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[The following is based on a Daily Kos diary by Maryscott OConnor. Due to the importance of this bill and the quality of her research and analysis, we have requested and received from Maryscott permission to repost this edited and restructured version of her original work. What follows is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the motivations behind this bill and the strategies being used in forcing this legislation through the Senate. -- Hunter]

The details of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 reveal it to be a bill crafted as a Republican paean to MBNA, the largest single contributor to the Republican party.  Far from being either an effort to stem "Bankruptcy Abuse" or an effort at "Consumer Protection", the bill is in fact an attempt to rewrite bankruptcy laws to reduce the ability of those laws to protect consumers from predatory lending practices on the part of MBNA members, and to stiffen the capabilities of those corporations to collect from consumers already suffering from extreme financial hardships.

The "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005" will almost certainly pass, absent a filibuster -- and at present, it is questionable whether Democrats would have the votes for a filibuster. Nevertheless, it is instructive to examine the structure and proposed amendments to this bill, to examine exactly how insistent Republicans are in passing this bill while blocking all Democratic efforts to protect even the most at-risk consumers.

On the Democratic-sponsored amendments discussed below (you can learn a lot from the Role Call Vote Summary, which lists each Amendment to S.256), the voting was consistent.  Not even one Republican voted against party lines.  Three Democrats consistently voted with the Republicans:

Sen. Nelson (D - Nebraska)
Sen. Johnson (D - South Dakota)
Sen. Carper (D - Delaware)

Also frequently voting with the Republicans:

Sen. Biden (D - Delaware)

The "Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection" in this bill occurs for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies - individual avenues of bankruptcy.  Conspicuous in absence, evidently not needing reform, are Chapter 11 bankruptcies.

Want to guess what Chapter 11 covers?

You guessed it.  Chapter 11 is bankruptcy for businesses:

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy - The most common type of bankruptcy proceeding. It is a liquidation type of proceeding (as opposed to a reorganization proceeding). All of the debtor's assets, with the exception of "exempt" property, will be sold, and the proceeds will be used to pay their debts. If the proceeds are not enough to pay off all the debts, unpaid amounts on "dischargeable debts" will be discharged.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy - Known as reorganization bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed by individuals who want to pay off their debts over a period of three to five years. This type of  bankruptcy appeals to individuals who have non-exempt property  that they want to keep. It is also only an option for individuals who have predictable income and whose income is  sufficient to pay their reasonable expenses with some amount  left over to pay off their debts.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy - Typically used for business bankruptcies and restructuring. It is not commonly used by individual consumers since it is far more complex and expensive to pursue. It allows businesses to reorganize themselves, giving them an opportunity to restructure debt and get out from under certain burdensome leases and contracts. Typically a business is allowed to continue to operate while it is in Chapter 11, although it does so under the supervision of the Bankruptcy Court and its appointees.

It seems evident that the only people the Republican crafters of this bill think are "Abusive" of the bankruptcy laws are individuals, and the only people needing "Protection" are the corporations.

Democrats have been introducing amendments designed to limit the damage by this bill, or at least protect the most vulnerable consumers, or at the very least address the issues of predatory lenders and clear loopholes for high-wealth individuals. In examining the proposed amendments, and the votes on them, a clear pattern emerges -- and when probing the intentions of the Republicans in crafting this bill, Amendment 42 is in many ways the smoking gun.

Sponsored by Sen. Schumer (D), Amendment 42 is described thusly:

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 42
Schumer Amdt. No. 42; To limit the exemption for asset protection trusts.


What does that mean? Here's the translation: Sen. Schumer (D) wanted to limit the free ride given in this Republican-sponsored legislation to people who are rich enough to put their assets in a "protected trust".

Laws inspired by the Enron debacle may hold the officers of a corporation personally liable for the deceptive financial practices, and ensuing disasters, of their corporation. However -- luckily for prospective corporate criminals -- there are in the United States a handful of states, such as Utah, where you may stash your assets in a "protected trust" and render them untouchable by bankruptcy laws -- and you don't have to be a resident of those states to take advantage of those laws.

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, while purporting to strenghen bancruptcy laws against abuse, specifically provides exemptions for those asset protection trusts.  Schumer's Amendment 42 was an attempt to close that loophole.

It was rejected.  Not only rejected, but every Republican voted against it. The Republicans were joined by Democrats Nelson, Johnson, and Carper.

Now, let's look at the other Democratic amendments to this bill:

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 49
Durbin Amdt. No. 49; To protect employees and retirees from corporate practices that deprive them of their earnings and retirement savings when a business files for bankruptcy.


That pretty much speaks for itself. The sole Democrat to vote against this proposed amendment (again, all Republican senators voted against all these amendments) was Sen. Nelson. Several other Democrats are listed as not voting.

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 38
Durbin Amdt. No. 38; To discourage predatory lending practices.


You know those credit card offers you get? The ones with the huge limits that make no sense in relation to your income? The ones with the 21% interest and the late fees and the renewal fees and the arbitrary increases in interest? They're called Predatory Lending Practices. Banks can't do it; ask the S&L's. Better yet, ask the taxpayers who bailed out the S&Ls after they were driven into the ground by corporate managers writing deeply questionable loans to unqualified borrowers.

Credit card companies, however, can, and as a cursory glance at the terms provided by those innumerable junk-mail credit card offers that regularly appear in your mailbox show, they do.

Sen. Durbin proposed an amendment to the bill that -- since the purpose of the Republican bill is to make it more difficult for consumers to gain bankruptcy protection from predatory lenders -- would help curb those predatory practices, since those practices lead to major debt, increased bankruptcies and eventually -- in the case of the S&L crisis, when those bankruptcies in turn forced the lenders themselves into insolvency -- costly taxpayer bail-outs.

Democrats voting against the amendment, joining every single Republican Senator, were again Senators Nelson, Johnson, and Carper.

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 37
Nelson (FL) Amdt. No. 37; To exempt debtors from means testing if their financial problems were caused by identity theft.


Again, if the purpose of the Republican bill was indeed Consumer Protection, this seems pretty straightforward and sensible. Why would we want to make life even more difficult for victims of identity theft by making the last resort of personal bankruptcy difficult or unavailable to them?

Nevertheless, the amendment to provide consumer protection for identity theft victims was defeated: all Republican Senators voted against the amendment, along with Democrats Nelson (NE), Johnson, and Carper.

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 31
Dayton Amdt. No. 31.; To limit the amount of interest that can be charged on any extension of credit to 30 percent.


While reasonable sounding, 19 Democrats voted against this amendment; we will be charitable and assume the amendment was poorly written. There was some concern that the amendment would supercede any State usury laws. Sen. Kerry was among those voting against it.

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 32
Corzine Amdt. No. 32; To preserve existing bankruptcy protections for individuals experiencing economic distress as caregivers to ill or disabled family members.


Again, this one is a simple effort to not strip away existing protections for people who are struggling to stay alive, housed, and fed while taking care of ill or disabled family members. It would seem uncontroversial in the extreme, right?

Well, it seems 54 Republican Senators, 5 Democratic Senators and 1 "Independent" Senator do intend to strip away those protections. The Democrats: Baucus, Bingaman, Carper, Johnson and Nelson of Nebraska. Senators Biden and Santorum did not vote.

Now, two big ones:

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 28
Kennedy Amdt. No. 28.; To exempt debtors whose financial problems were caused by serious medical problems from means testing.


On the Amendment S.Amdt. 29
Kennedy Amdt. No. 29; To provide protection for medical debt homeowners.


Both amendments were sponsored by Sen. Kennedy, and had the simple goal of consumer protection for individuals whose medical debts are the reason they're filing for bankruptcy.

All Republican Senators voted against these amendments.  Democrats voting against Amendment 28 were Biden, Carper, Johnson and Nelson.  Democrats voting against Amendment 29 were Bingaman, Carper, Johnson and Nelson. Republican Sen. Santorum was absent from the votes.

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 15
Akaka Amdt. No. 15; To require enhanced disclosure to consumers regarding the consequences of making only minimum required payments in the repayment of credit card debt, and for other purposes.


Again, this Amendment was a Democratic attempt to balance the aggressive protections given by the bill to predatory lenders by simply requiring credit card companies to give people more prominent warnings about what will happen if they only pay the minimum required payments on those cards. This is a significant problem for many consumers, who do not understand that making the minimum allowed payments on credit cards actually increases their debts on those cards.

All Republican Senators voted against the amendment. They were joined in rejecting it by Democrats Baucus, Biden, Carper, Johnson and Nelson.

Continuing on, a very, very important amendment:

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 17
Feingold Amdt. No. 17.; To provide a homestead floor for the elderly.


This is a truly outrageous rejection.  Allow us to explain as succinctly as we can:

Each and every Republican Senator, along with Jeffords (I) and Democrats Biden, Carper and Nelson, voted to reject a provision that would ensure that no elderly people in enough financial trouble to seek bankruptcy protection would lose their homes.

Here's how the debate went down, in a nutshell:

"In States such as Florida and Texas, there is a homestead exemption with an unlimited dollar value, meaning that any money invested in a home cannot be obtained by creditors. I should note, of course, that this creates other problems, which I will address in a few minutes. But other States allow a very limited value homestead exemption. In many States, the amount of equity a homeowner can protect in bankruptcy has lagged far behind the dramatic rise in home values in recent years. For example, in the State of Ohio, the homestead exemption is only $5,000, and in the Presiding Officer's State of North Carolina, the homestead exemption is $10,000. In this day and age, those paltry exemptions will do no good. We obviously have a problem, and it is hitting our older friends and family members the hardest.

Think about it: In these low homestead exemption States, even indigent elderly homeowners who own a home free and clear worth only $30,000 or $40,000 cannot file for chapter 7 bankruptcy without losing their home.

And they may not be able to file a chapter 13 case because they cannot afford to pay creditors the value of their home equity that is not exempt, as required by that chapter. Many elderly homeowners live solely on Social Security benefits, often no more than $800 to $1,000 per month. This is enough to subsist in their paid-off homes, while still paying taxes, utilities and other basic living expenses. But if they lose their homes, they will not be able to rent a decent place to live. Effectively, this means these older homeowners have no bankruptcy relief available to them at all. We have to address this gross inequity before we pass this bill. My amendment would create a uniform federal floor for homestead exemptions of $75,000, applicable only to bankruptcy debtors over the age of 62, protecting the lower- and middle-class senior citizens who need it most.

I will give an example that illustrates why it is so important that we fix this problem and fix it now. Let me tell my colleagues about Mary Bobbit. Mary Bobbit is a 70-year-old widow who lives in North Carolina, where the homestead exemption is only $10,000. According to a local news story, she recently lost her husband to cancer, a battle that left her with more than $175,000 in unpaid medical bills. Her only remaining asset is the home that her family built themselves 26 years ago, a home that she paid off just last year. And now she is faced with a horrible dilemma, because if she files for bankruptcy in North Carolina, she will lose the home that she and her husband worked so hard to build and pay for."

After Feingold concluded his opening remarks, Orrin Hatch got up and blasted Feingold's amendment as an attempt to derail the entire bill and an infringement on the States' Rights regarding Homestead Exemptions (claiming the bill would be derailed because this infringement suggested in Feingold's amendment would cause numerous Senators from said States to vote against the Bill. As if any of those 55 Republican automatons would EVER vote against a bill if they were told to vote FOR it?)

Did you catch what just happened there? Orrin Hatch's problem with the amendment is that Feingold's amendment would have impacted on the "millionare homestead" laws in Florida and Texas, which allow estates of unlimited value to be kept by wealthy businessmen even if after declare bankruptcy. The laws have caused controversy in the past for the obvious reasons -- corporate officers responsible for criminal, fraudulent, or simply negligent behaviors by their companies (think WorldCom) can pump an unlimited amount of money into their own property, and that property then cannot be touched in bankruptcy proceedings.

Hatch says that requiring those homeowners to be subject to the same laws as the Republicans are, in this bill, holding all other elderly consumers to is an infringement of States' Rights.

Feingold's response to Hatch:

"The Senator from Utah has said this bill affects States rights with regard to the homestead exemption. This bill does affect the rights of Florida and Texas to have an unlimited homestead exemption, as it should. The Federal Government has an interest here in making sure wealthy people cannot abuse the system. I support that goal of stopping fraud.

The Federal Government also has an interest in making sure our senior citizens have absolute minimum protection for their homes when they are forced into bankruptcy, particularly because of unanticipated health care costs..."

Nevertheless, this goal was not shared by the Republicans.  Another amendment down, all Republican Senators voting against it.

Let's examine one more.

On the Amendment S.Amdt. 16
Durbin Amdt. No. 16, As Modified.; To protect service members and veterans from means testing in bankruptcy, to disallow certain claims by lenders charging usurious interest rates to servicemembers, and to allow servicemembers to exempt property based on the law of the State of their premilitary residence.


You read that one right. The amendment was a Democratic request to protect servicemen and women from bankruptcies by predatory lenders charging usurious interest rates, and to allow them the protections of their own state laws in potentially keeping their properties.

All Republican Senators voted against. Democrats Baucus, Biden, Byrd, Carper, Johnson and Nelson joined them.

It would seem that in a choice between supporting the troops, and supporting lenders, the decision wasn't very hard at all.

You have now gotten a glimpse into the next 2 years (at least) of what will pass for legislation in the Senate and the House. Orwell would be proud of the naming: Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.

No protection for the homes of the elderly and the medically infirm -- but by God, we made sure those exemptions for protected assets stayed firm. No protection for employees' earnings, pensions and retirement savings when an employer takes refuge in bankruptcy - but by God, we're gonna protect those credit card companies from too many intrusive rules that demand they properly inform their consumers of the small-print deal with the devil they've just made on that high-interest, high-limit, low-minimum-payment credit card.


Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 03:31 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I want to thank Maryscott again (4.00)
    ... for granting me permission to use her superb work to produce this re-edited story, and apologize for butcherings I subjected it to in condensing and reworking it for frontpage use.  Thanks to Maryscott and all our diarists for doing the amazing, and for the unceasing contributions of their blood, sweat, tears, and words.
    •  Oh, man. (4.00)
      Yours is so much more... genteel. And, um -- journalistic.

      Maybe I should have bought me some editors years ago...

      Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

      by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:34:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks for allowing it (none)
        not easy to say yes.

        "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

        by Greg Dworkin on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:00:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  so maybe (none)
          this version should be the one we send to every single senator?  make sure they understand we know what this bill really means and we're taking notes.  we'd probably need one version for the republicans and another for the wayward dems.  

          say the word (maryscott), and i'll start a diary for it!

      •  Personally, (none)
        I liked all the swearing and insults in your original diary.  It's nothing new of course, but the hypocrisy of these bastards criticizing the Left for engaging in "class warfare" when they have, in fact, went to Defcon 4 in said war leaves me nauseous on this fine Sunday morning.

        "Old Woman, can you tell me who lives in that castle?"

        Sorry just practicing for the return of feudalism.  I never did learn to serf. . .

        "It's been headed this way since the World began, when a vicious creature made the jump from Monkey to Man."--Elvis Costello

        by BigOkie on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:34:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Help! I'm being repressed! (4.00)

          What I object to is that you automatically treat me like an inferior!

          Well, I am King!

          Oh, King, eh, very nice. And how d'you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers! By 'anging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. If there's ever going to be any progress with the--

          Dennis, there's some lovely filth down here. Oh! How d'you do?

          How do you do, good lady? I am Arthur, King of the Britons. Whose castle is that?

          King of the who?

          The Britons.

          Who are the Britons?

          Well, we all are. We are all Britons, and I am your king.

          I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.

          You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship: a self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--

          Oh, there you go bringing class into it again.

          That's what it's all about. If only people would hear of--

          Please! Please, good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?

          No one lives there.

          Then who is your lord?

          We don't have a lord.


          I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week,...


          ...but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting...

          Yes, I see.

 a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,...

          Be quiet!

          ...but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more major--

          Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!

          Order, eh? Who does he think he is? Heh.

          I am your king!

          Well, I didn't vote for you.

          You don't vote for kings.

          Well, how did you become King, then?

          The Lady of the Lake,...
          [angels sing]
          ...her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.
          [singing stops]
          That is why I am your king!

          Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

          Be quiet!

          Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

          Shut up!

          I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!

          Shut up, will you? Shut up!

          Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.

          Shut up!

          Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

          Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

          by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:41:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  heh. (none)
        I kinda feel like i just saw an R rated movie that had been edited to PG13.

        Let the Democratic Reformation Begin

        by Pounder on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 07:04:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, editors can be a godsend sometimes. (none)
        Other times, not so much.  I think both versions are great, just depends on the audience it's meant for.  :-)

        I'd like an editor (most of the time). Well, that, and a better spellchecker. Oh, and the power to smite mine enemies and crush all who oppose me.

        Hmm.  On second thought, just the last part will do. The rest of it I can take or leave.

      •  Time to cancel those cards! (none)
        Taking a page from Capital One, it is now time to speak to these greedy companies in the only language they understand:  MONEY.  The message is NO!

        If you have MBNA credit cards, pay them off and cancel them.  Same with Capital One.  Write them a letter explaining what you are doing and why.

        Everyone needs one card, so keep the best or open one new account.  BUT PAY IT OFF EVERY MONTH!  Do not give these bloodsuckers any finance charges, late fees etc.  People need to understand that  consumer and financial choices are even more important than your vote in changing the behavior of corporations in this society, because you do it much more often--at least once a day, as opposed to once every year or two.

        Besides, living within your means is good practice for the coming economic difficulties caused by the Bush deficits.  

        If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

        by Mimikatz on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 11:23:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Great diary -Durbin Amendment caveat (3.66)
      Thanks for organizing this all so succinctly. Two points.

      Your summary of the Durbin amendment isn't quite right. The focus of the Durbin amendment, as I understand it, was on predatory home mortgage loans. That is people who got into trouble because of a predatory home mortgage loan (not a credit card debt) would be offered some protection in bankruptcy.

      Last session the bankruptcy bill foundered because of the amendment Schumer managed to pass that specifically dealt with bankruptcy and people who targeted abortion clinics.  It was this provision that almost singlehandedly slowed down the bill and stopped it because the House wouldn't accept that amendment.  That amendment seems to be missing this session.  Any explanation?

    •  This is REALLY important (none)
      You have to go into Chapter 13 if you fail the means test, and here is the means test, short and sweet-

      They are using the expenses allowance used by the IRS for TAX CHEATS - the most draconian test of all.  The IRS allows you to exist.  They punish you for being a tax cheat by allowing you shelter and food.  PERIOD. That's what they deduct from your income.  Plus some VERY rare exemptions (you or a relative you support had beeter be disabled or dying, etc.).  Now, if they find you have $100/month a month in disposable income after that (you know, your Starbucks and pizza money), BANG!  You are in Chapter 13 and in a five-year repayment plan.  This gives all new meaning to blood from a stone.

      We do not rent rooms to Republicans.

      by Mary Julia on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 07:27:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you for the 'office' version. (none)
      I can put this out at my office. While I appreciated Maryscott's original rant, it was not something I could use to communicate with the easily offended.
  •  OK (3.60)
    So dKos is a "Democratic blog".  This leaves us with a question--is it OK to criticize the not-so-fantastic-four?  And if it is OK to criticize, is it OK for that criticism to go beyond lip (dis)service?  Because the question is raised, if Republicans defined themselves by their party-line unity on this bill, and certain "Democrats" essentially voted with that defining Republican party line, how in any sense are they "Democrats"?
    •  Why be polite (none)
      The not-so-fantastic four don't get the unity that is building among the ranks.  I'm sure they can find other work.
    •  Is it okay to criticize? (3.66)
      This is a democratic blog, supposed citizen.  People say what they damn well please here.  We don't define merit in terms of who you are allowed to be with, and who likes you.  We define merit as representation of the individual against the institution.  We define merit as the confrontation against corruption, not the furtherance of it.
      I just can't believe what went down last week.  
      This is a nightmare.
      I really think people will suffer horribly because of what these supposed public servants have done.  The old in their struggles will be frail, and these bullies, these bastards, would beat them again.  
      I always heard that you were supposed to respect your parents and their generations, & the ones coming before.
      I always heard that the individual was more important than the institution, and that people were more important than money & materials.
      What I read above represents a total moral rejection of those principles, an embrace of indifference so deep as to admit no charity.  For us, there is no hope at all because these people have abandoned mercy.
      I want to curse all of them- the Republicans & the Democrats who supported them- to their faces.
    •  of course you can criticize them (none)
      Of the three who consistently voted against ordinary folks, one has credit cards as his home state industry (Carper), and one is both very worried about his reelection fight next year in a red state (Nebraska) and pretty far to the right for a Dem anyway (Nelson). Credit cards are also Biden's  home state industry. I have no idea what Tim Johnson's problem is, but I hope South Dakotans write him angry letters.

      Note that as far as I can tell all these folks with the semi-exception of Nelson have been on our side in other fights; Johnson has stood up against Social Security phase-out, and Carper may be in the process of doing so. If you write these three and tell them that they screwed up, don't pretend they're Zell Miller or call them not really Dems; do tell them they blew it on this one. (If you write Carper, remind him to protect social security.)

      •  update: Johnson has home-state issues too (none)
        Apparently Tim Johnson's SD depends on credit-card companies to provide jobs and capital too: he's voting for his home-state industry just as Carper is. Still icky, but more understandable. (See DHinMI's post downthread.)
        •  Disagreement from me... (none)
          ..Understandable? Reprehensible. It's like saying, "well, I know Monsanto has poured poison into the drinking water and killed thousands of people, but they come from our home state and employ a lot of local folks so we'll give them a pass."

          These senators are officially, as far as i'm concerned, Republicans.

        •  so what is the problem here? (none)
          lets define the problem.  if industry is the problem and lobbing for that industry is the problem then HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM HERE! now if these demos are in riding the repbu horse to the death and they will surley fall on their own sword eventually.  no one can be 2 faced all the time and get by with it with the voters, can they?
      •  true true (none)
        but whats the issue with ALL the Repubs voting for it ? They all got an EXCUSE ? assholes.

        Let the Democratic Reformation Begin

        by Pounder on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 07:06:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I want to send this (none)
    to my 2 Republican Senators.  Why not let them know what is being said ...perhaps with enough light some of the rats will scurry into the corners.  It is certainly going to be a long 2 years...

    Thanks Maryscott

    by SMucci on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 03:39:57 AM PST

  •  A companion House bill? (none)
    I looked at Maryscott's diary when there were about 500 comments and didn't see any mention of a companion bill in the House.

    Just checked and found this:

    Title: To amend title 11 of the United States Code, and for other purposes.
    Sponsor: Rep Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [WI-5] (introduced 2/9/2005)      Cosponsors (75)
    Related Bills: S.256
    Latest Major Action: 2/9/2005 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Financial Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

    This one doesn't seem to be moving so fast. It  has been in committee for about 4 weeks now. Are they just waiting for S. 256 to come around to ditch H.R. 685, or will the two go together?

    •  House leadership is waiting (none)
      Because of the troublesome abortion clinic amendment in last sessions bill, the House leadership is waiting to see if a "clean" bill emerges from the Senate. They will pass this bill in a flash if it passes the Senate in its current form.
      •  MBNA (none)
        Here's something that drives me nuts--

        MBNA is the largest corporate contributor to the BushCo regime, yet the so-called "socially conscious" financial services outfit called Working Assets uses MBNA to run their credit card business.  I called Working Assets on this, and got a polite but ineffective reply.


        •  This is one of the problems with (none)
          trying to do the "Blue" investing. First, the credit card companies see the profitunity of sponsoring the "progressive investing" movement (Clear Channel is sprouting Air America stations all over the place; Amazon points me to lists of anti-Bush books). Second, we can't see what both hands are doing. Everything is intertwined ultimately. I also fear, with this corrupt administration, that if I actually found investment opportunities that truly supported progressive causes AND were profitable AND were independent, they would find a way to destroy them. They are that vicious.
        •  I have the same issues (none)
          I've tried to find a 'progressive' credit card, but can't.

          Mutual funds are a little better.

          •  democratic party visa card (none)
            I received an offer in the mail for a Democratic Party Visa Card (from Providian)

            It gives a 1% rebate on all purchases, which you can redeem or choose to have it sent directly to the Party.

            It might be something to look at, but I don't really need any more cards right now

  •  Scary... (none)
    Within a few decades, or even a few years, they're going to have to bring back debtors prisons.

    Thanks a bunch for outlining this frightening, confusing legislation.

    •  Prison (none)
      Within a few decades, or even a few years, they're going to have to bring back debtors prisons.

      Why even bother? If this bill passes, it will essentially create a new class of almost bondafide wage slaves. That's a lot more profitable for creditors than debtors' prisons.

      •  Draft 'em (none)
        Just like my theory about eventually letting non-violent criminals pay off their debts by joining the military, I think we'll see the Army offer a means to pay off the bank if you just sign up for 15 years....

        Active military memebers will just never get to leave.

  •  Excellent article that is trying to (4.00)
    affect three basic principles to which the proponents of this legislation.

    First, there is the belief that, contrary to how it was finally written, the organizing principles of our government are "life, liberty and property."  Property, not the individual or the person, is to be protected.

    Second, economic activity means that property changes hands and, increasingly, the majority of profit is derived not from transforming material resources into something else, but from passing property around, sort of like musical chairs.  But here, on each pass, something falls out to be caught as a "reward."  That's what profit is, whatever somebody loses when property changes hands.

    Third, the structural property (houses) owned by individuals are seen as a "great store of wealth" that needs to be "liberated" from the owners, either by convincing them to sell, or by taking it out of their hands some other way.  That's why, for example, the capital gains tax on the sale of homes was repealed--to "encourage" people to sell and realize their equity and prompt them to buy a more expensive replacement so that the newly "freed" capital could be "re-invested," preferably at a higher rate.

    What we are dealing with is two different definitions of economic behavior.  One, the traditional one, envisions a three step process--production-> sale or trade-> consumption.
    The other, envisions an economy based on purchase-> resale -> consumption.

    •  Life? Liberty? (none)
      What the hell are those doing in there.  There's been no evidence in the past 4 years that our government (as run by the Retardlicans) cares about either of those.  I could bring up half a dozen examples of their disdain both, but you guys can think back and remember them just as easily.  

      In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

      by Asak on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:29:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  So... (none)
        It's no surprise that the Republicans care little about any of the things that our country was founded on.  

        In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

        by Asak on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:31:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Forgot to mention one other thing. (none)
      These people are absolutely convinced that when some people are punished for wrong or bad behavior, other people will learn from their example and behave themselves.
      That's the basis for their support of the death penalty.
      In monetary matters, they see that some irresponsible people are stressing the credit system, thereby costing other people money, so they think that if a few are severely punished for their improvident behavior, others who are similarly tempted will be deterred.
      That putting people to death for killing other people isn't "working" in the sense of reducing the incidence of murder significantly doesn't prove anything.  These people believe what they believe.
      It's the same mind-set which has resulted in Iraq. The expectation is that when the rest of the Middle East "sees" what terrible things the U.S. can do to countries that resist its demands, the others will fall in line.
      •  I'm not so sure (none)
        Sometimes I think that it's punative and that's it.

