The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Here Come the Bankruptcies

Tim Grieve at Salon reminds us that thousands of people will likely have to encounter the new world of the Republican bankruptcy bill. If you thought that bill was aimed at spendthrifts who couldn't live within their means and act responsibly -- think again. Any family that is only living month to month and pay check to paycheck will find themselves in the swirling waters of financial catastrophe if a natural disaster like Katrina hit. Think about not being able to earn income while your creditors continue to expect payments -- credit cards, car loans, mortgage companies, let alone the costs of subsistence. The bankruptcy bill won't bring them much comfort and is likely to worsen their plight.

Bankruptcy and Katrina: No one could have predicted it, Part III

....But as with those planes that were flown into buildings and the levees that didn't hold, someone could have predicted that the bankruptcy bill would have an unhappy effect on victims of natural disasters like Katrina -- and someone, in fact, did. As the bill headed toward passage, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee noted that "natural disasters" are often a cause of bankruptcy filings. And as the committee deliberated, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee specifically warned her colleagues about the need to protect storm victims from the bill's strict new requirements.

"Families that are affected by natural disasters such as a hurricane in Florida or the mudslides in California should not have to apply their scarce relief effort monies to bankruptcy debt," Jackson Lee said then. "The intent in providing federal and state monies to families who are victims of such natural disasters is to relieve the burden that the disaster has caused, not to increase their net worth. Bankruptcy reform should address many specific issues, such as the negligent mismanagement of money, but [to] hurt those who are already suffering from flooding or [a] collapsed roof or house that has gone out to sea is absolutely ridiculous."

The amendment Jackson Lee was proposing then went down on a voice vote in the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee, and -- with the help of lots of Democrats in the House and in the Senate -- the bankruptcy bill went on to become law.

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