Quick-- who made more money this year? Microsoft Corporation or a couple of lawyers in Texas?
Right. The lawyers. Well, almost. You see this group of lawyers represented the State of Texas in negotiating a settlement (read "sell-out") with the tobacco companies. In exchange for lots of bucks, paid to the lawyers--- ooops! Paid to the Plaintiffs! That's you and me! ---the tobacco companies get to continue marketing death and disease to American children. What a wonderful country!
So how much did the lawyers bill the State of Texas for their noble services, defending the innocent consumer against evil, ruthless, greedy corporations?
How much you say? Well, these are lawyers, after all. So the amount might be a little excessive. What d'ya think? Take a guess? How much should a lawyer be paid for a couple of years of work, doing research, bribing employees to turn over internal documents, and ordering health studies already paid for by the tax-payer through government funding of Universities and Research Organizations? How much?
Oh, come on now. These are REALLY SMART TALENTED LAWYERS. After all, the average lawyer would have tried to get tobacco companies out of the business altogether. But that would have made the tobacco companies very unhappy. So these superior lawyers actually found a way to make everybody happy. The government gets money. The tobacco companies get to stay in business. The taxpayer gets to continue smoking away.
Come on-- don't be shy! These the same intelligent, compassionate, competent professionals you see every day in the movies and on television, except that you never see the scene where they present their bills and take almost all of the settlement money they weaseled out of the greedy, amoral, unfeeling corporation. How can a lawyer live off of a measly $500 million dollars nowadays? Be reasonable! There are SO MANY expenses. Postage. Clerical work. Filing. Thinking. Reading. Subscriptions. Donuts. Get SERIOUS!
A mere BILLION? When Michael Jackson makes almost a tenth of that? When Bill Gates makes ten times that much! And how much more important is a Texas lawyer than the owner of the greediest corporation on the face of the earth? Give me a break.
Now you're getting reasonable! But not too reasonable.
Right on! Yes, these Texas Lawyers are asking for $25 billion dollars for negotiating--- GET THIS-- a $17 billion dollar settlement. In other words, for recovering $17 billion dollars from the tobacco companies for the lucky tax payers of Texas, they ..... well, they want to keep all the money. Yes ALL of the money. YES, ALL OF THE MONEY. But that's not all folks! The taxpayers of Texas, in compensation for all the medical costs of taking care of all of the victims of smoking addictions, get to PAY these Texas Lawyers an additional $8 BILLION! You lucky Texans! Not only do you get to have tail-gate parties at Huntsville State Prison where they execute completely worthless, disgusting, evil, unredeemable human beings almost every night--- you also get to pay a bunch of lawyers $8 billion dollars for....... well..... for.....
Well, fortunately, the lawyers and the tobacco companies got together and decided that it wouldn't be fair to hit the citizens of Texas with such a large bill. They said, "What? Are you crazy?" Well... And they decided that those Texas Lawyers should ONLY receive $3.3 billion.
Whew! Here I was all upset over nothing! A mere $3.3 billion! How many lawyers were involved? The New York Times doesn't say, but several other states had teams of three or four leading lawyers and their staffs. But-- get this-- some lawyers represented as many as 30 states. Do they get paid once? Are you an idiot? Does Michael Jordan get paid once even though he plays in 30 different stadiums?
Well, yes he does. But that's Michael Jordan. He's not a lawyer.
One of the lawyers for Florida, Steven Yerid, said the costs are justified. Why? Because that's how much lawyers should make? Because their work is so terrible, so risky, so dangerous, that even a $14.95 an hour coal miner wouldn't take it on? Because they are so smart that they scare Stephen Hawkings?
No. He said the fees were justified because "the costs come from the industry". In other words, we're justified in taking any money we can lay our grubby hands on because we are lawyers. We just ARE.
Furthermore, he says, the lawyers might have ended up with nothing if they had lost the case. So, because these lawyers might not have won the case, they are entitled to demand as much money as they please.
Remember, this line of reasoning is coming from a lawyer, someone you might need to depend on for your life if you're ever charged with a serious crime in Texas.
Pity me. I thought this case was about public health and liability. Instead, it is clearly some new kind of industry, in which clever entrepreneur can sue somebody out of the blue on the off chance they might collect a few billions. Who do they sue next?
What does the public have to do with it? Go suck a camel.
The industry will pay it? Ha ha ha. The industry?!!! Where does this idiot think the "industry" gets its money? From the smokers! So, not only will very little of this money from the tobacco companies actually find it's way into the medical facilities of Texas (aren't most of their medical facilities used to gas convicts anyway?), but the smokers will pay more for cigarettes in order to pay the lawyers who negotiated a deal in which tobacco companies can now market their disease- causing product with impunity.
There are some scandals that shock you. There are scandals that boggle the mind. There are scandals that baffle you, because the scale of the moral atrocity is so far beyond normal human experience that you can't even begin to comprehend it. The Savings and Loan Scandal. The loans to 3rd World Dictatorships at usurious interest rates. Windows 95.
And then there is the king of all scandals, the mind-blowing, baffling, stunning, incomprehensible, MOTHER of all scandals. And this is it.
So while you're sitting there eating your chips and watching the sanctimonious republicans try to impeach the president for consensual groping in the Oval Office--- consider where your hard-earned tax dollars are really going.
And weep, wail, gnash your teeth, bash your head against the wall..... what else are you going to do?
Get yourself a lawyer?
Copyright © 1998 Bill Van Dyk All rights reserved.