        Let's say someone suffers and dies from mesothelioma.  They've made it so that you can't sue the corporations who knowingly exposed that person to asbestos.  The family goes broke, since they can't afford the bills and Haliburton isn't going to pay now.

        How is another family supposed to learn from that?  Not get mesothelioma?  

        It's unjust and unfair.

        It's equvalent to using race or gender to blame someone for something.  One can only learn to TRY not to be victimized.

  •  We still have the House to work with. (4.00)
     The House has yet to start on this bill. Last time this bill was tried, they could not reconcile it with the Senate version.

     Start working your Congressmen, folks.

    If he really thinks we're the devil, then let's send him to Hell!

    by Anderson Republican on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 04:18:32 AM PST

    •  They have started. (none)
      H.R. 685 is listed as related legislation in the S. 256 bill summary. I posted a snippet of info on it above (introduced by Sensenbrenner, in committee since 2/9).
    •  Are you kidding? (4.00)
      If we talk sweetly into Bug Boy's ear, he'll be attracted to the light like a moth! [/sarcasm]

      Seriously, the only power the Democratic Party has is in the Senate now, which is being actively forfeited by these "moderate" Democrats.  The House bill will be worse.  I'm not quite sure how (maybe extending the amount of property associated with the asset trusts? monetizing military health care benefits so a bankrupt servicemember would surrender them outside war zones? forbid judges from reducing interest rates?) but you can take it to the bank.  

  •  Any "good" credit card companies? (none)
    I have an MBNA card, and will definitely transfer the balance from it and cut that sucker up.  Where should I go with the balance?


    The basis of all wisdom is first knowing that you know nothing--Socrates

    Hey, that's us!--Bill and Ted

    by AAbshier on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 04:18:53 AM PST

    •  Send it to me! /snark (none)

      If he really thinks we're the devil, then let's send him to Hell!

      by Anderson Republican on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 04:20:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  your local independent credit union? (4.00)
      this question was asked in an earlier diary.  other people may have a better answer... but mine so far (for 20 years) has been my credit union.
      •  yes! (4.00)
        I am blessed with a credit union at my job and in my former neighborhood. Joining a credit union and staying in is a great way to survive our predatory economic communities.

        You can join a employee credit union sometimes just by working as a contractor. Some temporary employment agencies now have agreements with companies that allow their staff to join the credit union of the client company. If any agencies in your town have these policies, it would be worth working a low wage gig briefly as a way into the credit union at a client company.

        Also, communities can come together to form their own credit unions. That's how the one in my old neighborhood got started.  If more communities started to do that, it would be a good way to counteract some of the damage pending from this nightmarish bill the criminals in Congress are trying to pass. I'll check with my neighborhood CU and see if there is anything I can post about how communities can set up their own CUs.

        •  yes, credit unions (none)
          we're in the process of moving our remaining debt from MBNA-backed cards to a credit union.

          Not only are credit unions a lot less likely to shovel cash to Rethugs; they can also get you a better deal on many financial transactions, in part because they don't spend so much of their cash on advertising, lobbying, and hosing people who were bad credit risks in the first place.

        •  Hate to rain on the parade (4.00)
          The same group of souless bastards bringing us this legislation also want to destroy the supposed advantages that credit unions have compared to commercial banks.

          This link gives an overall view of the issue.  Legislation has not went anywhere at this point, but don't beleive for a second that it isn't yet another building block to solidify the power and wealth base of these criminals in the finance industry.  In fact, I look at the SS privatization issue inthe same way.  They want all of our money.

          "It's been headed this way since the World began, when a vicious creature made the jump from Monkey to Man."--Elvis Costello

          by BigOkie on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 07:44:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ownership[ society (none)
            From the link you provided:
            A credit union is a nonprofit cooperative association of people with a common bond which accepts shares from its members and makes loans to them. Every member of a credit union is an owner.

            And Bush says he wants to create an "ownership society".  Yet they want to destroy the credit unions.

            I guess it all depends on hwo the owner is as to what an "ownership society" means.

            It is no accident that Liberty and Liberal are the same word.

            by Sorceress Sarah on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 10:41:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  not really..... (none)
      but you might want to look at this info to try to find the "least bad" or try a credit union credit card
      •  This list is useless (none)
        Responsible Shopper obviously doesn't dig deep enough to note that MBNA is the most fascist corporation this side of Monsanto. They list them as a company that has "few if any negative issues".

        Someone has to come up with a list for credit union credit cards in every state. Fuck calling your bought and paid for Senators we need to do a Sinclair II on MBNA and show them how we are going to cancel our MBNA credit cards en masse if this bill goes through.

        We don't go out and hire journalists and propagandize and lie and put people on payroll so that they'll say what you want. - Donald Rumsfeld

        by The past is over on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:45:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Pay It Off! (4.00)
      And tell everyone you can.  Paying off as much of your credit card debt as fast as you can has to be a major priority for people.

      It may not be possible for most people to save enough to be ready for health expenses, job loss and other major life crisis that will put you at the mercy of this cruel bill - but carrying credit card debt certainly greases the slope.

      Squeeze a little more use out of the old car, TV, house, wardrobe.  Of course, big corporations NEED to have lots of us living on the absolute economic edge.  It's not their fault if some get pushed over into this wood chipper of a bankruptcy system!

      "Social Security 'reform' is a Republican Trojan Horse." - Joe Lieberman in a SANE universe

      by VA Gal on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:06:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hear Hear! (4.00)
        I'm aggressively trying to pay mine off.  I have also learned my lesson with credit card debt--that I don't want a single extra penny of interest to go to a predatory industry just because I bought something unnnecessary that I didn't have the cash for at that moment.  These latest actions by our beloved Senators seal the deal.  Through this, I've also learned to live much more simply.  I have really changed my consumption habits and have learned to make do with what I have--especially since I already have some nice stuff.  This process has changed my life and my outlook on consumerism.   I feel much smarter now that I don't fall for every marketing "you've got to have this or you're a loser" strategy.   Also, I'm hopefully buying fewer goods that were probably made by eight-year-olds in a sweatshop.
    •  Try to always pay off your entire balance. (4.00)
      It's a good habit to have and you're not paying any interest.

      Unfortunately, when major catastrophy hits, that's not always an option.

      When the fox preaches The Passion, farmer watch your geese.

      by reform dem on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:22:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Me, too! (4.00)
      I just got a new card because of the frequent flier miles feature that allows you to travel on any carrier.  Have barely used it, but now I, too,  am looking for my scissors!
      Thank you so much for pointing this out about MBNA.  It was certainly news to me.  Every since November 3, I have been making a point of not buying from Republican collaborators.

      "Pro-life" really means "pro-criminalization"

      by Radiowalla on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:23:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  MBNA Cobranding (none)
        MBNA cobrands with a lot of companies like LLBean, and even companies that have run their own credit business in the past, like Sears or Amoco, now are having credit card companies like Citi run their credit business.

        Even if you didn't get your credit card from one of the less desirable companies, you may find that the replacement card is coming from them. Good luck.

    •  Pay the balance off!! (none)
      Please understand that the chief way these companies make their money is the interest and fees on the balance that you never pay off.  Try to pay down that balance, even if you have to use your savings.  There is no investment these days that pays the usurious rates that credit card companies charge on the unpaid balance.  Stop playing their game!  

      It really matters much less which card you have, than whether you pay it off every month.  If you do, they are making only the annual fee off of you.  Otherwise, they are taking you to the cleaners over time.  

      Seriously, for most people the first rule of financial success should be pay off your cards, and don't use credit for consumption.  Live within your means.  Credit is for big purchases like houses and cars, as well as for educational expenses that will allow you to make more in the future.  

      Most people don't understand that when you buy on credit, you have incurred a liability against all your other assets.  Depending on what you bought and whether it appreciates in price (like a house) or depreciates (like a car) you may end up owing more than it is worth.  

      If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

      by Mimikatz on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 11:35:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  be the kind of consumer credit card companies hate (none)
        IF - and it is a big IF for most people - you have the discipline to do this....use your cards.  A lot.  Rack up the frequent flier miles.  Use all the services and conveniences of the card but PAY IT OFF.  Every single month.  If you saw the wonderful  Frontline doc Secret History of the Credit Card, you'll remember Ben Stein showing off his bulging wallet full of credit cards but then admitting that he uses them to HIS advantage.  (He's in Part 2 at this link, I think.)
  •  The "Protect Loan Sharks Act of 2005" (4.00)
    Unfrigginbelievable. Even in the "interesting times" we live, this one takes the cake. Schoolchildren of the future will study this piece of exploitation as an example of government run amok.

    And a message to those few so-called Democrats voting with the repubs: we have noticed

    • who voted against amendments aimed at limiting the damage...
    • who voted against protecting the elderly against legalized loan sharks
    • who voted against protecting servicemen and caregivers
    • who voted to allow bankrupt but somehow still rich con artists to keep their protected homesteads but to let poor elderly widows to lose their homes
  •  unbelievable (none)
    Actually, not really. But it is pathetic that Biden can vote with republicans on this, and still be considering a run for president. I suppose it depends which party he wants to represent ...
  •  Part of the purpose of BamboozlePalooza? (4.00)
    Does the REpub party think that Democrats can only focus on one thing at a time?

    Is one purpose of this huge Social Security BamboozlePalooza push of events all over the country to keep our attention focused away from this kind of Congressional activity?  Probably to keep the MSCMedia distracted.  And maybe some Democratic votes out of town at our events?

    Fortunately, WE can hold on to more than one thought at once.  We can pay attention to the levels of attempts to distroy Social Security, this viscious Bankrupcy bill, and still remember PropaganonGate, the Plame leak, TANG forgeries, etc.

    They are all threads in one huge ugly tapestry - and we can all help unravel it before the eyes of the average voter who won't realize how important Social Security and bankrupcy protections are to their lives and families until they are gone!


    "Social Security 'reform' is a Republican Trojan Horse." - Joe Lieberman in a SANE universe

    by VA Gal on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 04:51:52 AM PST

    •  Red state Dems--let's get this out there! (none)
      Thanks MaryScott:
      (remember before the internet when one could possibly read a bill (not amendments) and not have any way to let enough people know?)

      Im in NC with 2 repug senators, one a Helms/Cheney creature (Senator Richard Burr "everything I know I learned from Jesse Helms" true quote) but one aged crone (E. Dole) who is IMO keeping the seat warm and not 100% new GOP.

      But mainly its the voters. Based on my limited experience working outside polls (early and election day) GOP wouldn't have so much support in this state if  middle income white working people really understood how they are being manipulated and used (and betrayed).

      Okay, old news, but this is the clearest and best example to date of what is going on (IMO) and we ought to grab on to it and not let go.

  •  Just because (none)
    someone has a D next to their name doesn't mean they are one (left leaning), that isn't the case with the GOP (right leaning), thats why the GOP is so organized they don't have a nonconformist or independent thought among them, sounds good if you want a fascist system but not a democracy.
  •  delaware is MBNA (4.00)
    No surprise that both Delaware SENs voted the company/MBNA line - MBNA is a Delaware company and Delaware is a banking friendly state.
    •  MBNA is very big in DE (none)
      It's the bread and butter that DuPont used to be.
      No politician in DE would EVER try to go up against them.  The dangerous level of corporatism in America is very much exposed in this bill.
      •  Very true (none)
        But on something like this, they should. At least the amendments.

        I wrote both of them, though I doubt it will have any effect.

        They have to realize though, that there are a LOT of retired people here, and even more military/military retirees. And they're not going to be happy about this bill.

    •  Well then, stay in Delaware and don't try to (none)
      become President of the entire nation.

      I understand about protecting jobs for your own state.  

      Even then, it would be interesting to see an analysis of how MBNA impacts the lives of Delaware's citizens themselves, taking both jobs and hardships because of the lending practices into account.

      When the fox preaches The Passion, farmer watch your geese.

      by reform dem on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:42:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It impacts very well (4.00)
        MBNA and the other banks that are here sink an extraordinary amount of money into the state. They're part of the reason we don't have the financial problems that some states do.

        They support the arts, sports, have kept downtown Wilmington from becoming a ghost town, revitalized parts of it, employ a large number of people. When somebody said they took over from DuPont, you may not have realized how true that was -- they even took over some of the downtown buildings that DuPont used to have.

        When the sponsors for the NASCAR races in Dover didn't renew the contract (or couldn't because of tobacco laws), MBNA took it. Those races bring in soooooo much money to Dover it isn't funny. MBNA and other banks give grants to theatre, dance companies. They sponsor scholarships, lectures, etc.

        And, for many years, they were not allowed to send their crap to Delaware residents. It was part of the law that brought them here. That changed a few years ago, so now I get deluged like everybody else.  

        •  Well, I'm happy for Delaware. (none)
          But then Biden needs to just concentrate on Delaware.  That's all I'm saying.

          When the fox preaches The Passion, farmer watch your geese.

          by reform dem on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:35:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree completely (none)
            And I still think that he ought to have supported the amendments to the bill, even if he felt he had to support the overall bill.

            All the amendments do IMHO is protect those whose situation isn't their fault. You don't CHOOSE to get sick, or old, or called up for active duty.

        •  see there you have defined the problem!!!!! (none)
          look at the sympothic hold they have on your state!!!!  look at the RICO laws onthis whole thing.  it is called protection of the willing....
          •  And you have no large businesses in your state? (none)
            Not even agriculture? THat's a business too, you know.

