm, called for further studies from the academic and business community.

Said David Neumark, an economist with Public Policy Institute in California and who with Junfu Zhang and Stephen Ciccarella wrote a report titled "The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets," "Residents of a local labor market do indeed earn less following the opening of Wal-Mart stores." That report went on to say that Wal-Mart's low pay pushed down total payroll wages per person by almost 5 percent in areas that have the its stores.

More damning news came from another report presented at the conference. A study by Michael Hicks of the Air Force Institute of Technology in Ohio and Marshall University, showed that Wal-Mart increased Medicaid (read "taxpayer") costs an average of $898 per worker and that a 1 percent increase in Wal-Mart's market share in a state is accompanied by a 1.5 percent increase in Medicaid spending.

And so it goes. Always low prices, always low wages, always low benefits.

Which brings us to the memo by M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits. In her memo to the company's board of directors and reported in the New York Times on ways to hold down spending on health care, Chambers suggests one way to discourage unhealthy job applicants is to make all jobs involve some physical activity. For example, a door-greeter "associate" (Wal-Mart's term for its workers) or cashier "associate" might be required to help stock shelves or gather shopping carts. The thinking is that this physical fitness requirement will lead to healthier, younger job applicants.

So, Grandma, where will you be doing your holiday shopping?

But there is one element of hope in Wal-Mart's image-improvement campaign. Company chief executive H. Lee Scott has decided to push for an increase in the U.S. minimum-wage law. (Some might suggest this is merely an effort to give its "associates" more money so they can turn around and spend it at Wal-Mart stores, but I would never think of saying that.)

Attention, Mr. Scott: If you want to give your employees a raise, go ahead and do so. No one is stopping you. You do not have to wait until the feds make it the law of the land ... if they ever choose to do so.

The more I think about it, that banana I bought did leave a bitter aftertaste.



TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: china; economy; labor
The Horse's Mouth
1 posted on 11/17/2005 3:14:28 PM PST by Dr. Marten
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To: backhoe; B4Ranch; maui_hawaii; srm913; Free the USA; rightwing2; borghead; ChaseR; soccer8; ...

Ping.


2 posted on 11/17/2005 3:19:29 PM PST by Dr. Marten ((http://thehorsesmouth.blog-city.com) Banned in China)
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To: Dr. Marten

--hogwash--


3 posted on 11/17/2005 3:21:47 PM PST by rellimpank (urbanites don' t understand the cultural deprivation of not being raised on a farm:NRABenefactor)
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To: Dr. Marten

Geeeeeeeee, Ray, I'm so sorry they made you buy that banana.


4 posted on 11/17/2005 3:22:12 PM PST by null and void (The enemy of my enemy is my tool...)
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To: Dr. Marten

When I saw the title I assumed this was going to be a post about Monica Lewinski.


5 posted on 11/17/2005 3:22:30 PM PST by Jaxter ("Vivit Post Funera Virtus")
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To: Dr. Marten

I guess this guy would rather we go back to making cars by hand, too?


6 posted on 11/17/2005 3:22:42 PM PST by mewzilla (Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist. John Adams)
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To: Dr. Marten

If this fellow really feels that strongly about it, why did he buy the banana? Sounds like the Yuppie School of Instant Gratification to me.


7 posted on 11/17/2005 3:25:45 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Dr. Marten


I fail to see how putting people to work increases medicaid. If they qualify for medicaid while working you can bet they also qualified while not working.

I've worked many locally owned places where my children still qualified for medicaid.


8 posted on 11/17/2005 3:28:12 PM PST by SouthernFreebird
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To: Dr. Marten
Okey dokey Doc - these jobs are transitional jobs - not careers - people have babies when they are young but they don't stay babies.

Walmart takes a lot of crap from the whiners who have had their way with the local communities sticking them with high prices for decades - well it's over - go Walmart - low prices, good safe jobs, a chance to grow in a company that is needed and wanted - go Walmart - to the rest of you Compete or go to ITT every cent counts.

Instead of bitching about Walmart bitch about the insurance, legal, Union and medical profession - here is a law for you - file a lawsuit and loose it = you spend six months in jail getting taught how to practice safe sex (your the practice dummy). Tort reform school if you will.
9 posted on 11/17/2005 3:28:15 PM PST by kentj
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To: Dr. Marten

10 posted on 11/17/2005 3:31:00 PM PST by xcamel (Operation Spread The Truth resource page http://lrllamas.com/OSTT)
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To: Dr. Marten
Low prices are good; the more, the better. It's the shifting of Wal-Mart's labor costs onto taxpayers that doesn't sit well. Wal-Mart acknowledges that 46 percent of the children of its employees are uninsured or on Medicaid.

Hmmmmmm.....WalMart should immediately fire all their employees. Then 100% of the children will be uninsured or on Medicaid. We all know that 100% is better than 46%.

