Bankruptcy Blog: March 8, 2005

So the bankruptcy bill moves forward, speeding toward inevitable passage in the Senate and the House. That’s good news for credit card companies, particularly those that are loading their cards up with surprise interest rate jumps and a dozen other tricks and traps. Good news for payday lenders, for banks raking in profits on overdraft accounts, and for car lenders that focus on no-credit-check lending. Good news for all of those who squeeze the American family when someone loses a job, gets sick, or otherwise falls behind in a tough economy.

But there is good news on other fronts too. This bankruptcy bill was largely written by a credit industry lobbyist and, as he put it, shopped to a friendly Congressman. From the outset, the bill was supposed to be an easy push, “assured of passage,” something that would stay below the radar screen.

But you changed all that.

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And that is good news. This isn’t the first time that special interests have gone to Congress with a complex, hard-to-understand bill that would profit them while it increased costs or risks for all the rest of us. But you pushed up the cost. You made it obvious that Joe Biden isn’t there for working families. You highlighted the fact that Dick Durbin fought like a tiger for military families. You exposed how Tom Carper cares more about credit card companies than families. You cheered when Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy and Mark Dayton tried to make things better. You watched Senator Feinstein speak with courage. You highlighted how Ted Kennedy, once again, forced a tough fight that others wanted to duck.

Because of this fight, there will be no quiet, smooth passage for this bill. Instead, folks are now on record: 58 voted against giving just a little protection for military families set upon by predatory lenders. 74 voted against a 30% usury cap, saying the credit card companies are free to take whatever they can get. 58 voted against treating families beset by cancer and diabetes differently from those that run up bills on fancy vacations and over-priced nonsense.

We’ve got two or three more days on this bill. Let’s show them what we can do: more facts, more discussion, more debate, more amendments. And let’s drown them in emails, faxes, phone calls and letters. There is no point in going quietly now.

And while we’re at it, let’s plot our next strategy. Families don’t have to cower before credit card companies and second mortgage lenders. They can fight back right where it hurts—in the company profits.

I have never blogged before, and once the votes are final on bankruptcy, I may never do it again. But in the meantime, I know I have been blessed. My Harvard Law students (Michael Negron, Jason Spitalnick and Ryan Spear) have been great teammates; I’d be proud to fight alongside them anytime. Josh Marshall introduced me to a new form of participatory democracy that is starting to transform the world. But most important of all is what I learned from you: I am not alone with this fearsome anger; there are thousands of people who want to change things as much as I do. You give me hope.

Folks, it is a pleasure to blog with you.

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