            EVERY state has sacred cows. Ours used to be chemicals, but DuPont has downsized so much that they are less of a factor. At least banking doesn't make you sick. (Check Delaware's cancer rates if you don't believe me.)

            Congress is supposed to provide a BALANCE -- and right now, the rethugs vote however they're told to, whether or not it's good for their state or the national interest.

    •  Delaware (none)
      Delaware has long been a favored state for incorporation. The state's laws have been designed to attract corporations and cultivate this stable source of revenue. Apparently the state's senators have put revenue above doing what is right. I'm shocked, shocked that right here in the good old US of A that revenue would come above all else.

      Be the creature. (But not a Republican.)

      by boran2 on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:55:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And Aren't The Credit Card Companies... (4.00)
      ...big in SD?  

      This is a problem with having too few Democratic Senators.  If the no vote was the vote the credit card companies wanted on something and the GOP wanted a yes vote--I know, I know, just suspend reality for a moment--then the Repubs would probably let any Repubs from DE and SD "take a walk" and vote  with the Dems to avoid a backlash in their own state.  It's the same way on coal (WV), insurance and tort liability (CT), auto emmissions (MI), drilling in ANWAR (AK) and plenty of other things with a strong home-state importance.  

      If there's ever an agreement on raising CAFE standards (Corprate Average Fuel Economy, the fleet-wide MPG rate for each automaker), you can bet that every Michigan member of Congress, regardless of party, will vote against it.  This may be the same kind of thing, regardless of how odious the bill actually is.  

      Which leaves Ben Nelson once again with no excuse other than fear...

      •  right (none)
        Matthew Yglesias at the Prospect points us to this LA Times piece in which Jon Chait explains the problem: "Dems have the same relationship to their home-state business interests as every Republican has to every business interest." That's about right.

        Chait thinks the solution is to somehow shame people like Biden into blowing off their home states' major employers.

        I don't think that will work. I think the only solution is to elect more Dems. If we have 55 Senators, we could lose two on every bill and still pass whatever we wanted.

        And yes, Ben Nelson has no excuse. (Kudos to Bill Nelson, by the way, who was also on everybody's "most endangered" list a month ago but has shown no signs of creeping Zellism so far.)

        •  That's probably why senators have a hard (none)
          time getting elected President.  They don't have the whole nation in mind, their first priority is their home state.

          Nelson was on the Daily Show last week.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but he seemd to be very cozy with Bush and ready to compromise.

          When the fox preaches The Passion, farmer watch your geese.

          by reform dem on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:43:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Um, Governors Are Even More... (none)
            ...centered on their states to the exclusion of every other state, and most Presidents in recent years have been former governors.  There seem to be many reason Senators don't get elected, but possibly the biggest is, even when they do a better job of explaining it, they tend to have too many cases of "I voted for it before I voted against it"-ism.  
            •  Good point. (none)
              With governors, it's natural that they only work for their state.  With senators, one would expect a little more concern for the national good.  After all, they're not State senators but U.S. senators.

              When the fox preaches The Passion, farmer watch your geese.

              by reform dem on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:54:32 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  And Actually, Half of Your Original Point... (none)
       important: when a Governor does something, it seldom affects people in other states, where a Senator (or VP) can be associated with actions of the Federal Gov't that could hurt that state.  Had Al Gore been Governor of TN, he probably wouldn't have been as damaged in coal and timber country as he was for having been associated with Clinton administration moves to protect more federal lands from cutting and pushing for scrubbers on smokestacks, which was spun by the Repubs as being anti-coal.  
    •  DE is a common state to incorporate under... (none)
      because of their friendly tax laws... iirc.

      Hey hey, ho ho, irresponsible corporatism and social intolerance have got to go! Hey hey, ho ho!

      by kfractal on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:30:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is where we need the Kos Wire Service (4.00)
    You know, sort of like the AP Wire Service, only not a mechanism for delivering Republican press releases? So that this kind of quality research and analysis could be distributed to newspapers nationwide, prompting a spate of copycat articles or wholesale reprintings.
    •  Also... (none)
      ...I'm forwarding this to the folks at Working Assets. I have one of their credit cards; their credit cards are actually issued by MBNA although WA claims to be a socially responsible company. Maybe they should rethink that relationship. If you have a Working Assets card perhaps you could do the same.
      •  Have done this (4.00)
        I've done this a couple of times in past years and because of the answers I've received, have essentially stopped using Working Assets.  It would be good if you would post the answer you get from WA so their logic (or lack of it) can be challenged more directly by Kossacks.
      •  I dumped WA when they moved to MBNA (4.00)
        Plenty of comments on this can be found online, for instance at

        this site

        Just think a bit droogies. Working Assets handed over the names, adresses, and finacial information of hundreds of thousands of liberals and progressives to an organization whose leadership does not just disagree with us, but hates us.

        If you think that's OK, then by all means sign up. But might I suggest that you are better off just supporting activist groups directly, and cutting MBNA out of the deal.

        i believe in the neo-cons-piracy theory

        by inclusive on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:00:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    Contrary to popular opinion it is not poor people who file for bankruptcy. In fact, bankruptcy is almost exclusively the tool of the middle class and the upper middle class.

    The poor really can not get enough credit to "get into trouble." So, when the poor do file for bankruptcy, it's usually a very very special case. For one thing the poor seldom have garnishable wages---that are worth going after......

    Also, the poor are generally not worth going after because they are said to be "Judgment Proof" To wit:'s more trouble than it's worth to chase them.

    Now, the middle class and the upper middle class are another story.

    These people have wages....often high wages. And these can be garnished after judgment, and THAT almost always sends them into the bankruptcy courts...... And it is these middle class people that use credit cards the most.

    Here's the problem.

    While bankruptcy is occasionally abused by some high wage earners, that is not very usual. These people generally pay up.

    The middle class, on the other hand, frequently "live beyond their means" and eventurally end up with high credit card bills, that they try to rid themselves of in bankruptcy.

    Credit Cards are mostly "unsecured," and are thus totally wiped out in bankruptcy.....unlike car notes or mortgages, and some other kinds of secured transactions. Secured transaction are seldom troubled by bankruptcy...they just repossess their "stuff." Yet:


    But, what happens if you take that "right" away......?

    Very likely OTHER middle class folks will used their credit cards less....once "horror stories" start to circulate about the NON-DISCHARGABLE DEBTS that credit cards can become.

    The fact that many MIDDLE CLASS folks could start to shun credit card debt entirely could have unforeseen effects on the economy.

    Even those who may not file bankruptcy may be less likely to use their credit cards for the purchases, at the margins,.....if this new stricter bankruptcy law is passed.

    And, of course, THOSE WHO DO FILE WILL BE STUCK PAYING OFF THEIR BILLS! And they will HAVE TO spend less.....during their period under court supervision.....and be thus, OUT OF THE MARKETS AND THE MALLS!




    If credit card debt is "made special" and "non dischargeable" for the middle and upper middle classes, that will mean less consumption, and a generally weaker economy longer term.....



    More Content, Less Chat.

    by BALTHAZAR on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:12:31 AM PST

    •  Eh (4.00)
      Well, there might be a certain segment of Middle Class consumers who use credit cards in the manner that you describe.

      But most bankruptcies are not caused by over-spending on credit cards.  They are caused by job loss, medical bill and divorce.

      I don't doubt that there are a few unsavory characters who use cards and then plan to go bankrupt on them if they cannot pay their debts.  But from what I can tell from my reading, these folks are more mythical than real.

      Bankruptcy is typically caused by real economic hardship.

      Jonestown, U.S.A.: The Rapture is a metaphor for collective suicide.

      by bink on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:33:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, if that really happens... (3.33)
      then it's good legislation.  The best possible result would be to stop people from living beyond their means.  I really hope you're right and this just blows up in the CC companies' face.  As for hurting the economy, that sort of spending beyond one's means is not sustainable anyway, so any growth that is based on it is also not sustainable.  May as well nip it in the bud right now, rather than suffering the consequences later.  

      That said, I'm not nearly as optimistic as you.  Never underestimate how dumb the average person is, and you'll still never fail to be disappointed.  

      In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

      by Asak on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:35:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good legislation? (none)
        Read the whole article.  They want to make it nearly impossible to go Chap. 7, but they refuse to put any kind of restraint on Delaware in return.  People will continue to get these offers in the mail - probably in greater volume than ever - but when they get in trouble, they're twisting in the wind.

        Good legislation my ass.

        What did we do to deserve George W. Bush?

        by republicans are idiots on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:28:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I was responding to Balthazar's take (none)
          If the bankruptcy legislation really makes it so that people don't use credit cards and don't go into debt because it scares them, then the result (at least to the extent of credit card debt) would be good.  But realistically, I don't see that happening, and of course I think the legislation is crap.  

          In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

          by Asak on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:42:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Responding to comments (none)
            My point is that everything  in economics happens "at the margins" and if people start to fear credit card the margins it will reduce consumption somewhat.....

            And that could translate into a percent or two off growth.

            I worked in the bankruptcy courts for a while and I know that medical bills and divorces etc are a factor.... but for the most part bankrupts are people with good jobs and good incomes....or at least they had good incomes at some point.....  Some are people whose businesses failed...they are a bit different.  Business failures are often related to the economy.  Not poor budgeting habits.  

            The poor really can't get enough credit to get into trouble with debts....  And no creditor really likes to chase poor's too costly to hire people to do this kind of work with little hope of a payoff...

            Bankrupts also tend to be a little bit "scatter brained" as a group.... Somehow they "didn't see it coming" or they had the ability to distract themselves away from the impending disaster.....  But every case is a little different...

            If the new law passes, there will be horror stories about it on TV, and THEN people might get a bit scared about using credit cards......

            And remember those high wage workers who will now be "paying off old debts" won't be going to the malls as much!  And they are our "big spenders" for better or worse!

            More Content, Less Chat.

            by BALTHAZAR on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 07:50:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Great point (none)

      I reminded Biden of this in my letter to him yesterday. I told him that what he's doing for the State of Delaware is going to affect the entire country negatively, and in time, it will affect the very banks he's trying to protect.

      •  I hope it was a letter (none)
        rather than email.

        I think that physical items still matter. Its a little more trouble and costs 37 cents but having that hard copy is still valueable and VISUAL.

        I can remember the old days when the "good news" would show sacks and sacks of letters going to congresspersons.

        I've been thinking about sending letter when there is a mass mailing campaign, in those small bubble pack envelopes. More visual volume.

  •  Stats (none)
    If we make it easier for people to get out of repaying the money they borrow, the lenders have to charge more interest from everyone else.  Nobody forces you to get a credit card.
    •  They could charge 100% interest (3.75)
      As far as I'm concerned.  I never carry a balance either way.  If they start charging to have a card, I'll just get a debit card.  Credit cards are crap.  They're useful as a proxy for carrying around loads of cash, but as a loan tool they are worthless.  

      In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

      by Asak on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:27:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  i am like you, kind sir (none)
        i only carry one cc for an ememrgency and that is a gas cc. otherwise i use my debit card and then if i do not have the $$$$ to spend, i do not spend.  i also am saving in it too.  no intrest to pay back to the cc companies.
    •  Yes, but they send cards to the most (none)
      unsuspecting people, for example, first year college students who don't have a clue what's going on.

      Also, the practice of not completely disclosing how interest rates work, is dubious at best.

      When the fox preaches The Passion, farmer watch your geese.

      by reform dem on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:06:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is an irrelevant argument in 2005 ... (none)
      because credit card companies are posting astronomical profits.

      Any industry posting 30% profits is clearly already charging more in interest and fees than they need to charge.

      You can do what you want, but it's kind of unseemly to defend a bunch of rich as hell mf'ers (MBNA) who keep screaming "Help me! Help me! These business-hating laws are stealing money from my bottom line!"

    •  Not quite (none)
      It is becomming more and more necessary to use a credit card. Try renting a car without one!

      A cashless society is comming whether we like it or not.

      Debit cards are OK but I will not use them, there is no protection from someone stealing my personal bank identy and cleaning me out. Oh yeah, I would still have to file chapter 13 according to the votes.

      I watched a program on Cspan several years ago and a banker was complaining about how much a sack of $20 dollar bill weighed. These money people want to eliminate all employees in a bank so they can make MORE.

      There will be no choice in the future about using credit cards, it will be counter productivr to use cash because of the additional expense tht will be charged.

      Look at what has happened to cash paying for prescription drugs, they pay the highest prices but that is insurance.

      This is the cash of the future and it needs to be regulated.

  •  Biden kicks off his Presidential campaign? (none)
    Biden is such a piece of crap.  I can't believe that piece of garbage actually plans on running for President.  I'll just vote for the Republican next time if he gets the nomination.  I simply don't care...we're going to get a Big Business whore either way.  

    In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

    by Asak on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:25:39 AM PST

    •  If things get really bad... (none)
      I'm talking about financial fallout of huge proportions around 2008 (assuming we're all still around and not thrown into some concentration camps or something) and hope looks hopeless, I intend to vote Republican for the first time since my father talked me into voting for Reagan  (my first vote, boy was I naive), just to keep the mess on their side of the fence and make them take responsibility for either cleaning it up, or the demise of our country altogether.
    •  after this (none)
      I doubt he'll get the nomination. I mean, unless the choice comes down to him and Joementum and I can't see that happening.
  •  Reasons for Delaware and S.D. Senators' voting (none)
    Delaware and South Dakota play a unique role in providing safe haven for financial services companies and thus those companies play an enormous role in the economies of those states.

