One of the biggest issues raging in today’s political environment is when to re-open the economy. Just last week, the GOP governors of Georgia and Oklahoma made controversial and risky decisions to allow theaters, tattoo parlors, barber shops, gyms, hair salons and bowling alleys to open. Kemp made the decision without consulting his own corona virus task force. Moreover, the Georgia governor made this decision even though corona virus cases are rising and the Peach State has failed to meet the benchmarks in the Trump Administration’s re-opening guidelines.
Closer to home, Governor Pete Ricketts has authorized a partial re-opening of the Nebraska economy in several counties, including Douglas and Sarpy, beginning on May 4. Under Ricketts’ order, churches, restaurants, barber shops, tattoo parlors and beauty salons will be permitted to re-open if they follow certain safety precautions. As of the time of writing, the restrictions haven’t been lifted for Lancaster County.
America’s major corporations aren’t stupid and they know that there is a significant risk involved in opening up the economy too early. That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business are lobbying for blanket legal immunity if some of their workers and customers should contract the corona virus. The special interests don’t want to be held legally responsible if Ricketts’ gamble with our health goes wrong.
As you can well imagine, the Trump Administration supports this unusual legal protection for America’s wealthiest and most powerful corporations. Trump wants to allow his corporate donors to stiff workers and customers if they should catch the corona virus due to decisions that went against the advice of medical experts, rejected CDC guidelines and forced workers to choose between their health and a paycheck.
Economists and legal experts argue that shielding companies from lawsuits could cause them to expose their customers and employees to unnecessary risks. “The whole point of making employers liable for risking the lives of their staff is to prevent them from exposing their staff to undue risk,” tweeted Justin Wolfers, an economics and public policy professor at the University of Michigan. “Businesses are asking for the right to expose their workers to fatal risks with no consequences.”
In addition to being dangerous, this kind of blanket legal immunity being demanded by the special interests is a violation of our Constitutional right to take them to court. The right to a jury trial is protected by the 7th Amendment to the Constitution. Many people aren’t aware of this constitutional protection and don’t know that it is under attack by wealthy special interests like the insurance, gun and tobacco industries.
The wealthy oppose the 7th Amendment because it allows the average American to take on a big company on a level playing field. Because a courtroom is outside of the political arena, a big company doesn’t enjoy all of the usual advantages conferred upon by them by their great wealth and power. The 7th Amendment right to a jury trial provides a necessary check and balance to the greed and incompetence of the top 1%.
Thomas Jefferson said it best: “ I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”