Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Democratic Debate: Bankruptcy

Amidst the three candidates apologizing to and praising one another and declaring for whatever reason that they were all pretty much the same last night, at least one question, particularly relevant to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, should have revealed one of the many relevant differences between them.

According to a recent report on NPR, this year, more people are expected to file for bankruptcy than suffer a heart attack, graduate from college or file for divorce.

Yet, in 2005, the passage of the "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act" (the quotation marks are there for a reason) made filing bankruptcy much harder for working- and middle-class families. Those with an income exceeding the median income for their state could no longer discharge debt, but instead were subject to a judge's estimation of how much they could continue to pay, and were mandated to atttend credit counseling. The median income per household in Louisiana, by the way, is $39,337 .

It's not surprising that this measure was lobbied by credit card companies and sub-prime lenders who knew what was coming. Personally, I thought just about everybody should have filed bankruptcy in advance of the effective date of this legislation, but that's just me.

Last night, Tim Russert asked Hillary Clinton,

"Senator Clinton, you voted for the same 2001 bankruptcy bill that Senator
Edwards just said he was wrong about. After you did that, the Consumer
Federation of America said that your reversal on that bill, voting for it,
was the death knell for the opponents of the bill. Do you regret that vote?"

Her response:

"Sure I do, but it never became law, as you know. It got tied up. It was a bill
that had some things I agreed with and other things I didn't agree with, and I
was happy that it never became law. I opposed the 2005 bill as well. But let's talk about where we are now with bankruptcy." More.

Well, hm. She may have opposed it, but she didn't vote against it. According Katharine Q. Seelye at New York Times, who traces the 2005 bill to its inception, years earlier:

"The bill popped up again 2001, which was Mrs. Clinton’s first year in the
Senate. She worked with Republicans on it and was one of 36 Democrats who helped
it pass the Senate, saying it had been improved from when she opposed it. Still,
this version was vigorously opposed by consumer groups and unions, and
ultimately did not become law.

When the bill came up again in 2005, Mrs. Clinton missed the vote. She did
vote against a procedural motion involving the bill and said that had she been
present, she would have voted against the bill itself."

Here was Obama's response to the same question:

"I opposed them both. I think they were a bad idea. Because they were pushed
by the credit card companies. They were pushed by the mortgage companies. And
they put the interests of those banks and financial institutions ahead of the
interests of the American people. " More.

Obama really did vote against the 2005 bill. He wasn't in the Senate in 2001, but I believe him that he opposed the 2001 bill.

I mean, don't we need a president who's a little more perspicacious (read: not so beholden to multi-national corporate interests) than Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have been regarding the war and measures such as bankruptcy reform? One who's not going to just sit there and say he or she regrets supporting legislation that fucks us the hell up and isn't going to be undone, but he or she has learned a lesson, and so what we have to do is start from where we are now [that they've fucked us the hell up but are sorry for it]?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dead on, and I can't believe other people haven't picked up on it, especially given, like you said, how little distinguished the candidates on the issues.