A Modest Proposal, 2009 Edition

posted at 10:11 am on July 16, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Ladies and gentlemen of the Hot Air community, I have discovered an unfair disparity in access to a vital resource based on the economic condition of the consumer.  This disparity is not just egregious, but it threatens the very core of our American way of life.  People routinely get denied adequate and competent service on the basis of their ability to pay, even though they have a right to it, while the rich eat up all the resources with their ability to access the best and brightest in the field.  And in the interest of fairness, the federal government needs to find a solution and impose it on the industry as a whole.

I refer, of course, to legal representation.

Oh, sure, in an emergency, the government will foot the bill for a public defender to represent the poor and indigent, but that’s hardly a comfort to those who needed a lawyer before getting into the emergency condition in the first place.  Besides, while we have many dedicated public defenders, it’s hardly a news flash that the wealthy can afford much better representation and have a much better chance of prevailing in court in criminal cases.  When the poor, working class, and middle class end up in that emergency situation, they can lose their homes and property to pay for decent legal care — and that shouldn’t happen in America, should it?

After all, unlike health care, Americans actually do have a Constitutional right to legal representation in court.  Some will scoff and say the lack of a lawyer, or a bad lawyer, can’t cause your death.  Those critics may want to talk with the inmates who got freed from Death Row and lifetime prison sentences after having mediocre attorneys lose cases when the defendant was really innocent.  Bad or nonexistent legal representation can take years off of your life, and can definitely get you killed.

Even beyond that, though, the wealthy and connected have access to a much wider range of legal services than even the middle class can afford.  Estate planning, trust funds, tax shelters — all of these can be expertly provided to those with the resources to afford them, while other Americans get second-class status in our legal system.  For those who aspire to egalitarianism of result, this arrangement should be such an affront that it demands real action — now.

I propose that the government impose a single-payer system on the legal profession.  Instead of charging private fees, all attorneys would have to send their bills to LegalCare, a new agency in the federal government.  Because the government can bargain collectively, they can impose rational fees for legal services instead of the exorbitant billing fees attorneys now charge. Three hundred dollars an hour?  Thing of the past.  Everyone knows that the government can control costs through price-setting;  now we can see this process applied to the legal system, where the government has a large interest in seeing cost savings.

How will we pay for LegalCare?  I take a page from the House surtax method here, which will disproportionately hit doctors in a wide variety of disciplines.  In this case, I propose a 5.4% surtax on lawyers, judges, lobbyists, and political officeholders at the state and federal level.  They’re the ones who have enriched themselves through this inequity in the legal system.  After all, why should we all have to pay for the single-payer legal system when we can penalize lawyers instead?

Now, this will have some impact on the legal-services market.  On the downside, we’ll have fewer attorneys.  Law schools will get a lot less competitive as students avoid the law and the limited amount of money available through LegalCare, and existing attorneys may leave the profession as well as they fail to make enough money from the price-controlled compensation they get from the government.  All this will mean longer wait times and rationing of services as people flood attorneys’ offices to demand services disconnected from the actual cost to provide them.  It may take a couple of years to get a will done, so start when you’re young.

On the plus side … we’ll have fewer attorneys.  And politicians!  Best of all, everyone will get the same level of legal care regardless of their ability to pay, thanks to LegalCare and the government-imposed rationing of a resource to which we have a right to access at any time we want, for any reason we want.

Addendum: In case anyone misses the point, this is a satire.  However, I wouldn’t put it past certain statists to consider this a pretty good idea…

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Nice, Ed.

ej_pez on July 16, 2009 at 10:13 AM

I like it…lol

marktarheel on July 16, 2009 at 10:13 AM

Johnathan Swift suggested selling babies as meat to pay for universal health care. Obama would be up for that.

Glenn Jericho on July 16, 2009 at 10:13 AM

But won’t this crush Legal Zoom?

myrenovations on July 16, 2009 at 10:15 AM

Don’t get me started on the legal system or lawyers.

