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EDITORIAL: Buried in the ‘fine print’

Hillary Clinton took aim at evil capitalists on Monday, telling a crowd in Ohio that she’ll go after companies that rely on “fine print” to avoid lawsuits in consumer disputes.

“We’re not going to let corporations like Wells Fargo use these fine print ‘gotchas’ to escape accountability,” she said, doing her best Bernie Sanders impression.

Mrs. Clinton is talking about consumer arbitration, a mechanism for dispute resolution embedded in many business contracts. The Democratic nominee says “she’ll call on Congress to give federal agencies broad authority to restrict the use” of arbitration, USA Today reported Tuesday.

It’s no accident that trial lawyers remain one of the largest benefactors of the Democratic Party. Mrs. Clinton’s proposal would unleash a frenzy of dubious consumer legal claims — think hot coffee and McDonald’s — driving up costs and transferring billions from the productive economy into the personal accounts of attorneys cashing in on the lawsuit lottery.

If Mrs. Clinton is truly concerned about deceptive or indecipherable “fine print,” she ought to turn her attention to the federal government. As one example of many, take Obamacare — all 2,700 pages of it, in addition to thousands of pages of accompanying regulations.

As then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously put it in 2010, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” And the more consumers learn about what’s buried in all that “fine print,” the more they realize their wallets aren’t safe. Even Democrats are now disavowing their creation.

Consider that while Hillary was in Toledo excoriating arbitration clauses, her husband was 106 miles north in Flint, Mich., banging on Barack Obama’s legacy legislation.

“So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care,” Bill Clinton told a campaign rally, “and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with the premiums doubled or their coverage cut in half. It’s the craziest thing in the world.”

As costs skyrocket and insurers pull out of markets, “Mr. Obama’s signature domestic achievement will almost certainly have to change to survive,” The New York Times noted this week.

Beltway Democrats line up to pile on private-sector executives, often calling for financial and even criminal penalties in response to corporate mistakes and transgressions. Notably, they don’t seem too eager to hold the federal government to a similar standard.

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