11 posted on 11/17/2005 3:32:38 PM PST by Toddsterpatriot (The Federal Reserve did not kill JFK. Greenspan was not on the grassy knoll.)
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To: Dr. Marten

Seriously, Wal-Mart should shut down for a good week and see what type of impact it would have on America. What will states do when sales tax receipts dry up?


12 posted on 11/17/2005 3:33:17 PM PST by Extremely Extreme Extremist
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To: Dr. Marten

The banana that broke the camel's snack.


13 posted on 11/17/2005 3:34:22 PM PST by PoorMuttly ("He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head." - G. K.Chesterton)
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To: Dr. Marten
The more I think about it, that banana I bought did leave a bitter aftertaste.

All your food must taste bitter....with your head up your a$$.

14 posted on 11/17/2005 3:35:39 PM PST by Toddsterpatriot (The Federal Reserve did not kill JFK. Greenspan was not on the grassy knoll.)
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To: Dr. Marten

So oil companies are bad because the they gouge us with high prices and Walmart is bad because their prices aren't high enough. Can anyone make sense out of this position?


15 posted on 11/17/2005 3:37:13 PM PST by muir_redwoods (Free Sirhan Sirhan, after all, the bastard who killed Mary Jo Kopechne is walking around free)
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To: Dr. Marten
The more I think about it, that banana I bought did leave a bitter aftertaste.

Here's a hint: Don't stick it in your butt before you eat it.

16 posted on 11/17/2005 3:38:55 PM PST by evolved_rage
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To: SouthernFreebird
The thing is, there shouldn't be a Medicaid anyway. If there wasn't a Medicaid (and a SS or Medicare) Wal-Mart or various third-party companies would be offering their own health plans for low-income or disabled folks. Wal-Mart is only doing what any other capitalist does - take advantage of the system in order to cut your costs and create more profit. Hey, it isn't Wal-Mart's fault that stupid politicians promise "the poor" the moon and stars that Medicaid would be there for them regardless if states racked up huge budget deficits.

Phase-out Medicaid and the problem would solve itself virtually overnight.

17 posted on 11/17/2005 3:39:26 PM PST by Extremely Extreme Extremist
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To: Dr. Marten
My late stepfather, bless his soul, warned early and often of the evil of out-of-town (-state, -country) conglomerates descending on our small Virginia town and putting his pharmacy...out of business.

This should qualify as "selfish greed"...right?

18 posted on 11/17/2005 3:44:49 PM PST by Onelifetogive (* Sarcasm tag ALWAYS required. For some FReepers, sarcasm can NEVER be obvious enough.)
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To: Dr. Marten

My biggest problem with Wal-Mart is that the banana this guy talks about was probably made in China.


19 posted on 11/17/2005 3:45:01 PM PST by RightOnTheLeftCoast (You're it)
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To: Dr. Marten
that foists its workers' family health-care costs on taxpayers...

This I was unaware of. Apparently, Wal-Mart sets the rules for Medicaid eligibility.....

</sarcasm*>

20 posted on 11/17/2005 3:48:10 PM PST by Onelifetogive (* Sarcasm tag ALWAYS required. For some FReepers, sarcasm can NEVER be obvious enough.)
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To: kentj

I agree with just about everything you posted. I would add the word "leadership" to union. The only thing I didn't quite agree with was the claim about entry level positions. I believe you said transitional jobs.

I would offer to you that as we exit the industrial age andprogress well into the technology age, service jobs cannot be called just entry level or transition for all time. They are simply too many to do so. I would offer that if service based jobs are to be called entry level or transitional for all time then this country will fall on its face with a workfoce comprised mostly of entry level positions. I think that is a recipie for disaster.

Does this mean I would hammer wal mart? No, not at all. I Like wal mart. I would hammer the other entities you named very hard and I would call for people to accept that lots and lots of gen X and gen Y will always be in service based jobs and that they are indeed careers.

An example. My wife has been a CNA, always been a CNA. This is considered unskilled labor. An entry level position. Take a good look where that attitude leads by noticing the utterly disgusting care (and respect) we give our elders in this nation.

She doesn't want to be a nurse, RN LPN etc. She likes the direct care that she can provide to folks that spent a lifetime earning at least a clean shave a bath and a person to actually show they care about them in their last days. I offer it takes a very special kind of person to do that and calling it unskilled labor ( and paying a wage that reflects that) is about as much a slap in the face as the care nursing homes provide for their $6000 a month fee.

Not an attack man, just an observation a couple comments and an example to show where I am coming from.


21 posted on 11/17/2005 3:50:01 PM PST by BlueStateDepression
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To: Dr. Marten
showed that Wal-Mart increased Medicaid (read "taxpayer") costs...