Guardian on July 16, 2009 at 10:15 AM

Genius!

dmann on July 16, 2009 at 10:15 AM

That is a brilliant idea. Make the lawyers pay.

thgrant on July 16, 2009 at 10:15 AM

It is a good idea,…in a selfish, controlling and one-sided-sort-of way

Offhanded on July 16, 2009 at 10:16 AM

Addendum: In case anyone misses the point, this is a satire. However, I wouldn’t put it past certain statists to consider this a pretty good idea…

I weep for this nation that there ore those that would miss the fact that this is satire (particularly with the title). The scary fact is that you are right. There will be those who read this through and think it’s a pretty damned good idea.

highhopes on July 16, 2009 at 10:16 AM

Addendum: In case anyone misses the point, this is a satire. However, I wouldn’t put it past certain statists to consider this a pretty good idea…

I would prefer it to what they are trying now.

Fewer lawyers = fewer lawyer politicians making laws that only benefit lawyers.

cozmo on July 16, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Why should it be satire? Change a few terms, juggle a few sentences and this IS the healthcare bill that exists.

Bishop on July 16, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Ed for new Legal Czar!

jimmer on July 16, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Nice, Ed.

Glad to see the coffee has finally kicked in…

ladyingray on July 16, 2009 at 10:19 AM

Ed for scarily accurate “Sarcasm Czar!”

hollygolightly on July 16, 2009 at 10:20 AM

I think we should expand this to automobiles, big screen televisions, and ponies. Everyone has a right to all of these goods, just like they have the right to medical care. It would only add a bit more cost to the plan, but we could tweak the economic growth numbers to make it work.

Vashta.Nerada on July 16, 2009 at 10:21 AM

Did anyone else hear the collective *gasp* emanating from various law firms around them….?

ted c on July 16, 2009 at 10:21 AM

Excellent post, Ed.

After all, unlike health care, Americans actually do have a Constitutional right to legal representation in court.

The death blow! Perfect.

progressoverpeace on July 16, 2009 at 10:22 AM

I completely agree.

Also, since the government is going to pay for this, I propose that there needs to be a cap on salaries at law firms.

The pay czar can handle that.

wildcat84 on July 16, 2009 at 10:23 AM

Fan-f’ing-tastic piece, Ed! I love the structure, nuance, and the way it snuck up on me. Cheers.

NickelAndDime on July 16, 2009 at 10:23 AM

A possible end to lawyer-politicians?

WOO HOO!!!

rockbend on July 16, 2009 at 10:23 AM

i wonder what oboobi and his ivy league education would think of this? after all, his profession is parasite with a briefcase..

SHARPTOOTH on July 16, 2009 at 10:23 AM

On the downside, we’ll have fewer attorneys.

LOL. That’s the downside?!

VibrioCocci on July 16, 2009 at 10:24 AM

best bit of satire I’ve ever read

bridgetown on July 16, 2009 at 10:25 AM

I propose that the government impose a single-payer system on the legal profession.

YES! Absolutely yes. Now who in Congress will advance this initiative? Even without a prayer of passage, it would be dramatically instructive.

petefrt on July 16, 2009 at 10:25 AM

After all, unlike health care, Americans actually do have a Constitutional right to legal representation in court.

I wonder if a certain wise latina would agree with your stuffy ‘interpretation’ of the constitution?

Great post Ed.

gwelf on July 16, 2009 at 10:25 AM

What a grand idea!

The list of possibilities…when we’re all poor, I think we should all have the same tax amount too. Perhaps, we should all dress alike too! The “Fashion Czar” coming to a mall near you!

This makes me so happy.

moonsbreath on July 16, 2009 at 10:26 AM

Since the vast vast majority of lawyers are liberal Democrats, I say let’s ditch the satire and really propose this. If we are going whole hog socialist then lawyers should be at the front of the line.

Hummer53 on July 16, 2009 at 10:26 AM

I’ve said the same thing years ago (back when Hillarycare was being considered). If the political class is so concerned with health care, the same arguments could be made for legal representation. Unfortunately, the statists don’t get the analogy

AZfederalist on July 16, 2009 at 10:26 AM

How will we pay for LegalCare? I take a page from the House surtax method here, which will disproportionately hit doctors in a wide variety of disciplines. In this case, I propose a 5.4% surtax on lawyers, judges, lobbyists, and political officeholders at the state and federal level. They’re the ones who have enriched themselves through this inequity in the legal system. After all, why should we all have to pay for the single-payer legal system when we can penalize lawyers instead?