    Not to justify the behavior of Carper and Biden and Johnson, but that's what we're up against here. Sort of like asking a Senator to vote in favor of closing down a pork-barrel project in their own state.

    •  let's hope that the people (none)
      who live in SD and DE feel a little differently about it next election. Get some honest Democrats to run against these guys.
      •  Honest or not... (none)
        ...hardly matters when MBNA is the second-ranked employer in your state.  

        Four of the ten top employers in Delaware are governmentally-based (the state, local/municipal governments, University of Delaware, Dover Air Base), and two of the others are MBNA and Morgan/Chase.

        This is not the portrait of a state with a flourishing, diversified economy.  If saints and prophets ran for office from Delaware, they'd still have to know what to kiss and when.

        •  I guess the same is true for SD? (none)
          I have only been through Delaware once----on the toll road on the way to Wash DC.  20 years ago. Did they ever get that thing paved? When I was on it, it was full of potholes. My husband and I wondered what the tolls that people were paying were used for, because it didn't look like they were using them to fix the road.
        •  You're right (none)
          it's not. But banking is better than chemicals.

          I would love to see more industry, but remember -- this is a VERY small state. We have fewer citizens than Philadelphia. You can drive from one end to the other in about 2 hrs, and across in about 1 at the widest point (on a bad day).

          We have agriculture downstate, but that's about it. Banks are pretty much an upstate phenomenon. They don't have nearly the same presence below the canal.

          Actually, nothing does. Outside of Dover, it's chicken farms, soybean farms, outlet malls, and the beach.

          And when we have NASCAR races, Dover becomes the second largest city in the state for 2 days. If they enlarge the track anymore, we'll be the LARGEST during race weekends.

          •  Just between us Delawareans... (none)
            I want it the way it used to be.  I like chicken farms and soybean farms and the beach.  I remember when most of the people you met here were from Delaware.  Narrow roads, no road signs, and most people you met either knew your mother or turned out to be your cousin.

            Nowadays, well...let's put it this way.  I drive I95 from Wilmington to Newark every morning, and it's worth my life when I pass the 273 exit that leads to MBNA.  Those poor people tend to drive at 80 in the far left lane until the very second they have to exit, then veer across four lanes and scream off the road.  It's the last independent decision they'll make all day.  

            I call them the MBNAenads.

            •  You have my sympathies (none)
              I worked in Wilmington for years and years. Drove everyday from Dover. It used to be a nice drive. Then they built the bypass (the new bridge is nice though).

              The traffic on 95 was bad 6 yrs ago, when I stopped working in Wilmington. My daughter lives there, and everytime I go up it's worse.

              Now I work on the Eastern Shore. Still drive an hour, but it's past farms, goats, horses, Amish buggies and a lot of open space, with very little traffic. And if I take the back roads, there's NO traffic.

              Just like it used to be... ;-)

  •  Moral values??? (4.00)
    It's time for the Democrats to unleash the values language.  No one who is truly moral would ever vote against these amendments.  It makes me sick that these heartless, evil people are running the country.  The Democrats need to filibuster this bill until they are blue in the face. And they need to go on TV and explain these amendments to the American people in very simple terms and explain that not one Republican--not Lincoln Chafee or Arlen Specter or any other so-called moderate--voted to protect them. And then Harry Reid should use his boxing skills to knock Biden, Carper, Nelson, and Johnson out.  This is really sad.
    •  Lotsa luck. (none)
      The whole point of the article is, we will be doing exceptionally well just to get 40 Democrats to prevent cloture.

      44 Democrats minus Biden, Carper, Nelson, and Johnson make 40.  We're on the razor's edge.

      What did we do to deserve George W. Bush?

      by republicans are idiots on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:31:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  personal experience w/ predatory lending (4.00)
    I was offered a credit card by MBNA over the phone.  I refused, but wearily agreed that they could send me information on the offer.

    A card arrived in the mail, but I never activated it.

    Mail kept coming from MBNA, which I ignored.  Turns out these were actually bills.  They had set up the credit card, charged me an annual fee, and were now charging me late fees.  By the time I realized what had happened I owed $245 on a card I had never used NOR AGREED TO.

    I eventually got someone on the phone who agreed it was their fault, was very apologetic about the "confusion" and said they'd take off all the charges and close the account.

    Turns out they "charged off" or gave up on the $245 and put this charge off on my credit report.  It is still there, and I had to write a letter about it when we got our first mortgage.  I don't understand how they could legally start a credit account when I never signed anything, never used the card, never called to activate it, and never even said "okay" by phone.

    •  Years ago we got one of their cards and started (none)
      using it.

      It turns out we didn't read the fine print.  They started charging interest from the day of the credit card purchase instead of from the payment due date.  It was outrageous.  We canceled the card as soon as we found out the hard way.

      MBNA was the only company we ever experienced that with.

      When the fox preaches The Passion, farmer watch your geese.

      by reform dem on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:11:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You could have hung up. (4.00)
      Shout (do not whisper) NO, I AM NOT INTERESTED IN ANY OF THIS WHATSOEVER into the receiver, and place it firmly back on the hook.

      I usually add some choice invective before hanging up.  Anything I can do to increase their turnover is a good thing.

      You do realize that more and more of those call center people are coming from places like India.  They have all your personal info.  Really nice.

      What did we do to deserve George W. Bush?

      by republicans are idiots on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:35:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is why I screen all my calls (4.00)
      And I shred all the crap I get.

      Many of the people making those calls are on commission, and they have quotas. You even SEEM to be agreeable, they'll indicate that you said 'yes', and send you a card.

      That's what activates the account. The only thing the 'activation' call does is verify that YOU received it, and that it wasn't lost in the mail or stolen from your mailbox. (Not that they care in either case).

    •  Re those calls about cards (none)
      If you are still getting calls about credit cards you (a) didn't get on the do-not-call list and/or (b) don't live in a state which passed bill allowing a do-not-call list because it was blocked at federal level. Sorry I forget details about this. I'm in NC and got on the list and so now only have to deal with mail offers.

      Still, re ANY type of telemarketing,

      1. take a deep breath, stay calm
      2. allow the munchkin to identify who calling for
      and if not immediately apparent
      1. who is this?
      2. then say. I am not interested AND I WOULD LIKE TO BE REMOVED FROM YOUR CALLING LIST.
      3. They are supposed to take your name off. They get fined (at least here in NC, not sure about elsewhere) if they call you again.

      This should help cut down on the bogus acceptance trick. I can fully believe this as I have been issued several credit cards that I had to cancel in the past, before the do not call got rid of everything but the charities.

      With the charities I now tell them to take me off the list because I am already getting mail and email from them (usually).

    •  Another trick they are using (none)
      Even those cards you have an account with send so much junk mail and their statement bills look almost like the junk mail. I made the mistake of throwing a bill away because it looked like junk mail. Had to pay a late fee. I no longer use that company.
  •  Wow... (4.00)
    You front pagers get a whole different crowd. Did any of the above commenters see the original diary? I didn't see them there.

    Feels like getting moved from the USA network to NBC...

    Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

    by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 05:37:34 AM PST

    •  I read (most of) it (none)
      The diary was a little too long for my attention span, and the comments thread was way too long for me.

      What color are your pajamas?

      by Unstable Isotope on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:14:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hi MaryScott. (none)
      I saw it and I have a lot of respect for your research and commentary.

      That said, by the time I saw the title of the recommended diary, there were a lot of comments, and I don't have tons of time.

      I know, it's a very lame excuse.

      Anyway, thank you very much.

      These Republicans and the 4 Democrats will face their God in due time.  (I know, you don't believe in that ultimate justice.)

      When the fox preaches The Passion, farmer watch your geese.

      by reform dem on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:17:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I admired the work you put into your diary (none)
      there was so much in it, which  was so important to learn about. Your rantings just made it hard to follow through and concentrate on the facts through the end of your diary.

      Therefore I am glad that it has been picked up again and rewritten. You have my kudos for all the work you put into it and especially for your "the little ranting trick" to get it "seriously written" on the front page. Well done. :-)  

      Human life should be governed by truth, freedom, justice and love.

      by mimi on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:32:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nice rant (none)
      I am so glad this piece was rewritten. It is such an important topic and exposes in stark contrast the true values of Democrats and Republicans better than anything I've read to date.

      I enjoyed your rant but it wasn't something I would have felt comfortable sending to my Republican friends and family -- and they're the ones that need to be reading this.

      I am anxious to read their justifications for this abomination based on their compassionate, moral, and Christian principles. I'm betting I get no response.

      And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall -- Dylan

      by Rp on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:57:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I get the snark MSO (none)
      USA Network has better shows. Heh.

      Great diary BTW. Thanks for letting Hunter rework it.

      "Just say no to torture." -Semi-Anonymous Blogger.

      by Armando on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 07:02:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I see it now. (none)
        But it was inadvertent. I was thinking strictly in terms of viewership (and ad revenue and actors's residuals, come to think).

        Besides, other than Monk what's USA got that's even half as good as West Wing and L&O: Criminal Intent?

        Maybe The Dead Zone, though I wouldn't really know -- I've seen half an episode.

        No snark intended, my darlings. Proud to be a part of this number...

        Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

        by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 02:02:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I saw it Maryscott (none)
      and what a lovely rant it was, I loved all the pretty colored boxes too!

      An awesome diary it was and is, in both of its forms.

    •  Some Of Us (none)
      Want to see "Saving Private Ryan" with soldiers saying "fuck" while they are storming the beaches.  The original version was art; this is the "made for TV" version.
    •  It was great (none)
      I read all of it and link it on another message board.
  •  Predatory MBNA (4.00)
    Just a personal example of MBNA's predatory practices ....

    Nearly two years ago, MBNA calls me to inform me of a new offer: they can take my current account with its variable APR and upgrade it to one with a lower, fixed APR. I figure, why not? So I go ahead and do it. My APR becomes 10.99% fixed (down from near 13% at the time and constantly fluctuating; it was close to 18% when I first obtained it.)

    Fast forward a year and a half. I've since graduated college, moved to Ohio, and purchased a house. The house needed some improvements beyond my available cash, so I decided to put a few hundred onto the card (not a terrible amount) and keep a balance because, hey, the APR is fixed. I receive my statement: that FIXED APR that they GUARANTEED to be at 10.99% is now at 13.5% and rising. I call the CSR. Did I make a late payment? Is this an example of universal default in action? No, she says: my credit is in great shape. Never a late payment, highest-ever balance $1,000, and that was years ago.

    It turned out that MBNA made the decision to SUSPEND all of its fixed APRs because the prime rate had risen. This change was apparently spelled out to me in a piece of mail, but I never remembered seeing anything. It was likely written in one of those multi-paged books filled with tiny print that they periodically send to me. But it's not like the company made it a point to MAKE SURE I understood the change.

    Isn't that interesting? The company makes a big stink about its FIXED APR. What's the point of a fixed APR? Why is the consumer interested in it? Well, the consumer wants it to LOCK IN rates to protect against those times when it will inevitably rise. That's why a company offers them: to win business from people who are afraid rates will rise.

    A FIXED APR EXISTS BECAUSE RATES WILL RISE AGAIN. Yet, MBNA decided to claim poverty and unilaterally revoke its fixed APRs because, it claimed, it could not afford those low rates with prime higher than before. What a crock. What disgusting, deceptive business practices. Those are just the types of predatory practices that push so many consumers to the brink of bankruptcy.

    •  Why not start boycotting MBNA cards altogether ? (none)
      I just want to boycott all those predators. I simply hate the fact that average American student can't boycott credit cards altogether, because they are just not makeing enough money to pay for the absolute necessities of life while they go to school. The system is set up so that American HAVE to get into debt.

      Human life should be governed by truth, freedom, justice and love.

      by mimi on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:10:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hope to ... (none)
        I'm starting! Unfortunately, doing that involves shifting my balance to another credit card company. But at least it's away from the one that pissed me off. Barring any big debt-incurring purchases, I should be able to have everything paid off within the year. At least according to my latest number crunching.
        •  Go with 0% introductory rate cards (none)
          When my husband and I got married a few years ago our "small, nothing fancy" wedding cost us thousands of dollars we didn't have.  We charged everything but then transferred the balance to a new co. that had a 0% introductory rate.  When that rate was ending, we transferred to another co with a 0% interest rate.  In all, we moved the balance to at least three different places over the course of about 1 1/2 years and never paid a cent in interest.
      •  Interesting how "mbna" is currently (none)
        performing a major commercial blitz. I've seen their commercials like 20 times in the last 3 or 4 days (and that's when I'm walking past the television, I never sit and watch it anymore). Those commercials mostly been on CNN. [note: I only watch the news to see how far the floor is dropping]

        Incidentally, why is Fox News advertising on MSNBC?

      •  We are looking into it (none)
        We have this "college rewards" card through Fidelity that turns out to be an MBNA card. In any case, everyone that can do this should ALWAYS pay off their credit card bills immediately. I am thinking of reducing the usage of my credit card altogether. Clearly it is not practical to never use a credit card but I would like to keep these organizations from using our money as much as possible.
        •  The practicability issue (none)
          can't you use debit cards instead? If you have already decided you will pay off monthly all your cc charges, doesn't that mean realistically that you have decided to not spend more than you earn? Then you can use your debit card instead, which is as convenient as a credit card.

          May be the issue should be, CAN people make their daily lives without using credit cards? Do they earn enough on average? Isn't there the question that people CAN'T make it without going into debt? And may be that is BY DESIGN?

          Human life should be governed by truth, freedom, justice and love.

          by mimi on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 03:40:12 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  My MBNA story... (none)
        "1.9% APR! No fees!"