Ever notice when a liberal supports Federal spending its the "governemnt's" money. When they are against it, its the "taxpayers'" money.

What other time have we ever heard a liberal looking out for "taxpayers"?????

22 posted on 11/17/2005 3:51:54 PM PST by Onelifetogive (* Sarcasm tag ALWAYS required. For some FReepers, sarcasm can NEVER be obvious enough.)
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To: Extremely Extreme Extremist
The thing is, there shouldn't be a Medicaid anyway.

EXACTLY. I am so glad that I don't have employer or government provided Auto Insurance, Homeowners Insurance, etc. I wish that they didn't spend MY money providing me with THEIR choice of Medical Insurance.

Could you imagine what auto insurance would cost if it covered tune-ups, paint touch-ups, upholstery cleaning, etc...

23 posted on 11/17/2005 3:58:18 PM PST by Onelifetogive (* Sarcasm tag ALWAYS required. For some FReepers, sarcasm can NEVER be obvious enough.)
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To: Dr. Marten

If his Walmart was like the Walmart I worked at he got ripped off. Bananas usually was 20 cents more than grocery stores nearby but they sold a lot.

It was surprising how much stuff we sold was higher priced than elsewhere but since most Walmart shoppers didn't put the time in to check prices or even to take advantage of our honoring other store ads it was their fault.

Still I suspect some wise retailer could put shops in near Walmart stores called "Cheaper than Walmart" and have a pretty good inventory of goods.


24 posted on 11/17/2005 3:59:52 PM PST by Swiss
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To: mewzilla

I guess this guy would rather we go back to making cars by hand, too?

Blasphamy !! what about mom and pop Horse and Cart operators ?!?!?!??!


25 posted on 11/17/2005 4:05:29 PM PST by newfarm4000n (God Bless America and God Bless Freedom)
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To: Dr. Marten

The bitter taste is from all the horse apples spewing form the authors mouth


26 posted on 11/17/2005 4:09:09 PM PST by bert (K.E. ; N.P . (FR = a lotta talk, but little action))
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To: Dr. Marten

It seems all goods are made in China these days. I don't care where you go. As for Wages. Macy's and other stores pay no more than Walmart.


27 posted on 11/17/2005 4:11:21 PM PST by nyconse (a)
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To: Dr. Marten

"Woe unto any Chinese worker who protests labor practices."

So much for Communism then, huh? Probably not what Marx had planned on.


28 posted on 11/17/2005 4:13:59 PM PST by dhs12345 (w)
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To: Dr. Marten

He never really manages to close the loop. Did his late stepfather stay up all night selling bananas or not? And what ever became of all of those really special, one-of-a-kind family-run all-night tropical fruit stands I remember so well from my idyllic youth?


29 posted on 11/17/2005 4:17:52 PM PST by rogue yam
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To: Onelifetogive

>Ever notice when a liberal supports Federal spending its >the "governemnt's" money. When they are against it, its >the "taxpayers'" money.

>What other time have we ever heard a liberal looking out >for "taxpayers"?????

Nice try, but liberals are all about raising the minimum wage. If you read the article, you might have noticed that little point where he stated Wal-Mart could feel free to give pay raises on their own without having it mandated from the government.

I for one thing minimum wage is a load of crap anyway. Why should the government be able to tell you how much you have to pay your employees? If they want the job, they'll work for the wages you offer.

I'm sure the Delphi union members will soon learn how that works.


30 posted on 11/17/2005 4:18:23 PM PST by Dr. Marten ((http://thehorsesmouth.blog-city.com) Banned in China)
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To: Dr. Marten
I for one thing minimum wage is a load of crap anyway. Why should the government be able to tell you how much you have to pay your employees? If they want the job, they'll work for the wages you offer.

I would agree about minimum wage but, How about we let the market decide wages? I would offer that your 'want a job' statement would work both ways if the Illegal labor force was removed. If they want someone to do the work they will offer a wage worth doing it.
31 posted on 11/17/2005 5:13:16 PM PST by BlueStateDepression
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To: BlueStateDepression
I think we would all like to work in a field that is gratifying, it is however a market driven work place - it comes down to if you want to be in charge of your life work hard and be the only one who knows how to set the mouse trap, or where the bones are buried etc etc. otherwise the pay probably will always be on the short end of things.

My wife loves to work with special needs kids - she is very bright (3.98 through college that kind of bright) but her heart is for these kids, especially the little ones - so it is not always about money, nor can we expect a business to pay more than the market demands - if that were the case we would have a pity market for example a freeze in Florida yet a bumper crop in California - pay more for Florida citrus because they need it - it does not work that way.

The truth of the matter is most can improve their lot in life by working at it - Your wife and my wife well it is part of the price they pay to do the work they feel called to do - it is that simple.
32 posted on 11/17/2005 5:39:37 PM PST by kentj
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To: kentj

Sure I understand work gratification but when 80% of the economy is serviced based how does one consider service jobs unskilled in order to keep the wages low. That in effect would put 80% of the workforce into poverty and is hardly a recipe for success.