Excellent. I amend that to be a 10% surtax since lawyers and politicians care so much about the “public good.”

pearson on July 16, 2009 at 10:26 AM

If you needed to be told this was satire, you probably can’t even tie your own shoelaces.

Nice twist Ed. Adroit.

LimeyGeek on July 16, 2009 at 10:27 AM

That is a profound thought Ed. I like it, and will use it in my response to the debates that I frequently find myself in.

hawkman on July 16, 2009 at 10:27 AM

You know it’s good satire when you have to point of that it’s saire at the end.

BadgerHawk on July 16, 2009 at 10:27 AM

Some report, and I hope that it is false, said that a homeless man ran up about $3.9 Million in hospital fees over a decade or more. He allegedly used hospital shelter as a motel. And that is under the present system!

The liberal argument is that the uninsured use emergency rooms for minor problems today. And just think of all the money we shall save if they had free care and a neat little card to carry around!

What never occurs to them is that these people, many of whom don’t work, will have the time to stuff the offices of medical providers with every minor malady under the sun. They will not have those nasty triage nurses to worry about or the depressing enviroment of an ER.

Of course we shall make it up with preventative care such as parks and sidewalks. And they will be placed in exactly the locations for democratic votes and crime.

Therein lies the real humor

IlikedAUH2O on July 16, 2009 at 10:27 AM

Oh, and I’m totally reusing the point, in compact form, in upcoming arguments.

BadgerHawk on July 16, 2009 at 10:28 AM

pthphppht… Still waiting for universal food coverage.

Skywise on July 16, 2009 at 10:28 AM

Now who in Congress will advance this initiative? Even without a prayer of passage, it would be dramatically instructive.

petefrt on July 16, 2009 at 10:25 AM

Hopefully Rush will pick up Ed’s proposal on his show today. Then maybe Pence or ilk will move with it.

petefrt on July 16, 2009 at 10:29 AM

Let’s eat babies instead.

Joe Caps on July 16, 2009 at 10:29 AM

gwelf on July 16, 2009 at 10:25 AM

Better capitalize Latina,they may be watching.

IlikedAUH2O on July 16, 2009 at 10:29 AM

Could we just have a right to the rights we have left. Or maybe a right to the left being left out?

fourdeucer on July 16, 2009 at 10:29 AM

Bravo Ed. Forward to Sen. Kyl and let’s add this to the ObamaCare bill.

WashJeff on July 16, 2009 at 10:30 AM

Permission to copy/paste and send to Boxer, Feinstein and Bilbray, sir.

Patrick S on July 16, 2009 at 10:30 AM

I knew it was satire immediately.

But I sure would love to see someone in Congress actually propose a bill like this just to watch all the heart attacks and strokes.

Daggett on July 16, 2009 at 10:32 AM

It is Great!
Lawyers are running the show and are hypocrites.
I wish someone on hill would push this idea.
I don’t think it would fly but it makes a perfect point.
The only profession you can hold with a felony in your background is a lawyer.
I always said no one owns any money except lawyers, the rest of us are just holding or moving it around until the lawyer gets it. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against lawyers per say it is the hypocrites and criminal ones.

Ed Laskie on July 16, 2009 at 10:32 AM

Did anyone else hear the collective *gasp* emanating from various law firms around them….?

ted c on July 16, 2009 at 10:21 AM

I work in a law firm as an office b*tch, and I wish I could show this to all of the “do-gooder” liberal first year associates making bank. I’m sure they would not feel so generous. It’s easy to be liberal when money is no longer a consideration.

Shock the Monkey on July 16, 2009 at 10:33 AM

OT: Did Ed’s interview with Rush show up in the Limbaugh Letter yet?

WashJeff on July 16, 2009 at 10:33 AM

pthphppht… Still waiting for universal food coverage.

Skywise on July 16, 2009 at 10:28 AM

I’m holding out for universal sex care coverage.

Wait – if the government runs it, maybe not so much.

