Don’t get me wrong, I'm not one of those anti-government types complaining about “too much government” or holding signs like “Government, keep your hands off my Medicare.” I like my roads, fire departments and socialized medicine just fine, thank you very much.
But governments – and people who work in government - sometimes do very bad things to other people. Shouldn’t they be held accountable just like anyone else? There have been a few interesting stories in the news lately which highlight this point.
First of all, the deadline for filing claims in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, which we’ve covered here, was Tuesday, and the number of claimant has now reached 100. But because of the Draconian $5 million cap on liability for the state, most of the injured will get nothing, and the catastrophically-injured won’t get anything close to what they need to survive.
To provide another sense of the inequity of this, contrast this situation with 15 women who were raped and molested by jailers Oklahoma. Yesterday, the county agreed to settle those claims for $13.5 million.
In New York this week, a few “bad government” stories have also come to light. The New York Times writes about a preemptive lawsuit being brought by a tenant named James Whelan who is fighting eviction, but the suit is about keeping his name off a tenant blacklist created by state government for tenants who are trying to stop illegal evictions! Incredibly,
The New York State Office of Court Administration sells to private companies the names of everyone who is sued in housing court for eviction on the very day the case is put on the calendar. Those companies then compile the information and sell it to landlords looking to avoid difficult or irresponsible tenants.
But those screening lists do not make a distinction between renters who ultimately win their cases (perhaps they withheld rent because they had no heat) and those who lose …[!]
Mr. Whelan’s lawyer, James B. Fishman, says this practice has a chilling effect on tenants’ rights, as some people opt to move out rather than face their landlord in court and risk being blacklisted for years. (Companies that curate these lists are supposed to purge names after seven years, but some are notoriously sloppy.)
In the meantime, while New York City’s chief lawyer Michael Cardozo is running around town arguing that the legal rights of everyday New Yorkers should be stripped because their injuries are too costly, the city itself just had to pay $70 million to the feds and a whistleblower because the city was defrauding Medicaid. The New York Times writes:
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for Manhattan, reacted angrily to Mr. Cardozo’s contentions that the settlement reflected a mere technical problem, and that it accounted for “less than half of 1 percent” of the $18 billion cost of the program in the city over 11 years. He noted that the Justice Department’s original complaint, filed in January, had alleged tens of millions of dollars in improper billing, and that the settlement was within that range.
“It is unfortunate that Mayor Bloomberg’s counsel would contradict the stipulations that he personally signed and submitted to the court, in which he acknowledged that the settlement was fair and reasonable,” Mr. Bharara said. “The city’s argument that this case was about ‘paperwork’ was specifically rejected by Federal District Court Judge Jed Rakoff when he denied the city’s motion to dismiss this case.”
How about just following the law? That might help.