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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

From a Movement to a Machine

Senate Republicans moved one step closer toward putting abortion protesters beyond the grasp of the law. For most of us, if we engage in civil protest and disobedience – like, for instance, yelling “Bush sucks!” at one of the President’s pretend rallies – we run the risk of being fined and imprisoned, or both. Abortion protesters now no longer have to fear that because the Senate has said that they can use bankruptcy to avoid paying those fines. Let’s get this straight – REPUBLICAN Senators made sure abortion protestors can abuse bankruptcy laws in this manner.
This is part of the ongoing debate over the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. True to their nature, Republicans have named the bill directly the opposite of its intent. See, bankruptcy is supposed to protect consumers who become unable to pay their creditors through no fault of their own. For instance, you have a reasonable amount of debt, but one day have a stroke and are unable to work any more. Your disability doesn’t cover the cost of your credit, so you file bankruptcy.
Not any more. The ability of a judge to determine “fair” use of bankruptcy from “abusive” use of credit – like running through the mall and getting instant approval for 29 credit cards and maxing them all out – will be severely curtailed if the Republican measure passes. Abortion protesters, it seems, are more deserving of the protection of the law than those of us who actually work.
Abortion protesters who are wealthy will reap a double dividend. The Senate measure leaves untouched the legal loophole through which wealthy individuals can create a fake trust account – one they maintain control over – which cannot be claimed in bankruptcy proceedings. For those of us who cannot afford to do so, everything we own is fair game to our creditors.
This comes close on the heels of the Senate also rejecting a Democratic amendment that would exempt medical bills from bankruptcy proceedings. This means that for the guy mentioned above that had the stroke, the very same medical bills that forced him into bankruptcy will be an albatross around his neck until the stress kills him. Elderly people will face passing along bankruptcy medical costs to their heirs. That’s the ownership society for you.
The Senate also defeated another Democratic measure that would have allowed caregivers to exempt their assets from a disabled person’s assets when applying for bankruptcy. They also defeated a Democratic amendment that would have put a floor of $75,000 on the exemption allowed for the primary residence of an elderly person. Yet another Democratic amendment would have required credit card companies and lenders to release data concerning the consequences of paying minimum payments. Still another Democratic amendment would have capped interest rates on predatory loans so that interest rates over 1000% would be illegal.
In short, Democratic Senators have repeatedly put forward amendments that would actually crack down on abuse while still protecting consumers. Republican Senators have voted down every single one of them. While both sides have their own data to support their claims, the inclusion of the abortion protester exemption is a baldly political move. It has absolutely no basis in economic theory. The only reason it can be thrown in is because it is so small a consideration on this bill that it will go unnoticed.
All politicians reward their supporters. There is, quite simply, no way to get around this fact. However, this is an attempt to put a core constituency beyond the reach of the law. This country was founded on the basic idea that all laws should apply to all people. The abuse of arbitrary power was a prime motivator for the Revolution. That Republicans now feel secure enough, after gaining only 51% of the vote, to begin insulating their backers from legal restrictions, only shows that they are truly bent on destroying the country.

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