        So okay, I'll get the free T-shirt to fill in an application, even though my credit report is dogshit. But to my surprise, they send me a card! With a $5000 limit!

        So I use it a little, buy some Christmas presents, all good... only what's this? No 1.9% APR... but 19.9% interest on anything I wrote a check for, or any time I withdrew cash on the card from an ATM!

        So I'm agog at this, and while I'm agogging I send my payment in a few days before due date (I was traveling, so it happens), and I get home to find five messages from their bill collection agency on my voicemail... over the first five days past due date.

        The day after the due date, they had their goons start harassing me for money. Never mind the check was in the mail...

        So I get another card from someone else and do a balance transfer, effectively paying off 90% of what I owed MBNA with a view to cutting up the card... and yes, the 15% of my debt to them that actually WAS 1.9% was the first thing they put my payment to. Keep the 19.9% interest alive, pay off the 1.9% straight away.

        Then there was the $10 fee for writing a check on the card. Then there's the $7.50 fee for making an ATM withdrawl...

        In the end, that card lasted two months before I got the balance back to zero and left it there... and what do I see at the end of the year? A MEMBERSHIP FEE!

        "No fees" they said... 1.9% interest they said... write all the checks you want, they said. That's the number one contributor to the Republican Party. They deserve each other.

        •  Recipe: Put a scissor aside from your mailbox (none)
          I get a credit card offer almost daily. The sissor is aside from my mailbox. Rarely goes by a day where I don't cut those  incoming credic card offers in pieces before I throw them away.

          Boycott credit cards, if you can. If you can't, don't use them for things other than is absolutely necessary. Pay off the total balance. (Though it seems you get flooded more with CC offers, if you do).

          Then pay of 1$ more than you owe, as someone above suggested. They can't close your account and it costs them money. After a while claim a check over a dollar. They MUST pay you back your dollar. Those bastards, which sane industry can afford to send out millions and millions of pieces of mail everyday?

          Human life should be governed by truth, freedom, justice and love.

          by mimi on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 03:35:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah... (none)
      I think I got that notice.  If I recall it was spelled out in fine print in an update to the user agreement or whatever it was.  If you didn't take the time to read the fine print (most don't) then you wouldn't realize what the change was.  

      Credit companies get you coming and going.  When the prime rate falls too low they switch to "fixed APR" and make it sound like it's really a great deal for you.  When interest rates go back up they suddenly suspend their fixed APR and go to floating rate.  Actually some companies do have fixed might try getting yourself an American Express, for example, I believe they are fixed.  

      In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

      by Asak on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:55:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  the only answer to this stuff (none)
      is to pay off the cards as quickly as you can----and then pay them off every month.

      The middle class gets screwed by the credit card companies because of these rates but many people would be able to pay them off if they would cut them up and quit using them for awhile.  But it's the poor who really get screwed. Providian has done all kinds of illegal things to make the situation worse.

      I highly recommend Frontine's "Secret History of the Credit Card". It will make you hate these companies even more than you do now.

  •  Big story in the WaPo today (4.00)
    Credit Card Penalties, Fees Bury Debtors
    Senate Nears Action On Bankruptcy Curbs

    For more than two years, special-education teacher Fatemeh Hosseini worked a second job to keep up with the $2,000 in monthly payments she collectively sent to five banks to try to pay $25,000 in credit card debt.

    Even though she had not used the cards to buy anything more, her debt had nearly doubled to $49,574 by the time the Sunnyvale, Calif., resident filed for bankruptcy last June. That is because Hosseini's payments sometimes were tardy, triggering late fees ranging from $25 to $50 and doubling interest rates to nearly 30 percent. When the additional costs pushed her balance over her credit limit, the credit card companies added more penalties.

    "I was really trying hard to make minimum payments," said Hosseini, whose financial problems began in the late 1990s when her husband left her and their three children. "All of my salary was going to the credit card companies, but there was no change in the balances because of that interest and those penalties."

    Punitive charges -- penalty fees and sharply higher interest rates after a payment is late -- compound the problems of many financially strapped consumers, sometimes making it impossible for them to dig their way out of debt and pushing them into bankruptcy.

    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

    by Greg Dworkin on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:02:30 AM PST

  •  OJ Simpson Protection (4.00)
    The easiest to attack, and explain, is the homestead exemption.  And we can put it in language these evil bastards will understand.  The OJ Simpson Protection Law.  Remember him?  According to a civil court, he murdered his wife, then fled his debts by buying a multimillion dollar home in Florida. Here's a bit on him, and a few of his friends:

    The unlimited exemption has made Florida, in particular, a haven for celebrities walking away from their debts. O.J. Simpson fled to Florida, purchasing a multimillion-dollar house in Miami, after a California court ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages for the wrongful death of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. None of the damages has been paid.

    Actor Burt Reynolds retained his lavish Florida mansion while leaving behind debts of more than $10 million. Paul Bilzerian, a corporate raider convicted of securities fraud, now lives in a 37,000-square-foot mansion north of Tampa; filing for bankruptcy twice, Bilzerian has so far walked away from $300 million in personal debts. Former baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn became a Florida homeowner two weeks before his New York law firm declared bankruptcy.

    Follow the money. It leads to the truth.

    by dhonig on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:07:00 AM PST

    •  homestead exemption (none)
      Isn't this a problem to be addressed by the Florida legislature?  
      •  No. This behaviour affects other states as well. (none)
        When someone flees to Florida or Texas to avoid paying bills in other states, in my common sense opinion, that is an interstate matter.

        I really don't care about stupid technicalities in the law.

        When the fox preaches The Passion, farmer watch your geese.

        by reform dem on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:29:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  LOL! (none)
        You think the Florida legislature would do anything about this?  Half of them are just as crooked as these crooks!  

        In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

        by Asak on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:59:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Orrin Hatch is that you? n/t (none)
      •  Sorry but Homestead law is good (none)
        it applies to all people, rich and poor.

        One of the amendments tried to make homestad provisions at least apply to seniors in all states. Ohio's homestead law is only $5,000.

        A $300,000 cap is OK but remembr inflation and the "alternative minimum tax". They become dated.

        •  Make the homestead exemption consistent... (none)
          ...either with a reasonable flat cap or one linked to the median single-family home value in a state or metropolitan area.

          This kind of a policy will allow elderly people to file bankruptcy and exempt their modest house (particularly if they can't afford to pay a home equity loan), but will close the Bowie Kuhn/OJ
          unlimited homestead exemption loophole.

    •  The Legislation Actually Addresses OJ... (none)
      `(q)(1) As a result of electing under subsection (b)(3)(A) to exempt property under State or local law, a debtor may not exempt any amount of an interest in property described in subparagraphs (A), (B), (C), and (D) of subsection (p)(1) which exceeds in the aggregate $125,000 if--
      (B) the debtor owes a debt arising from--...
        ...(iv) any criminal act, intentional tort, or willful or reckless misconduct that caused serious physical injury or death to another individual in the preceding 5 years.

      Generally, intentional torts are not dischargeable anyway under bankruptcy law, but OJ used Florida's unlimited homestead exemption to convert his nonexempt assets into an exempt homestead.  (Homestead is 1/2 acre in cities, 160 acres rural; a luxury condo in Miami Beach or Coral Gables is considered the same as a semi-rural house with a large lot in a suburban area.)

  •  Bribery Based Initiatives (4.00)
    I posted this in response to Maryscott's earlier thread, so here it is again.  Go here for the diary-

    30Damn Pieces of Silver

    Today Maryscott OConnor wrote a wonderful diatribe about the bankruptcy bill. The gist was simple- these evil bastards are selling out Mr. and Mrs. America to their corporate masters.  

    Maryscott's Outrage DuJour

    Yesterday Armando wrote an equally strong diary about Democrats and staying in attack mode, rather than trying to "play nice" with the bad guys.  Fighting Dems: Bareknuckled Politics

    These, combined, got me to thinking about an earlier diary of mine, which I now wish to update as a unifying theme:

    It's really pretty simple- Everything these evil thugs do is in exchange for bribes and at the expense of the American people.  

    I would dearly love to see EVERY debate with the bad guys start with the simple statement "You're not doing this for the American people, you're doing it for .  They stand to make billions of dollars off this legislation at the expense of working men and women."  How easy is this debate to have?  Let me show you.  What are the big issues in play these days?  How about Social Security and Bankruptcy?  Okay, here we go:

    Social Security

    Here are Bush's biggest individual campaign contributors, in order of contribution:

  •  Morgan Stanley  $600,480

  •  Merrill Lynch   $580,004

  •  PriceWaterhouseCoopers   $510,500

  •  UBS Americas   $467,075

  •  Goldman Sachs   $386,600

  •  MBNA Corp   $354,350

  •  Credit Suisse First Boston   $332,040

  •  Lehman Brothers   $327,325

  •  Citigroup Inc   $317,525

  • Bear Stearns   $308,150

  • Ernst & Young   $300,640

  • Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu   $289,450

    Bush's plan would divert billions of dollars out of the US treasury and into their hands, and a lot is sure to stick there in management fees, commissions, expenses, costs, etc.  

    Every aspect of Bush's plan reeks of kickbacks.  Yeah, it's pretty hard to explain the problems with the "clawback" and the mandatory annuities.  We fall back on wonkspeak and the bad guys make shit up in reponse.  People don't know what to believe.  Wouldn't it be easier, and a lot more persuasive, to say "and it just keeps getting worse.  The insurance industry kicked in $23M to Republicans in 2004, and now President Bush is adding a requirement that everybody use their "private accounts" to buy an insurance policy, an annuity, the day they retire.  If that's not a kickback I don't know what is!"


    Did you notice MBNA up there?  From

    Finance and credit companies contributed more than $7.8 million in individual and PAC contributions during the 2004 election cycle, 64 percent to Republicans. Credit card giant MBNA's employees and PAC contributed more than $1.5 million, including $354,000 to President Bush's reelection campaign. The company spent $5.2 million on federal lobbying in 2003.

    How hard is it to confront Republicans with this?  Just how hard is it to say "you sold out Joe Sixpack for 30 pieces of silver"?  Why can't EVERY conversation start that way?  How about "you care more about MBNA's millions than a woman with cancer losing her home."  Isn't this the truth?  Isn't this what it's really all about?  If it is, why do we bother with wonkish debate that only we listen to?    

    This is an easy sell.  The point is that it is a theme we can hammer every day for the next four years.  But, you may ask, can we get airtime?  Won't the evil media freeze us out?  Not a frickin' chance.  Sure Fox hates us, but they love a good fight more.  Until now, they've fought and we've wonked back at them.  Do you really think they won't love to watch the feathers fly as accusations zing back and forth across the screen?  

    For years Republicans have done a wonderful job of telling the poor white evangelicals that they care about "morality issues," only to abandon them to return to the lap of corporate masters.  There's nothing wrong with pointing that out.  I, for one, have no qualms about saying "many people of strong religious beliefs have voted for Republicans, assured that their most heart-felt issues would be addressed, only to find that, once in office, they were deprived of health care, their Social Security insurance was sold out to Merrill Lynch, their bankruptcy protection was sold out to MBNA, and abortion was still legal.  These people, these good people of strong moral conviction, were used, used by politicians bought and paid for by big corporations.  Republicans only care about every day Americans until they vote.  After that, they only care about feeding their masters."

    We know what's going on.  Republicans, the real ones, the ones in power, not the religious conservatives being used and discarded, are corporatists at heart.  Their goal is nothing less than a complete return to the days of the robber barons.  We need to say this, on every issue, on every day.  It's called staying "on message," and the Republicans are good at it.  We need to pick a single message that applies across the board to damn near everything these evil people do, and I suggest BRIBERY BASED INITIATIVES is it.  It allows us, as Armando suggests, to ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK!!  And it cuts right to the heart of what made Maryscott cry, the evil selling out of every day Americans to corporate greed.

Follow the money. It leads to the truth.

by dhonig on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:12:41 AM PST

  •  Biden Must Account! (none)
    This is outrageous. The reason Biden voted with the Repubs is because the credit card industry is centered in Delaware.

    He has always made me ill. These votes will seal his fate.

    Shame on you Joe Biden!!!

  •  Glimmer of hope. (4.00)
    OK, not that much hope.  These kind of bills are going to pass because of the majorites in both the House and Senate.  However, I see an opportunity for the Democrats to clearly define themselves as the opposition party.

    Republicans are the party of corporations, Democrats are the party of individuals.

    The Democrats should draw up their own bills (which will of course never see the light of day).  We'll need to come up with creative ways of getting publicity for them.

    • AMT reform - this will be hitting more and more middle class families.  The Republicans have been in control for a while and haven't addressed it.
    • credit cards - predatory lending practices, late fees and high interest rates
    • bankruptcy reform - reintroduce the rejected amendments
    • health care costs - perhaps introduce Kerry's idea to extend benefits like the government workers to more Americans.  I especially like the idea of the catastrophic health care insurance for when health care costs a high percent of your income.
    • Universal 401ks.  Strengthen existing 401ks so that everyone can participate.
    • Save Social Security

    I'm sure there's other ideas out there.  The Republicans are now clearly defining what the "ownership society" really means.  It's not just pretty words now.  I believe we have an opportunity now.

    What color are your pajamas?

    by Unstable Isotope on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:28:19 AM PST

  •  Oh, but you forgot one (4.00)
    You forgot the wildly populat Amendment 23 offered by Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, which cynically enough, actually went to far as to permit any party in interest (i.e., a creditor) to move for a dismissal of the bankruptcy petition. Current law prohibits a party in interest from entering such motions.