Daggett on July 16, 2009 at 10:34 AM

hahah, that was priceless…thanks for the laugh. I only wish our politicians could appreciate the humor.

scalleywag on July 16, 2009 at 10:36 AM

LOL — I love this. Nice job, Ed!

NoLeftTurn on July 16, 2009 at 10:36 AM

Ed, a necessary idea that may be satire now and should be reality tomorrow. We all have a right to legal representation much, much more than health care.

HotAirJosef on July 16, 2009 at 10:38 AM

I’m with Joe Caps. Throw a baby casserole and a few baby soufflés in there and I’m with you one hundred percent.

TouchingTophet on July 16, 2009 at 10:38 AM

I’m holding out for universal sex care coverage.

Wait – if the government runs it, maybe not so much.

Daggett on July 16, 2009 at 10:34 AM

The government is already f#@$ing you and it don’t so good.

thomasaur on July 16, 2009 at 10:39 AM

I’m holding out for universal sex care coverage.

Wait – if the government runs it, maybe not so much.

Daggett on July 16, 2009 at 10:34 AM

Paging Barney Frank!

TouchingTophet on July 16, 2009 at 10:39 AM

Will the government pay lawyers for the cost of new track shoes that they tear up chasing ambulances?

Jeff from WI on July 16, 2009 at 10:40 AM

s/b doesn’t feel so good
sheesh

thomasaur on July 16, 2009 at 10:40 AM

Wonderful idea Ed!

In fact its so wonderful, it should probably be expanded to every corner of the economy, encompasing all goods and services. Just think of the effciencies and equality of outcome we could gain!

DarkCurrent on July 16, 2009 at 10:41 AM

Satire or not, I want to see this debated in Congress.

Won’t happen, of course, talk about ‘untouchable’ lobbies.

In fact, if they want socialized healthcare, I just say let’s try socialized law first. With price controls and wage controls and everything. I hope the punditariat get their teeth into this one.

Merovign on July 16, 2009 at 10:42 AM

Democrats should love this idea, since the environmentalists can expect greatly reduced emissions of green house gasses from the lower number of lawyers spouting BS.

Win/win, no?

Thunderstorm129 on July 16, 2009 at 10:42 AM

What we need is some sort of Lawyer death match where the outcome of civil legal cases is decided in trial by combat.

Dreadnought223 on July 16, 2009 at 10:43 AM

We pay farmers not to farm with taxpayers money. Maybe we should pay lawyers not to practice. It would be a winner for the U.S.A.

– also –

a mediocre, semi-senile lawyer is often called: “Your Honor”

– and –

a corrupt lawyer is very often called: “Senator”

el rey on July 16, 2009 at 10:44 AM

You forgot that it will lower health care costs by reducing malpractice lawsuits, thereby reducing malpractice insurance premiums, thereby reducing doctor’s costs….

JayVee on July 16, 2009 at 10:44 AM

If you needed to be told this was satire, you probably can’t even tie your own shoelaces.

Nice twist Ed. Adroit.

LimeyGeek on July 16, 2009 at 10:27 AM

The sad thing is, if this was published in a major metropolitan newspaper’s opinion section, most of the readers wouldn’t recognize it as satire and in fact think it was a great idea.

DarkCurrent on July 16, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Well, hold on now … let’s not come down too hard on the lawyers. A great many of us are dedicated, faithful conservatives just like you, Ed, and because we make good money but aren’t really rich we’re getting beat up by Obama’s policies as badly as anyone.

Blacksheep on July 16, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Not funny.

Ted Torgerson on July 16, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Sure it’s satire. But maybe one of our lawmakers can draft this as a bill to get the attention of others…

Nethicus on July 16, 2009 at 10:46 AM

After all, unlike health care, Americans actually do have a Constitutional right to legal representation in court.

Actually, that’s not so if you are one of those who say we should interpret the Constitution as the framers intended. The Sixth Amendment states “(T)he accused shall enjoy the right… to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.” That just means you can bring a lawyer to court if you want and the court can’t prevent you from doing so. But: it says NOTHING about the government providing an attorney for you. Not until the early sixties and Gideon v. Wainwright was this provision interpreted to mean that a lawyer had to be provided for you in you couldn’t afford it in both federal AND state prosecutions.

radjah shelduck on July 16, 2009 at 10:46 AM

I demand some Republican add this as an amendment to the Medical Malprctice and Rippoff of American Taxpayers Bill.