Im not saying all wages should be high, I would offer that would lead to the same problem (unbalance that leads to lack of stability leading to crash). If all service jobs remain classified as entry level /transition/ unskilled we are headed for trouble.


33 posted on 11/17/2005 5:44:08 PM PST by BlueStateDepression
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To: Dr. Marten

The little rascals were building a wagon with room enough for all of them to ride. The boy charged with installing the wheels on the multitude of axles was making good progress as the wheels were handed to him by another lad. It wasn't till he got to the end of the job and looked back that he realized he had been handed the same two wheels over and over, one having been removed while he was installing the other. A good picture of the American consumers and Walmart, respectively.


34 posted on 11/17/2005 5:50:31 PM PST by gas0linealley
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To: BlueStateDepression
An example. My wife has been a CNA, always been a CNA. This is considered unskilled labor. An entry level position. Take a good look where that attitude leads by noticing the utterly disgusting care (and respect) we give our elders in this nation.

She doesn't want to be a nurse, RN LPN etc. She likes the direct care that she can provide to folks that spent a lifetime earning at least a clean shave a bath and a person to actually show they care about them in their last days. I offer it takes a very special kind of person to do that and calling it unskilled labor ( and paying a wage that reflects that) is about as much a slap in the face as the care nursing homes provide for their $6000 a month fee.

I believe that, as the baby boomers age, individuals in your wife's position, attitude, and skill set, will be in a position to take advantage of coming social changes.

If she, and other workers who are willing to perform this kind of work, could manage to form up, and initiate, manage and operate high quality, low cost nursing care facilities for aging baby boomers, they would be set to acquire some significantly increased income.

It would take a group that understood the expectations of baby boomers for personalized, sympathetic care, and to understand the value of individuals like your wife, who now do the job because they want to, not because it pays particularly well.

Such individuals as your wife would be, I believe, in high demand, based upon the reputation of such a facility. High demand equals high pay.

That all may sound crazy at this juncture, but I believe that once baby boomers reach nursing home care (and even before that, in-home care) age, good treatment, a safe environment, and the long term stability of care will be something most of them will be more than willing to pay for.

And if such a support facility was focused on low cost/high quality care, the line of customers would be out the door (probably in wheelchairs, but still waiting to get in).

35 posted on 11/17/2005 7:05:20 PM PST by Col Freeper
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To: Col Freeper
That all may sound crazy at this juncture Not crazy at all. I think you have a very valid point. I would offer a major stumbling block is insurance. Of course that is exactly the way many like it ;)
36 posted on 11/17/2005 7:44:37 PM PST by BlueStateDepression
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To: Jaxter

LOL!


37 posted on 11/17/2005 7:47:08 PM PST by Brett66 (Where government advances and it advances relentlessly freedom is imperiled -Janice Rogers Brown)
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To: Dr. Marten

Is it too late to recommend what "E. Ray" should do with his banana?


38 posted on 11/17/2005 8:07:50 PM PST by Stultis (I don't worry about the war turning into "Vietnam" in Iraq; I worry about it doing so in Congress.)
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To: BlueStateDepression
I suspect some entrepreneurs will approach that stumbling block as just another challenge, and overcome it in some innovative way.
39 posted on 11/17/2005 8:53:12 PM PST by Col Freeper
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To: RightOnTheLeftCoast

"My biggest problem with Wal-Mart is that the banana this guy talks about was probably made in China."

ROFLMAO! The nerve of those damn slave-labor-produced Commie bananas, undercutting our patriotic American bananas!


40 posted on 11/17/2005 9:35:20 PM PST by LibertarianInExile (Let O'Connor Go Home! Hasn't She Suffered Enough? Hasn't The CONSTITUTION Suffered Enough?)
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To: Extremely Extreme Extremist

I agree. Medicaid should be scrapped along with the idea of giving dole. I don't see the point of that, it encourages people to get money for doing nothing. It should be stopped.


41 posted on 11/17/2005 10:16:24 PM PST by Cronos (Never forget 9/11. Restore Hagia Sophia!)
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To: Col Freeper

Maybe our leaders could get the insurance industry dislodged from their stranglehold on every aspect of our society. I suggest that common sense boundries are needed to put the lawyer/insurance industry/court game back on a table of reason. Threat of never ending lawsuit(or even threat of it) and no limits judgements are harming our country's progress forward.

Maybe, just maybe, making the loser of a lawsuit (lawyers included) pay all the fees of the trial would be enough to end the foolish lawsuits that so damage our country.


42 posted on 11/18/2005 9:23:52 AM PST by BlueStateDepression
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