Tipsheet: State of the Union Address
EDITORS: The following Indiana University Bloomington faculty members are available to comment on initiatives President Bush is expected to discuss in Wednesday's State of the Union Address.
Sound social and economic policy requires the federal government to balance the dual goals of private sector growth and consumer protection, according to William Henderson, associate professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. Henderson believes the Bush administration's proposals on class action and tort reform would disrupt this balance in favor of corporate interests. He cited a recent study that showed that class action recoveries and attorneys' fees have been stable over the last decade after controlling for inflation. "If the cost of litigation is not putting a heavier burden on businesses, the case for class action reform could be justified if the existing system is systematically too generous to plaintiffs. However, that is not how the Bush administration has framed this debate. And empirical evidence on this point would be difficult to assemble," he said. Henderson questioned the Bush administration's focus on excessive fees for plantiffs' lawyers, who he said have "little incentive" to bring about frivolous lawsuits since they spend their own time and money to litigate these cases and are only paid through settlements or jury awards. He also criticized the administration's proposal to "federalize" virtually all class action suits. "Although a handful of state jurisdictions are known to be plaintiff-friendly, I don't think the proper response is to give federal courts exclusive jurisdiction over class action litigation. Having multiple venues for class action disputes decreases the likelihood that business interests could exert an undue influence on the judicial process," he said. Henderson can be reached at 812-856-1788 or email@example.com.
Conceptually, the 'No Child Left Behind Act' addresses very important issues in education, but it also has spawned numerous questions that will need to be answered if the law is ultimately going to be successful, said Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of Indiana University Bloomington's School of Education. "'No Child Left Behind' is an unprecedented legislative initiative that is impacting education at every level," he said. The centerpiece of the legislation, said Gonzalez, is the expectation that all students will achieve 100 percent proficiency against the academic standards that have been established by each state. Every school is expected to make annual yearly progress toward those standards or face sanctions. According to Gonzalez, the initiative is setting clear expectations for all students as well as shining a light on the performance of traditionally under-represented students. "But there are many questions about the ability of every child to achieve at the same rate under state standards and the financial resources available to support schools' annual yearly progress," he said. "How the government responds to these questions remains to be seen." For more information, contact Gonzalez at 812-856-8001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alarms being raised about Social Security have a hollow ring, according to Bill Witte, an economist and co-director of the Center for Econometric Model Research at Indiana University. "There is no crisis. A crisis implies something imminent," Witte said, disagreeing with claims that the system will be undermined by 2018 and bankrupt by 2042. In his view, deep philosophical questions are raised by President Bush's proposal calling for workers to take a portion of the tax that goes into the Social Security system and put it into a savings account that each individual can invest. "If you view it as a social security system, it is set up appropriately," Witte said. "It has lasted and performed well for three-quarters of a century, making it one of the most successful government programs ever." Privatization would shift the risks and responsibilities away from society as a whole and place them on each worker individually, he said. Witte can be reached at 812-855-2080 or at email@example.com.