John McCain can you hear me now? Are you ready yet to fight, fight, fight? Add this “Lying Lawyer and Pond Scum Politician Bill” to the healthcare bamboozle as an amendment.

No-one ever reads em anymore anyway. Just vote on the damn thing before its even written. Good for the Goose (American Citizen) good for the Gander ( Senate Scum, Congress Critters and Lyin Lawyers)
Are you ready to fight?
Or did you hire the girl to do it for ya?

dhunter on July 16, 2009 at 10:46 AM

Jesus Christ (The Bible, Matthew 26:52)

He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

Speakup on July 16, 2009 at 10:48 AM

The more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that this is a seriously brilliant piece of satire. It would not surprise me one bit to hear Rush read this on his show.

I am adding this to my all time list of favorite reads. The only other articles there are a nydaily news story on President Obama’s ‘magic beans’ and some stuff from Steyn.

BadgerHawk on July 16, 2009 at 10:48 AM

This legislation needs to pass next week. We cannot wait!

Buck up, I say!

Buck. Up.

juanito on July 16, 2009 at 10:49 AM

In the spirit of the upcoming commentor tier system, that is brilliant, Ed, just brilliant.

txag92 on July 16, 2009 at 10:51 AM

Aw!

I thought it was going to be an update on the need to eat unwanted children. Or better still this at 1:22. My Soilent Green shipment is late this week too.

rihar on July 16, 2009 at 10:52 AM

What we need is some sort of Lawyer death match where the outcome of civil legal cases is decided in trial by combat.

Dreadnought223 on July 16, 2009 at 10:43 AM

LOL..Or where a case is judged to be frivolous it is a capital offense for the lawyer.

Jeff from WI on July 16, 2009 at 10:52 AM

Ed,

Truly brilliant. However, the last part robs it of much of its power. Also, it wasn’t overstated enough. This could have been much more powerful.

Still, it’s an awesome awesome counter-argument to use.

Scott H on July 16, 2009 at 10:54 AM

LegalCare! Absolutely brilliant!

Ed, You’re so smart I can’t stand it. Your mother must be so proud.

Now, get this argument in front of every American who thinks they want Obamacare.

gopmom on July 16, 2009 at 10:54 AM

You ruined it by explicitly admitting the satire, Ed. That was flagged by the title for anyone familiar with Jonathan Swift. Otherwise, among the most brilliant columns you have ever written.

GISAP on July 16, 2009 at 10:55 AM

Sarah, are you listening? Float this and the Fair Tax. You’ve got the star power to bring this into every living room in America. Take ‘em by the throat, Pitbull.

jimmy2shoes on July 16, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Or where a case is judged to be frivolous it is a capital offense for the lawyer.

Jeff from WI on July 16, 2009 at 10:52 AM

Judged by television audiences via text message so we unburden the courts on the front end while generating ad revenue to help pay for Porkulus

DarkCurrent on July 16, 2009 at 10:58 AM

Who do wee need to call to get THIS passed?

WHEN can we impliment it AND how long until the politicions and Lawyers go broke?

I’m ALL for it…..

Great piece, if only it we could be so lucky!

babydoll4you on July 16, 2009 at 10:59 AM

Ed, you need to package this up and get it in as many newspapers as possible. It’s a little long for a Letter, but most papers have guest columnist slots, like the KC Star’s “As I see It” section.

(And leave out “Oh, this IS satire!” lines and see the reactions!)

JamesLee on July 16, 2009 at 11:00 AM

Great idea, Ed!! Maybe put it in a 1300 page legaleeze document and demand that every page be read by the end of the day. Yeah, I like it!!

yoda on July 16, 2009 at 11:00 AM

I want a lawyer to sue my neighbor because his dog keeps me awake at night. And I want the govt to pay for it.
Oh, and this filing fee stuff. How discriminatory is that?

