Saturday, March 12, 2005

Immorally bankrupt and dis-credited

We're primarily a public health blog, so Bankruptcy Deform might seem beyond our scope. Remember, however, that for average people the main cause of bankruptcy is overwhelming medical bills. And anyway, this legislation is a moral outrage. Indeed The Blogosphere is up in arms in an entirely non-partisan fashion over the abomination called Bankruptcy Reform, which just made its unimpeded way through the Senate. If you aren't following this story, here is the gist from New York Times columnist and economist, Paul Krugman:
The bankruptcy bill was written by and for credit card companies, and the industry's political muscle is the reason it seems unstoppable. But the bill also fits into the broader context of what Jacob Hacker, a political scientist at Yale, calls "risk privatization": a steady erosion of the protection the government provides against personal misfortune, even as ordinary families face ever-growing economic insecurity.

The bill would make it much harder for families in distress to write off their debts and make a fresh start. Instead, many debtors would find themselves on an endless treadmill of payments.

The credit card companies say this is needed because people have been abusing the bankruptcy law, borrowing irresponsibly and walking away from debts. The facts say otherwise.

A vast majority of personal bankruptcies in the United States are the result of severe misfortune. One recent study found that more than half of bankruptcies are the result of medical emergencies. The rest are overwhelmingly the result either of job loss or of divorce.

To the extent that there is significant abuse of the system, it's concentrated among the wealthy - including corporate executives found guilty of misleading investors - who can exploit loopholes in the law to protect their wealth, no matter how ill-gotten.

One increasingly popular loophole is the creation of an "asset protection trust," which is worth doing only for the wealthy. Senator Charles Schumer introduced an amendment that would have limited the exemption on such trusts, but apparently it's O.K. to game the system if you're rich: 54 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted against the Schumer amendment.

Other amendments were aimed at protecting families and individuals who have clearly been forced into bankruptcy by events, or who would face extreme hardship in repaying debts. Ted Kennedy introduced an exemption for cases of medical bankruptcy. Russ Feingold introduced an amendment protecting the homes of the elderly. Dick Durbin asked for protection for armed services members and veterans. All were rejected.
There's more in Krugman's column, which I urge you to read in full. But the real story here is the justified moral outrage on both the Blogosphere's right and left.
Bloggers of all stripes are outraged about the bankruptcy bill that passed the Senate earlier this evening. [Right-winger] Glenn [Reynolds, Instapundit] has a pretty broad round-up. There's a protest organizing online. And, the trend I like the most, bloggers are naming names to hold legislators accountable. Bills don't pass themselves. If you don't agree with the way the person representing you in Congress is voting, let them know. It'll be interesting to see if bloggers can influence politicians in the way they've influenced the media. (MSNBC)
If you click the "naming names" link above you'll come to a list of the ten Democratic Senators (all the Republicans were onboard, of course) who voted for cloture and let the bill come to the floor where it passed with no difficulty. Some of them, like faux-Democrat Joe Lieberman, tried to cover themselves by voting against it on the Senate floor, knowing full well that once it got there it was Game Over. Here are the rest of the names (I want you to see them in case you don't click the link).
The Democrats Hall of Shame (aka, Democratic Senators who will never be President):

Biden (D-DE), Byrd (D-WV), Carper (D-DE), Conrad (D-ND), Johnson (D-SD), Kohl (D-WI), Landrieu (D-LA), Lieberman (D-CT), Lincoln (D-AR), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Salazar (D-CO), Stabenow (D-MI).
Via MyDD, the list of Democratic House Members who sold to the highest bidder:
Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Ron Kind, Rep. Artur Davis, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, Rep. John Larson, Rep. Stephanie Herseth, Rep. Dennis Moore, Rep. Mike McIntyre, Rep. Joe Crowley, Rep. Jay Israel, Rep. David Wu, Rep. Diane Hooley, Rep. Melissa Bean, Rep. Jim Davis, Rep. Harold E. Ford, Jr., Rep. Ed Case, Rep. Jay Inslee, Rep. Shelley Berkeley, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks
This will be really, really interesting. MyDD and InstaPundit both outraged and geared for action. We join them. If any of the above "represent" you, tell them what you think of them.

Update: Here is the explicit link to politilogy, home of the "united blogosphere" on this issue. It is in the post above, but may be hard to see. And here is the RSS feed so you can keep track of daily/weekly "Actions" to try to stop this beast.