    The Sessions amendment also lowers the "substantial abuse" standard for dismissal or conversion to Chpt. 7 to one of simple abuse, and, most egregiously, actually shifts the presumption in favor of granting the relief sought by the debtor to a presumption that abuse exists with the mere act of filing a petition if the debtor's current monthly income exceeds an amount determined according to specified formulae (which includes a consideration of the debtor's income simply being in excess of the national median income).  

    And, yes, Biden argued on the floor and voted in favor of this amendment.  Of course, the amendment


    On the road to broken promised land. ~M. Sexton

    by GOTV on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 06:30:59 AM PST

  •  Stiffing MBNA (none)
    Welp, given that I will be filing for Chap. 7 bankruptcy within the next 2 weeks beause I can't pay the last $40,000 of $120,000 in medical expenses incurred when I was unemployed and without health insurance, I will take great pleasure stiffing MBNA with their $12,500 share.
  •  Letter to Biden (4.00)
    The Honorable Joe Biden
    201 Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510
    RE: Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005

    Dear Senator,
    I heard you on the Diane Rehm Show February 25.  During that program, you said many things that left me thinking that, indeed, you may be worth considering as a Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 2008.  After reading about your votes on the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 and several amendments, my mind is definitely made up. You will never receive my support in any election.

    The fact that MBNA, the largest contributor to the Republican Party, is headquartered in your state does not escape me, or any thinking person in the nation.  How curious that legislation ostensibly designed to prevent bankruptcy abuse would target only individuals and ignore the huge abuses by corporations and businesses.  In this age of Enron and WorldCom-like debacles, we can only surmise that the real priorities of the current Administration and the Senate are to squeeze the last cent out the pockets of working-class people to the benefit of the moneyed interests in Washington and around the World.

    That you would vote against the Kennedy amendment protecting consumers from losing their homes from medical debt, or when they are financially disabled from serious medical problems is astonishing.  A brief examination of current events reveals that we are facing a real crisis in healthcare.  Forget Social Security, Medicaid and the vast and growing numbers of uninsured are the real problem that will destabilize our economy and shipwreck future budgets.  Instead of protecting predatory plutocrats, perhaps you and your colleagues could put some effort into solving this problem.

    I could go on with more examples of how your votes on this bill are contrary to the principles of the Democratic Party and simple human decency; however, I think I will close by saying that I am deeply disappointed by your showing in this legislation.  It has cost you any support that you would have otherwise had in national politics from me.


    His contact info

    "It's been headed this way since the World began, when a vicious creature made the jump from Monkey to Man."--Elvis Costello

    by BigOkie on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 07:13:59 AM PST

  •  Stash in Utah? (none)
    ...there are in the United States a handful of states, such as Utah, where you may stash your assets in a "protected trust" and render them untouchable by bankruptcy laws -- and you don't have to be a resident of those states to take advantage of those laws.

    Anyone know where I can read up more about this option? Maybe there ought to be a "Kos Trust" to help educate and facilitate use of loopholes such as this one.

    February 12, 2005: "Yeah, the Reformation starts now."

    by sipples on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 07:16:56 AM PST

  •  Delaware (none)
    Ah yes, the credit card companies are huge in Delaware. I'd almost forgotten.
  •  MBNA is one of the most profitable companies (4.00)
    in America. That being said, they are also one of the most wasteful, and arrogant. Two of just many stories about MBNA, and it's former CEO Charles (Charlie) Cawley:

    Camden, Maine, is a summer tourist town on the coast, with a year-round popuation of 6,000 that blossoms to 25,000 in the summer. It is a rather unique community of old time Mainers, scions of old money, youngish people looking for an alternative to urban life, and retirees "from away" that own seond homes. Like many Maine towns, it's mill industry had long since died, but unlike others, Camden had not used the old buildings for practice by her volunteer fire department.

    MBNA bought the old woolen mill, and began converting it into office space. Many in town were please with this, but wary of MBNA in general. THen, the Thursday before Good Friday, the semi-trailers began to arrive, full of pots of daffodils, which were planted (pot and all) along the mill's sidewalks. I'm not talking about a couple hundred plants. No, there were tens of thousands. Easter came and went, and POOF! so did the daffodils, back from whence they came.

    Later that spring MBNA bought an old house accross the street, which had four apartments in it. Over the course of the next four weeks, MBNA:

    • Painted the entire exterior
    • Evicted the tenants and razed it
    • Planted a little park, complete with granite benches and fully irrigated
    • Began excavation for a new day-care center, with bear statues out front - who likes a bull market?

    Many contractors in Camden refused to work for MBNA (did I mention that it is short for Money Buys Nearly Anybody?) because of the waste and pace that the company insisted on.

    And now, as predicted, after ten years they have pulled out. How nice it is to see their color scheme being painted over.

  •  Discipline (none)
    I keep hearing about how Reid was going to run a tight ship, and how GOP discipline would wane due to their hubris and significant majority.

    And yet, the GOP's votes are unanimous, and the Dems can't reel in Nebraska and South Dakota.  Delaware's two are admittedly more difficult, as the credit card industry is all based in Delaware.

    Nevertheless, where's the discipline?  Why aren't we railing republican senators in moderate/liberal areas who are voting against these ammendments?  Why aren't we holding their feet to the fire?

    Where's our discipline?  Why can't we be as focused as the GOP?

  •  AHEM.... (none)
    Glad you put this on the front page Hunter, although there's something a little surreal about the reading the "sanitized" version after experiencing the beauty of the rant.  

    That being said (and I say this with all due respect)....


    In probably less time than it took to purtify the language and take out all the cool colored boxes, some reader, poster, kossack with knowledge in the area could set up an action page for flooding the offices of all representatives and governors (state law interacts frequently with bankruptcy law) and media with our concerns.  I'd do it, but I have no knowledge about the subject matter.  

    Anyone able?

  •  Just a quick thank you (none)
    This is excellent work, both in this form, and its original R-rated version.  Many thanks for laying it all out so well.  It makes my blood boil, but it's stuff we all need to know.

    Damn, I love this community.

  •  South Dakota and Delaware arae both home (none)
    to many credit card companies (as a legal fiction, their HQ are elsewhere), which explains some of the Dem defections.
  •  Ain't Amurica great? (none)

    GAO finds that only 7% of fines owed by white collar criminals are actually collected. Some of the tactics used to avoid these abuses are as follows:

    "In the cases the GAO examined, it found that white-collar criminals used a variety of tricks to thwart collection. Among them:

    • Shifting bank and brokerage accounts to family trusts and foundations. Suspects did so after they were arrested but before they were sentenced.

    • Giving a company to a minor child, then joining the company as a salaried employee.

    • Transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to a trust for a minor child, which the criminal effectively controlled.

    • Placing a multimillion-dollar residence in a trust.

    • Deeding a home to a relative, then renting it back"

    So, lemme get this straight: at the same time the GOP insists we throw little ol' ladies and GI's out in the street if financial catastrophe hits, they're perfectly happy to let Kenny Boy get off scott-free.

    GOP's new math:  Debt to society < (Usurious)debt to predatory lenders.

    Sen's Biden et al: aren't you proud to make this fine assertion of principles?

    "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." - H. G. Wells

    by danVT on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 07:59:12 AM PST

  •  Shame (none)
    This is one of the most shameful pieces of 'legislation,' if you can call it that, that I've ever seen.  We need to bring shame back to our politics - no senator with a conscience could vote for this bill, and against its many proposed amendments - and any senators who do deserve a truckload of shame dumped on them from all of us.
  •  thank you both (none)
    for the fine work.  That this bill is being passed, and will undoubtedly be even more draconian after a conference committee gets hold of it, is disgusting enough.  That the media are either ignoring or downplaying these details should provide a very clear signal to us about the limitations of the mainstream media in this county.  I have to leave now, I'm going to go vomit.

    "While there is a lower class, I am in it. While there is a criminal element, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free." - Eugene Debs

    by matthewc on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 08:13:00 AM PST

  •  Everybody should call their Senators... (none)
    ...and tell them to filibuster. If the only ones for the bill are Johnson, Carper, Biden, and Nelson (R-NE), there is no reason we can't pull it off. Even if another dem joins them, a filibuster would still delay the bill a few days and give it some news coverage.
  •  We should have a "Stop Using (none)
    Credit Cards" movement. We could pledge en masse not to shop with a credit card at certain strategic times. I understand that no one could do this permanently, but we need to punish them and make it clear why we are doing it.
  •  Natural Selection (none)
    Would you like cabbage soup with your turnips, comrade?

    "I began the revolution with 82 men. It does not matter how small you are, if you have faith and a plan of action." Fidel Castro

    by Lash Marks on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 09:12:29 AM PST

  •  Senate Data (none) gives you voting record by vote, I've rearranged it so that you can look up a voting record by Senator.

    Also, some statistics:
    Senators Sorted By Votes Defecting from a Party

    SenatorVotes Defecting (%)
    Nelson (D-NE)19 (76.00 %)
    Carper (D-DE)16 (64.00 %)
    Johnson (D-SD)11 (44.00 %)
    Biden (D-DE)9 (36.00 %)
    Kohl (D-WI)7 (28.00 %)
    Lincoln (D-AR)6 (24.00 %)
    Baucus (D-MT)5 (20.00 %)
    Dodd (D-CT)5 (20.00 %)
    Bingaman (D-NM)5 (20.00 %)
    Nelson (D-FL)4 (16.00 %)
    Landrieu (D-LA)4 (16.00 %)
    Bayh (D-IN)4 (16.00 %)
    Lieberman (D-CT)4 (16.00 %)
    Byrd (D-WV)3 (12.00 %)
    Reed (D-RI)3 (12.00 %)
    Feinstein (D-CA)3 (12.00 %)
    Cantwell (D-WA)3 (12.00 %)
    Schumer (D-NY)3 (12.00 %)
    Rockefeller (D-WV)2 (8.00 %)
    Specter (R-PA)2 (8.00 %)
  •  Working Assets.... (none)
    ...the most progressive telephone service company out there issues credit cards via MBNA.  This is the e-mail I just sent asking about this practice:

    Dear Working Assets:

    This isn't a question about long distance but I'm hoping you can send it on to someone who could answer this question.  I read this today:

    The details of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 reveal it to be a bill crafted as a Republican paean to MBNA, the largest single contributor to the Republican party.  Far from being either an effort to stem "Bankruptcy Abuse" or an effort at "Consumer Protection", the bill is in fact an attempt to rewrite bankruptcy laws to reduce the ability of those laws to protect consumers from predatory lending practices on the part of MBNA members, and to stiffen the capabilities of those corporations to collect from consumers already suffering from extreme financial hardships.

    I don't have an MBNA Working Assets credit card, but my boyfriend does.  I'm just wondering why Working Assets associates with this company?  Citigroup apparently has a better track record of donating to Democratic candidates although I must admit there is no credit card company whose business practices aren't highly suspect. Frankly, I find it horrible how much money is poured into political campaigns by these companies so that laws that screw the consumer stay on the books.

    Any thoughts on this subject?



  •  Well (none)
    Biden and Carper come from DE. Johnson is from SD. SD and DE are heavily dependent on the credit card industry. MBNA and Citibank SD are major employers in their states. They aren't going to vote against them.

    Now Nelson of NE has no reason to support this bill. To my knowledge NE has no significant credit card business.

  •  Does this mean Biden's on the naughty list now? (none)
    Also frequently voting with the Republicans:

    Sen. Biden (D - Delaware)

  •  ....and always remember that (none)
    1. if it sounds too good to be true, it surely is not true.
    2. nothing in life is free.  if you think that i have a bridge to sell you.
    3. always and i mean always act responsibily for your own sake.  
    4. get clear of the credit card trap as soon as posible.
    5. save, save and save.  if you invest, be sure you know what you are doing.  i mean in the stock market.
    6. be prepared for the unthinkable to happen, always.......
  •  America! Coalition (none)

    Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

    by bumblebums on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 01:24:45 PM PST

  •  Instapundit (none)
    Everybody's favorite just posted this on his blog about the bankruptcy bill : "I assume that the Bush Administration is supporting this legislation, but I really don't see it as consistent with "compassionate conservatism." I see it, in fact, as consistent with the worst stereotypes about corporate-friendly Republicanism."  Hopefully nobody will get behind this bill...
  •  Feingold Amendment (none)
    I just skimmed the comments so apologies if this is a repeat.

    The $75,000 floor seems a little low for some places. I know that here in California the going rent rate for a 1br is $1000+ if you're lucky. So if the purpose of the amendment is to allow the elderly to keep enough of their assets to get by it seems like a rather low cap and something that would vary widely by states. So maybe the existing system of homestead exceptions make sense even if the system is being abused?

    Apologies if this is amazingly stupid but I don't really know much about bankruptcy law.

  •  A big part of the problem (none)
    Washington Post

    Credit Card Penalties, Fees Bury Debtors
    Senate Nears Action On Bankruptcy Curbs

    By Kathleen Day and Caroline E. Mayer
    Washington Post Staff Writers

    Sunday, March 6, 2005; Page A01

    For more than two years, special-education teacher Fatemeh Hosseini worked a second job to keep up with the $2,000 in monthly payments she collectively sent to five banks to try to pay $25,000 in credit card debt.

    Even though she had not used the cards to buy anything more, her debt had nearly doubled to $49,574 by the time the Sunnyvale, Calif., resident filed for bankruptcy last June. That is because Hosseini's payments sometimes were tardy, triggering late fees ranging from $25 to $50 and doubling interest rates to nearly 30 percent. When the additional costs pushed her balance over her credit limit, the credit card companies added more penalties.