MarkTheGreat on July 16, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Addendum: In case anyone misses the point, this is a satire. However, I wouldn’t put it past certain statists to consider this a pretty good idea…

Well, some statists aren’t very swift.

Snowed In on July 16, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Who in the hell do these Libs & Rinos think they are? This the United States of America.I am a Citizen of this country and we have a constitution .We have right that come from God not man.I don,t need or want these fools telling me how to live my life or what Dr. i can go to.Pres. Obama you are a Pres (NOT A KING)you fools in congress work for the American people act like it for one,s in your life.If this Obama care is so great you be first in line to give up your health care and sign up for Obama care.If not get your dirty gov. hands on my health care and stay the hell how of my life.

thmcbb on July 16, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Politicians who are lawyers, get taxed twice.

MarkTheGreat on July 16, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Glenn Jericho on July 16, 2009 at 10:13 AM

Ed has nailed this perfectly. Try using Swifts analogy in a race relations thread and watch the sparks fly.

csdeven on July 16, 2009 at 11:02 AM

Sarah, are you listening?

jimmy2shoes on July 16, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Yep, Ed’s post is a natural for Sarah, Rush, Glenn. This post has LEGS.

petefrt on July 16, 2009 at 11:03 AM

“First of all, the American people have to recognize that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Right? So, we can’t just provide legal services to everybody that has no cost whatsoever, you don’t end up having to make any decisions.

So, obviously, we’ve got to have a system that controls costs, gives people choices, but makes sure that we’re getting a good bang for the buck. And we’ve got to have the American people doing something about their own legal services.

So, self-responsibility is going to be critical. This is probably not going to be something that’s legislated. But I tell you what, every business out there is going to be looking at their legal services bottom line. And increasingly what you’re going to see is that businesses are going to incentivize their employees to use on-line legal documents, take law classes in night school, negotiate better on their own behalf, get regular legal checkups.”

/barry

obladioblada on July 16, 2009 at 11:05 AM

I’m not a statist Ed. However, I DO think this would be a good idea. Much like the old saw about 1000 lawyers on the bottom of the ocean… I think that would be a good start.

ExSubNuke on July 16, 2009 at 11:05 AM

You hit the bullseye, Ed! Congratulations! I really wish some Senator would have the guts to put this on the record during the healthcare “debate” to take place there.

jwolf on July 16, 2009 at 11:06 AM

Politicians who are lawyers, get taxed twice.

MarkTheGreat on July 16, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Heh, politicians get taxed twice. Pols who are also lawyers get taxed thrice.

(As a recovering lawyer, most of my disgust with the profession is directed at the tort trial lawyers and lawyer-politicians.)

petefrt on July 16, 2009 at 11:06 AM

Heh heh heh

Bob's Kid on July 16, 2009 at 11:07 AM

99 percent of lawyers give the rest of us a bad name.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on July 16, 2009 at 11:07 AM

Ed, you’ve outdone yourself here. But, be careful. They may draft (read: order) you to become the Lawyer Czar.

TXUS on July 16, 2009 at 11:09 AM

Andy McCarthy just gave this post some serious props at NRO’s The Corner.

aquaviva on July 16, 2009 at 11:10 AM

I’ve been floating this idea for quite some time. I’m glad it’s catching on.

NoDonkey on July 16, 2009 at 11:13 AM

(As a recovering lawyer, most of my disgust with the profession is directed at the tort trial lawyers and lawyer-politicians.)

petefrt on July 16, 2009 at 11:06 AM

Tort lawyers. Now THERE’S the real cause of high healthcare costs. Forget healthcare reform. Get serious about TORT reform to bring healthcare costs down.

Sadly, it’ll never happen in trial lawyer saturated DC. *sigh*

I can wish though.

ExSubNuke on July 16, 2009 at 11:14 AM

What better way to sum up arguments against Obamacare. Kudos!

oddjob1138 on July 16, 2009 at 11:15 AM

So, in essence, government will provide insurance for free or a low cost to people making more than $75k, yet, if you are middle class, you will have to pay for a lawyer yourself.

William Teach on July 16, 2009 at 11:15 AM

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