Reader “Bookworm” agrees with our contention that bankruptcy reform–getting rid of legal loopholes that allow well-paid people to use the court system to erase their valid obligations–is long overdue. (See What’s Wrong With Having to Pay Your Debts?, March 15.)
Although the liberal pundits have been painting the bill as the credit card companies’ class-warfare conspiracy against the little people–read this page o’ hysteria from Joshua Micah Marshall–the Senate voted 3-1 to approve a bill that would require people earning above their state’s median income to pay at least something on their debts over time. The bill, likely to affect only those earning $45,000 a year and more, most definitely would not harm the poor, no matter what the liberals tell you, but it would warn people with decent incomes that they can’t just run up furniture and vacations on their credit cards and then walk away scot-free.
I don’t see anything amiss with these mild reforms and neither does Bookworm, a lawyer who’s experienced the scandal of court-approved debt kissoffs firsthand :
“When I started practicing law in the mid-1980s, one of the hot areas was lender liability — that was the one where people sued banks for ’forcing’ them to take out loans. Clearly, the poor people who throng bankruptcy court are also being ’forced’ to spend, spend, spend on their credit cards….[T]he fact that someone offers you something does not absolve you of the responsiblity to reject that offer if it’s morally wrong or, as in the case of debt, financially stupid.”
I agree. And by the way, don’t believe all those reports you’ve read stating that 54 percent of all bankruptcies are filed on account of unexpected medical liabilities. As Gail Heriot points out in National Review, the study the reports are based on counted anyone obliged to pay $1,000 in medical bills over two years as a filer of a medically triggered bankruptcy. And even drug addiction could count as a “medical” condition. Yes, there are genuine cases of crushing medical expenses that should rightly trigger a bankruptcy filing—and no one likes to pay $500 a year in medical bills–but the real reason most debtors file is runaway consumer spending. As a reporter, I’ve looked at hundreds of bankruptcy petitions, and believe me, medical bills are usually at the bottom of the list of debts.