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Torching Civil Justice (and the People's Rights) in the Trump Era

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In his book The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution, legal scholar and author Ganesh Sitaraman makes the case for a strong middle class. Drawing on his studies at Harvard Law, constitutional scholarship, and experience at Vanderbilt Law School and the Center for American Progress, Sitaraman argues that the U.S. requires a healthy middle class and low levels of inequality in order to fulfill the intentions our Founding Fathers set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

Sitaraman points out that lacking the shared purpose and shared fate of an equal society, our republic would fall to revolution and strife leading us back to the aristocratic, monarchical style of government the U.S. fled under British control. There is no wealth requirement, for example, to run for office in the Congress or Senate. As Sitaraman writes, the Constitution was written at a time when there was little inequality. As a result, our republic depends on economic equality, almost as if that was baked into the Constitution - a system with clearer divides between rich and poor also divides the inherent power of the political economy, essentially granting political voice to only the wealthiest among us.

Unfortunately, the current administration and federal lawmakers seem intent on peeling away the political power of the middle class. Not only are they attempting to enact laws that further divide the rich from the poor, including unnecessary tax cuts on the wealthy, but also under the cover of major scandals, they are trying to pass laws that specifically diminish the individual and collective political power of the middle class. An example is H.R. 985, which effectively strips the opportunity for justice away from the average American through irresponsible tort reform measures.

H.R. 985 is designed to take away the average middle-class citizen's right to engage in class-action lawsuits that help individuals who have been harmed, cheated and/or violated by the misdeeds of large corporations and institutions. Grievances include cancers from asbestos and other chemicals, illnesses from polluted groundwater, and injury or death from unsafe products and dangerous drugs.

As Sitaraman explains, the Constitution was based on a structure of relative economic and political equality for the middle class. Irresponsible tort reform undermines the foundation on which our Constitution was written and our country built.

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