Sunday, August 12, 2007

Attack On The Middle Class

Normally, discussion of a law enacted 2-3 years earlier would be of little interest to anyone, but this should be an exception, and, given that I started blogging only a few months ago, I couldn't have commented then.

On April 20, 2005 President Bush signed into law the euphemistically and absurdly named "The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005," a harsh attack upon the middle class and main street America. Originally introduced eight years earlier, the act, pushed by lobbyists from the credit card and banking industries, established a means test for filing for bankruptcy protection. According to Project Vote Smart, this restriction "determines whether the individual would be allowed to file under Chapter 7, essentially exonerating their debts after they have liquidated their assets, or if they would be forced to file under Chapter 13, requiring them to pay back creditors on a court-approved timetable."

This law was, and is, a serious blow to the middle class. Testifying against the bill, Elizabeth Warren (who teaches bankruptcy law at Harvarad University) warned it would "increase the cost of bankruptcy protection for every family, regardless of income or the cause of financial crisis, and decrease the protection of bankruptcy for every family, regardless of income or the cause of the financial crisis." Supporters were unconcerned that: in the eight years since the bill was conceived, credit card profits had increased 163%, from $11.5 billion to $32 billion; effective interest rates often are hidden in the fine print of many contracts and sometimes range to 29%; and approximately half of personal bankruptcies are due to illness or medical bills (according to commondreams.org).

Why the interest in the legislation now? The bill first passed in the House, 302-126 with zero(0) Republicans having enough interest in the average American to vote against it. The bill then passed by 74-25 in the Senate, where zero (0) Republicans voted against it. (Can you detect a pattern?) I don't have to tell you how John McCain, Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Ron Paul, and Tom Tancredo voted.

All votes opposing the bill came from the Democratic side of the aisle. Five Democrats currently running for President were serving in the U.S. Congress at the time. Representative Kucinich and Senators Obama and Dodd voted against this egregious bill. Senator Biden of Delaware, a state dominated by banking interests, voted for it. Senator Clinton was recorded as "not voting." A characteristic profile in courage.

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