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(December 10, 2002 // link)

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article in which the author referred to people who earn less than $12,000 as the “Lucky Duckies” because they pay the lowest percent of their income in taxes. I understand that the article also suggests that tax credits only be given to the wealthiest corporations and citizens in order to stimulate the economy. I am told that the article also calls for ending the low tax rate for the “Lucky Duckies”. Of course I can’t read the actual article, only the clips and comments from other writers, because the Wall Street Journal charges $79.00 for a look at its paper on line! My information comes from an article in the New York Times entitled “Hey, Luckie Duckies!” by Paul Krugman.

Why would anyone advocate higher taxes for the lowest wage earners in the country? The Wall Street Journal suggests that if they continue to receive this favorable tax treatment, they will not hate their government enough. Bob Herbert, in his recent New York Times column entitled aptly “States of Pain”, offered that “there are those who have long dreamed of the day when governments would be so drained of revenues that they would have no choice but to call a halt to many of their functions.” If people hate their government, they will not fight to protect it. If they see government as performing services that benefit them, they will not sit idly by when, as with now, government begins to serve only the wealthy.

In our tripartite system of government, the courts have always been the great equalizer. Individuals who were wronged by others, even if the others were giant wealthy corporations, could always get their day in court. The courts do not have their own enforcement arm however. They rely on the age old ideal of comity, mutual respect between co-equal branches of government, for their power. This standard is being eroded along with many of the other rights and privileges being denied us in the era of “Homeland Security” and secret, non-accountable, non-judicial courts.

In New Hampshire, the court system is under siege. The lack of funding for the state court system has lead to the inability to hire replacement staff when workers retire or leave their jobs. The superior court has eliminated jury trials during several months of the year in order to reduce costs and to save money so that it can retain staff. Like all governmental organizations, the court system is a service organization. It cannot function efficiently without sufficient staff. While the people remaining are doing yeoman work, often on their own time, it is the users of the court, the people seeking redress for wrongs done to them who are suffering. The picture is no rosier for the probate and district courts.

Some courts cannot get decisions and simple orders out for weeks and months because of staffing problems. Judges cannot review orders issued by their colleagues in other courts because we don’t have the staff to get cases summarized, on line and available to the public and other court personnel. All of this leads to disillusionment with the court system when the real culprit is the legislature for its failure to adequately fund the courts functions.

Many in government don’t want the rest of us to have access to the courts. Courts hold people, and governments accountable, for their actions. Burying the Eli Lili protection provisions in the Homeland Security Act is one example of many. The failure to adequately fund the functions of our state court system is but another. “Tort Reform” is but a euphemism for keeping those “Lucky Duckies” from having their day in court.

The Bush administration continues to push for tax cuts to the rich and for protection for its friends. The “Luckie Duckies” and most of the rest of us are not going to be getting any breaks. It used to be that we could at least count on our day in court. Now we may have to wait a year or so for that.

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Copyright 2003 Edward Philpot

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