Dark day is coming, Aug. 25, 2005

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

A few months ago I railed in this space for about a week or two about the "Bankrupcy Bill" passed by congress with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Bush.

Perhaps better known as the "Debt Peonage Bill," it basically made the courts taxpayer-funded collection agents for the banks and credit card companies. Beginning Oct. 1, I think, no longer will it be possible for individuals to wipe out their debts through bankruptcy, regardless of whether those debts were incurred due to military service, medical emergency, etc.

In short, in a little over a month, if you are unable to pay your bills, you will have to go to work as an indentured servant of sorts for your debtors.

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While citing the need for consumers to be "responsible" for their debt, the real reason the measure was signed into law was the millions upon millions that flow from the financial industry coffers into political campaigns. Studies have shown that true "abusers" of credit are few. Anybody who tells you differently is a liar. I was particularly disappointed that our own Rep. J. Randy Forbes voted for this legislation. I've found him otherwise to be good, conscientious representative of the people.

The bill also comes at a time when millions of Americans have found themselves in homes they cannot really afford, with adjustable rate, interest-only mortgages, and maxed our credit cards. Millions are but a paycheck away from financial devastation.

I had tried to block out this dark moment in our legislative history, but it was brought back to mind this week. I'm sure I'll get in trouble at home over this, but I just can't keep it to myself.

I have a relative who at birth had his oxygen cut off. Though he was revived, he lost the use of the left side of his body. He also had cerebral palsey. A botched surgery in his teens left him almost completely wheelchair bound, unable to work. He has been in and out of hospitals his entire life for various ailments including an enlarged liver and digestive disorders.

Now in his mid-30s, he lives alone in an apartment but is really incapable of taking care of himself. His parents live nearby and take care of him.

His sole source of support is $750 a month he receives from Social Security.

Somehow, he had managed to run up more than $19,000 in credit card debt. Though I hated to do it, I encouraged him to file bankruptcy as soon as possible before that glorious aforementioned legislation went into effect. He was resistant. That's just the type of person he is. He was embarrassed and ashamed. He had refused to sue the surgeon who botched his surgery because he felt it was unchristian.

I do not know how he got into so much debt and frankly, I did not care. What angered me was that financial institutions like Citibank, Discover, MBNA and others, allowed a disabled person living on $750 a month to run credit cards up to nearly $5,000.

I think there's plenty of irresponsibility in this situation to go around and it should be shared. I'm in business. We make decisions every day on whether to extend credit to a customer. Unless a business is well established and provides good credit references, we do not extend credit. Otherwise, you pay cash. That's not rocket science. It's what any responsible business does. Even then you take a risk and if you get stiffed, chances are you will never see any of the money. It's the risk of doing business.

Anyway, I happily helped my relative fill out his bankruptcy forms. It actually made me feel proud to assist in sticking it to thse parasites.

There's a dark day coming n October 1. If you are uncertain about your ability to handle your debt load, I encourage you to contact an attorney and take action now before it's too late.

Otherwise, you're liable to end up sweeping floors at Citibank.