I guess this is what was meant by ‘compassionate conservatism’:
When Congress agreed this spring to tighten the bankruptcy laws and crack down on consumers who took on debt irresponsibly, no one had the victims of Hurricane Katrina in mind.
But four weeks after New Orleans flooded and tens of thousands of other residents of the Gulf Coast also lost their homes and livelihoods, a stricter new personal bankruptcy law scheduled to take effect on Oct. 17 is likely to deliver another blow to those dislocated by the storm.
The law was intended to keep individuals from taking on debts they had no intention of paying off. But many once-solvent Katrina victims are likely to be caught up in the net intended to catch deadbeats.
Right after Hurricane Katrina struck, several lawmakers – mostly Democrats but including some Senate Republicans – suggested that storm victims along the Gulf Coast should get relief from the new law’s stricter provisions, which are intended to screen filers by income and make those with higher incomes repay their debts over several years. Under the old law, which remains in effect until mid-October, many more filers can have their debts canceled quickly in federal bankruptcy courts.
But House Republicans, who fought off a proposed amendment that would have made bankruptcy filings easier for victims of natural disasters, said there was no reason to carve out a broad exemption just because of the storm.
Yeah. No reason at all. Other than the fact that their houses and places of employment are STILL underwater, they have no jobs, are living in shelters and friends and relatives houses, and probably running up credit card debt rather than paying it down.
Democrats are going to use every tragedy and every opportunity to advance their agenda, and the key to being a sane governing party is to oppose them when it makes no sense, or to agree with them when it does. In this case, it would seem to me (and you can use the comments to convince me otherwise), it does make sense to carve out an exemption for people who got hammered by a natural disaster. Means test it. Make them provide proof. But provide them an opportunity to remain protected.
And while we are at it, if you have not already done so, make sure you read Josh Trevino’s excellent piece from earlier this year on the Bankruptcy Bill called “Breach of Faith”:
The bankruptcy bill before the Congress is bad law, bad practice, and an example of bad faith with the common people whom elected officials presumably serve. When it passes — and it will — it will be thanks purely to the Republican Party…
The people affected by this bill are almost exclusively the desperate and the stupid. While we ought to have little problem allowing the latter their fate, having been amongst the former, I believe compassion demands something more for them than a simple tightening of the screws. But then, compassion appears to have no place amongst the Republicans pushing this wretched law:
Republicans also defeated an amendment that would have permitted seniors entering bankruptcy to protect $75,000 of the value of their homes, as well as one that would have exempted from the means test family members forced into bankruptcy by the need to care for a sick relative.
And the GOP rebuffed an effort by Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) to force credit card companies to disclose to their clients how long it would take to pay off their balances if they made only the minimum payments.
This is on us, folks. This is on the Republican Party. It’s going to hurt a lot of people; it is a pure giveaway to business sectors that need no state help; and it makes us look like the corporate toadies we apparently are. Shame.
Trevino nailed that one (less than six months from when he wrote it, some of his fears are realized), and he didn’t even need a crystal ball.