Saturday, September 24, 2005

An Early Holiday Present

Since my esteemed colleague wrote about WMD's and such today, I thought I would speak of the past and the near future about something that will adversely effect a lot of people in this country.

Next month, Christmas will be coming a tad early for credit card companies. Why? Because back in March of this year the Republican controlled congress passed the bankruptcy reform bill.

What will this bill be doing? Well, I'm glad you asked.

The bill would force middle-class workers to pay some of the debt they owe even after they go bankrupt. You could make a good case for this bill if it were narrowly focused on those who truly abuse bankruptcy laws (and there are those type of people out there)

Instead, the bill sweeps away protections for unworthy debtors AND worthy debtors alike. This will make it much tougher for those who fall on hard times to escape burdens they confront through little fault of their own.

What effect will this bill have on the average person? Well, half of all bankruptcies occur because of unexpected medical expenses, even when most filers had health insurance.

For example: under this bill, an honest family driven to bankruptcy by the increased costs of caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer's disease is treated the same as someone who maxed out his credit cards at a casino (apparently to a Republican, those are two in the same)

No one benefits from this bill except credit card companies and other common creditors. Senator Edward "Don't Mention Chappaquiddick" Kennedy gave an excellent detail of the case months ago on the Senate floor. A portion of those comments are below. Take a gander...

"This is supposed to be a bill about spendthrifts, about people
who abuse the credit system and abuse the bankruptcy system. If that were really
what the bill was about, maybe there would be some reason for us to be here.

If this were a bill that dealt with the truly incredible
abuses of the bankruptcy system that we have seen in the Enron case, in the
Worldcom case, in the Adelphia case and the Polaroid case in my own state, then
maybe there would be a reason to be spending out time working on this bill. . .

This bill does nothing to protect those hard-working Americans
who did everything they could to stave off bankruptcy, but were left with no
other choice after exhausting their own resources. Yet this Republican bill
actually makes it more difficult for good citizens like these to get the fresh
start that the bankruptcy laws are intended to offer.

The idea of a 'fresh start' lies at the heart of our bankruptcy
law. In 1833, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, one of the great legal
scholars in our history, explained why. Bankruptcy laws, he said, were intended
to divide debtors' remaining assets among their creditors, when they could not
pay all their debts. But the purpose was also 'to relieve unfortunate and honest
debtors from perpetual bondage to their creditors." Bankruptcy legislation, he
said, should relieve the debtor "from a slavery of mind and body, which … robs
his family of the fruits of his labor.'

One hundred years later, the Supreme Court emphasized Justice
Story's views. The Bankruptcy Act, it said, is intended to "relieve the honest
debtor from the weight of oppressive indebtedness, and permit him to start
afresh free from the obligations and responsibilities consequent upon business
misfortunes." The power to earn a living, the Court said, is a "personal
liberty," and "from the viewpoint of the wage-earner there is little difference
between not earning at all and earning wholly for a creditor.'

In short, the same fundamental values which led this nation to
abolish debtors' prisons, also led us to offer debtors a fresh start. They would
be required to use their available assets to pay as much of their debt as they
could, but no more. They would have full rights to their own future earnings, so
that they would not have to live in perpetual bondage to their past
Isn't it nice to know that there ARE members of Congress who are looking out for the average, everyday person. It's just too bad there aren't more of them...and by that, I mean it's too bad there aren't less Republicans...

No comments: