This morning, the Senate is taking up an asbestos bill meant, originally, to provide payments to people who developed cancer or lung diseases from working with asbestos. The bill would create an asbestos trust fund from which liability payments could be dispersed, rather than relying on asbestos producers—many of whom are facing bankruptcy—to pay victims. The bill sounds a lot better than it is. A number of big firms—including Dow Chemical, General Electric, General Motors and Pfizer—are silently salivating at the thought of the asbestos bill, because their lobbying efforts could soon pay off to the tune of $20 billion.
Under the current asbestos laws, companies with liability for asbestos-related illness and death must pay the victims. A lot of these companies are facing Chapter 11 proceedings. If the new asbestos bill passes, their Chapter 11 liabilities would be erased in favor of the companies contributing to a new asbestos national trust fund. But here's the catch: The value of those trust fund contributions would be a lot less than what the companies are expected to pay now. In fact, the savings amount to about 79 percent .
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