Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Outrage of Outrages

Bankruptcy Bill Set for Passage; Victory for Bush. That's the headline in the New York Times this morning. Does it make you angry? No? You need to take a closer look.

The bill would disqualify many families from taking advantage of the more generous provisions of the current bankruptcy code that permit them to extinguish their debts for a "fresh start." It would also impose significant new costs on those seeking bankruptcy protection and give lenders and businesses new legal tools for recovering debts.
How about now? Oh, I see... You think that people who go bankrupt are just fools who went on a spending spree with their credit card and now are crying about all the money they don't have.
But critics of the measure say that the rise in such filings is not evidence of unfair filings. Rather, they say, it is symptomatic of broader economic problems - the growing distress in families plagued by high health care and education costs. A recent study by bankruptcy and medical experts at Harvard University found that more than half of the 1,771 personal bankruptcy filers in five federal courts cited medical bills as a primary reason they filed.
Sick kids, getting laid off, not having medical insurance. You see? This is like when Bush said that social security is unfair to African American men because they don't live as long. So instead of keeping them from dying young, he'll just "fix" social security for them. Same thing here. Why not pass a bill that protects people from exorbitant medical bills when their kid gets asthma from the smokestack they built down the street from his house because of the Clear Skies Initiative. How about legitimate unemployment insurance and job training for when dad gets laid off after his job is outsourced to India? Let's look at problems instead of symptoms.

Also, think about what America represents. What is the American dream? It's the entrepreneurial spirit that gets people up off the couch, out there getting credit and venture capital to start something new and exciting. Guess what? They're not always inventing MS DOS. It might be a new kind of ball bearing or whatever. And maybe the marketing doesn't work out. Or maybe manufacturing costs ended up unfeasible. Whatever. Sometimes you fail. Bankruptcy protection keeps this spirit alive. It keeps the American dream alive. People have to know that if they fail, they're not going to live on the street or their family is going to leave them, (one of the most common causes of divorce is money problems - where are your family values now, Mr. Bush?). They need to know that they can get through this hardship and strive for success another day. But how on earth will they ever get to try again if they're effectively an indentured servant to Citibank for the rest of their lives? And knowing that they have no safety net, isn't it a lot easier to just stay on that couch? Still not moved? Man, you're cold. Well, try this on for size:
Senate Democrats were thwarted Wednesday in their attempts to soften the impact on seniors and sick people of a proposed law making it harder to erase debts in bankruptcy.

Mostly along party lines, the GOP-controlled Senate voted 59-40 to reject an amendment that would have allowed older people to get special homestead exemptions to keep their homes when they file for bankruptcy. Currently, such exemptions are determined by the states.

Also rebuffed, 58-39, were two proposals focused on people whose significant medical expenses for illness force them to file for bankruptcy.

The first would have allowed people to keep at least $150,000 of the equity in their primary residence. If, in addition, the medical bills exceed 25 percent of the person's income, the second proposal would have exempted them from a new test in the legislation measuring income and assets of bankruptcy applicants to determine if debts can be discharged.
So even in cases where it's explicitly the fault of an illness, not personal irresponsibility, the Republicans said, fuck you, pay me. I mean, Christ! The Republicans are in favor of foreclosing on Grandma and Grandpa's house! They're monsters!

So, I don't get it. It seems as if this bill is completely one-sided, in favor of the credit card companies and not at all looking out for the American people. How on earth could that be?
The bill’s backers include some of the biggest contributors in politics. Finance, insurance and real estate interests combined for more than $306 million in individual and political action committee contributions during the 2004 election cycle, 59 percent to Republicans. President Bush raised $33.5 million from these interests, which contributed $13.9 million to the Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Credit companies and commercial banks arguably have the most at stake in the bankruptcy debate. The credit card industry has contributed $24.8 million to federal candidates and political parties, 65 percent to Republicans, since 1999. MBNA, the nation’s No. 1 issuer of credit cards, has accounted for $6.7 million of the total over that time period. The company’s employees and PAC are among President Bush’s top contributors, having given a total of $594,000 for his two presidential campaigns. MBNA spent a little more than $17 million lobbying Congress from January 1999 through June 2004.

Commercial banks have contributed $76.2 million to federal candidates since 1999. Of that, 64 percent has gone to Republicans. The American Bankers Association, the leading trade group for commercial banks, has strongly supported bankruptcy reform for years. It has contributed more than $5.8 million in individual and PAC donations to federal candidates, 57 percent to Republicans, since 1999. It spent about $22 million on federal lobbying between 1999 and mid-year 2004.
Oh! Of course! How does that expression go again? A government of the lobbyists, for the lobbyists, by the lobbyists. Excellent. I'm so proud of our system of government.

Two men much wiser than I am:

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." - Thomas Jefferson

"I have two great enemies, the southern army in front of me and the financial institutions, in the rear. Of the two, the one in the rear is the greatest enemy... I see in the future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of the war." - Abraham Lincoln

1 comment:

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