    "I was really trying hard to make minimum payments," said Hosseini, whose financial problems began in the late 1990s when her husband left her and their three children. "All of my salary was going to the credit card companies, but there was no change in the balances because of that interest and those penalties."

    Punitive charges -- penalty fees and sharply higher interest rates after a payment is late -- compound the problems of many financially strapped consumers, sometimes making it impossible for them to dig their way out of debt and pushing them into bankruptcy.

    The Senate is to vote as soon as this week on a bill that would make it harder for individuals to wipe out debt through bankruptcy. The Senate last week voted down several amendments intended to curb excessive fees and other practices that critics of the industry say are abusive. House leaders say they will act soon after that, and President Bush has said he supports the bill.

    Bankruptcy experts say that too often, by the time an individual has filed for bankruptcy or is hauled into court by creditors, he or she has repaid an amount equal to their original credit card debt plus double-digit interest, but still owes hundreds or thousands of dollars because of penalties.

    "How is it that the person who wants to do right ends up so worse off?" Cleveland Municipal Judge Robert J. Triozzi said last fall when he ruled against Discover in the company's breach-of-contract suit against another struggling credit cardholder, Ruth M. Owens.

    Owens tried for six years to pay off a $1,900 balance on her Discover card, sending the credit company a total of $3,492 in monthly payments from 1997 to 2003. Yet her balance grew to $5,564.28, even though, like Hosseini, she never used the card to buy anything more. Of that total, over-limit penalty fees alone were $1,158.

    Triozzi denied Discover's claim, calling its attempt to collect more money from Owens "unconscionable."

    The bankruptcy measure now being debated in Congress has been sought for nearly eight years by the credit card industry. Twice in that time, versions of it have passed both the House and Senate. Once, President Bill Clinton refused to sign it, saying it was unfair, and once the House reversed its vote after Democrats attached an amendment that would prevent individuals such as anti-abortion protesters from using bankruptcy as a shield against court-imposed fines.

    Credit card companies and most congressional Republicans say current law needs to be changed to prevent abuse and make more people repay at least part of their debt. Consumer-advocacy groups and many Democrats say people who seek bankruptcy protection do so mostly because they have fallen on hard times through illness, divorce or job loss. They also argue that current law has strong provisions that judges can use to weed out those who abuse the system.

    Opponents also argue that the legislation is unfair because it ignores loopholes that would allow rich debtors to shield millions of dollars during bankruptcy through expensive homes and complex trusts, while ignoring the need for more disclosure to cardholders about rates and fees and curbs on what they say is irresponsible behavior by the credit card industry. The Republican majority, along with a few Democrats, has voted down dozens of proposed amendments to the bill, including one that would make it easier for the elderly to protect their homes in bankruptcy and another that would require credit card companies to tell customers how much extra interest they would pay over time by making only minimum payments.

    No one knows how many consumers get caught in the spiral of "negative amortization," which is what regulators call it when a consumer makes payments but balances continue to grow because of penalty costs. The problem is widespread enough to worry federal bank regulators, who say nearly all major credit card issuers engage in the practice.

    Two years ago regulators adopted a policy that will require credit card companies to set monthly minimum payments high enough to cover penalties and interest and lower some of the customer's original debt, known as principal, so that if a consumer makes no new charges and makes monthly minimum payments, his or her balance will begin to decline.

    Banks agreed to the new rules after, in the words of one top federal regulator, "some arm-twisting." But bank executives persuaded regulators to allow the higher minimum payments to be phased in over several years, through 2006, arguing that many customers are so much in debt that even slight increases too soon could push many into financial disaster.

    Credit card companies declined to comment on specific cases or customers for this article, but banking industry officials, speaking generally, said there is a good reason for the fees they charge.

    "It's to encourage people to pay their bills the way they said they would in their contract, to encourage good financial management," said Nessa Feddis, senior federal counsel for the American Bankers Association. "There has to be some onus on the cardholder, some responsibility to manage their finances."

    High fees "may be extreme cases, but they are not the trend, not the norm," Feddis said.

    "Banks are pretty flexible," she said. "If you are a good customer and have an occasional mishap, they'll waive the fees, because there's so much competition and it's too easy to go someplace else." Banks are also willing to work out settlements with people in financial difficulty, she said, because "there are still a lot of options even for people who've been in trouble."

    Many bankruptcy lawyers disagree. James S.K. "Ike" Shulman, Hosseini's lawyer, said credit card companies hounded her and did not live up to several promises to work with her to cut mounting fees.

    Regulators say it is appropriate for lenders to charge higher-risk debtors a higher interest rate, but that negative amortization and other practices go too far, posing risks to the banking system by threatening borrowers' ability to repay their debts and by being unfair to individuals.

    U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David H. Adams of Norfolk, who is also the president of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, said many debtors who get in over their heads "are spending money, buying things they shouldn't be buying." Even so, he said, "once you add all these fees on, the amount of principal being paid is negligible. The fees and interest and other charges are so high, they may never be able to pay it off."

    Judges say there is little they can do by the time cases get to bankruptcy court. Under the law, "the credit card company is legally entitled to collect every dollar without a distinction" whether the balance is from fees, interest or principal, said retired U.S. bankruptcy judge Ronald Barliant, who presided in Chicago. The only question for the courts is whether the debt is accurate, judges and lawyers say.

    John Rao, staff attorney of the National Consumer Law Center, one of many consumer groups fighting the bankruptcy bill, says the plight consumers face was illustrated last year in a bankruptcy case filed in Northern Virginia.

    Manassas resident Josephine McCarthy's Providian Visa bill increased to $5,357 from $4,888 in two years, even though McCarthy has used the card for only $218.16 in purchases and has made monthly payments totaling $3,058. Those payments, noted U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen S. Mitchell in Alexandria, all went to "pay finance charges (at a whopping 29.99%), late charges, over-limit fees, bad check fees and phone payment fees." Mitchell allowed the claim "because the debtor admitted owing it." McCarthy, through her lawyer, declined to be interviewed.

    Alan Elias, a Providian Financial Corp. spokesman, said: "When consumers sign up for a credit card, they should understand that it's a loan, no different than their mortgage payment or their car payment, and it needs to be repaid. And just like a mortgage payment and a car payment, if you are late you are assessed a fee." The 29.99 percent interest rate, he said, is the default rate charged to consumers "who don't met their obligation to pay their bills on time" and is clearly disclosed on account applications.

    Feddis, of the banker's association, said the nature of debt means that interest will often end up being more than the original principal. "Anytime you have a loan that's going to extend for any period of time, the interest is going to accumulate. Look at a 30-year-mortgage. The interest is much, much more than the principal."

    Samuel J. Gerdano, executive director of the American Bankruptcy Institute, a nonpartisan research group, said that focusing on late fees is "refusing to look at the elephant in the room, and that's the massive levels of consumer debt which is not being paid. People are living right up to the edge," failing to save so when they lose a second job or overtime, face medical expense or their family breaks up, they have no money to cope.

    "Late fees aren't the cause of debt," he said.

    Credit card use continues to grow, with an average of 6.3 bank credit cards and 6.3 store credit cards for every household, according to Inc., which monitors the industry. Fifteen years ago, the averages were 3.4 bank credit cards and 4.1 retail credit cards per household.

    Despite, or perhaps because of, the large increase in cards, there is a "fee feeding frenzy," among credit card issuers, said Robert McKinley, Cardweb's president and chief executive. "The whole mentality has really changed over the last several years," with the industry imposing fees and increasing interest rates if a single payment is late.

    Penalty interest rates usually are about 30 percent, with some as high as 40 percent, while late fees now often are $39 a month, and over-limit fees, about $35, McKinley said. "If you drag that out for a year, it could be very damaging," he said. "Late and over-limit fees alone can easily rack up $900 in fees, and a 30 percent interest rate on a $3,000 balance can add another $1,000, so you could go from $2,000 to $5,000 in just one year if you fail to make payments."

    According to R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers, a California credit card consulting firm, banks collected $14.8 billion in penalty fees last year, or 10.9 percent of revenue, up from $10.7 billion, or 9 percent of revenue, in 2002, the first year the firm began to track penalty fees.

    The way the fees are now imposed, "people would be better off if they stopped paying" once they get in over their heads, said T. Bentley Leonard, a North Carolina bankruptcy attorney . Once you stop paying, creditors write off the debt and sell it to a debt collector. "They may harass you, but your balance doesn't keep rising. That's the irony."

    © 2005 The Washington Post Company

    "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed." General Buck Turgidson

    by muledriver on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 02:08:18 PM PST

  •  Delaware (none)
    Many Thanks to MaryScott for a great article.(I too liked the original version best.) Some of the posts are a little too innocent for this jaded ex-Delawarean, who still owns part of a house in Rehoboth.  The assumption that Biden and Carper are just representing the workers in their home state is a a bit too kind.  Like many similarly employed   people who have made sacrifices in order to serve the public, they are protecting their largest contributor.  Both Biden and Carper both received more money, much more, from MBNA than from any other source in their most recent campaigns.  Biden's second largest donation was from Pachulski, Stang et al.  This law firm's web site talks proudly of their "nationally recognized insolvency practice" on behalf of their clients -"small businesses to large public corporations."
  •  religious framing (none)
    Surely lots of people must have thought of this, but I haven't seen it mentioned....

    Surely this issue cries out for some religious language.  The Bible has some most unkind things to say about people who lend money at usurious rates.  And the moneychangers in the temple got tossed out on their, um, ears, by the Main Guy himself....

  •  It's only now that I have read through (none)
    everything and understood the content in its entirety.

    Thank you so much Maryscott and Hunter, that was tremendously helpful. I had no idea that Biden is such a traitor. Who has him in his pockets? The MNBA? Delaware? Now I understand why people always advise to incorporate their businesses in Delaware.

    And all those many US State rights, I hate them, they are obfuscating so many loopholes, as no single average non-lawyerish person can be aware of 50 different state's laws. Legal spaghetti code all over awashed in tomato sauce just to pretend to feed the masses with "good tasting" laws.

    I hope I can learn much more here about legislation's intentions and who voted for what and why.

    Why did Kerry vote against this: On the Amendment S.Amdt. 31
    Dayton Amdt. No. 31.; To limit the amount of interest that can be charged on any extension of credit to 30 percent. What is meant by extension of credit and what are ursury laws. Do you mind to explain more?

    Human life should be governed by truth, freedom, justice and love.

    by mimi on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 02:56:23 PM PST

  •  The "R" word (none)
    - as my Father-in-law calls it.

    This is yet another example of how this great nation is being sold out to corporations.  

    A (major) corporation can be defined as an entity that can pollute, steal and/or kill and maintain the clout to change the law to exonerate itself. (most small businesses that happen to be corporations don't have said clout.)

    In the Washington Post article posted above it reads:

    "It's to encourage people to pay their bills the way they said they would in their contract, to encourage good financial management," said Nessa Feddis, senior federal counsel for the American Bankers Association. "There has to be some onus on the cardholder, some responsibility to manage their finances."

    The consumer is supposed to take responsibility for his finances.
    Doesn't the bank have to take responsibility too?   Why did the bank loan the guy the money, if the bank knew he'd never be able to pay it back?

    You want to protect your customers? Then say, "No." Don't extend them credit.

    The banks argue that the consumer should know that he's not really credit worthy.  The large secret and very cryptic credit rating system clearly shows that the customer shouldn't be extended any credit, so why does he accept it?

    Could it have something to do with the HUNDREDS of letters he's received from banks telling him to borrow money?

    If you want people to watch their spending, why do credit card bills come bundled with advertising?

    If that consumer isn't your target audience why do you market to him?  

    (This is similar to the children's advertising argument where even though they spend billions of dollars on advertising to kids, they claim that it's not effective.)

    I've been in the business world for 18 years.  I know that people don't waste their money trying to solicit business from people they don't want as customers.  That would be stupid.

    It's a rip off and a scam.

    The Senate is institutionalizing and sanctioning usury.  

    You want responsibility? Let's see some responsibility for toxic spills. Let's see some responsibility for the illegal war in Iraq.
    Let's see some responsibility for ignoring the warnings about the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks.

  •  Our Economy Is Addicted to Spending ... (none)
    ... and we cannot wait for this bill to blow up in the credit card companies', Republicans', and Biden's faces.

    In a way, with this bill, Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot. Think about it - spending beyond our means saved our lagging economy during the recession after September 11 and the dot-com collapse. We went into serious saving mode as the stock market plummeted and things were getting ugly, but SOMEONE out there was spending wildly and keeping the economy afloat on a life preserver of debt. People were losing jobs right and left, but consumer spending barely took a hit.

    If there are fewer protections like bankruptcy laws, then people will be less willing to take the risks or put it on their charge card. As people keep their wallets closed, big-business politicians will wonder why their returns aren't as flush as they used to be.

    This actually makes us cackle wildly with joy. Paying off the balance and living within one's means is the greatest revenge!

  •  asdf (none)
    We're in the midst of bankruptcy right now. Most of the problems in our case relate to my wife's medical expenses, but some of it is some credit card mismanagement that occurred right as we were transitioning from grad school to full-time employment. I guess we're going to need to speed up the process. Yeck.
  •  Bankruptcy "Reform" & Poverty Draft (none)
    The Dow at its mid-2001 highs, oil companies profits up, pharmaceutical profits up, investment bankers licking their chops again... everything's swell.  Right?  Wrong.

    Nefarious plans are afoot to create a wider "backdoor" military draft--and we're not talking about people already in the United States military.  The key to this sinister plot is to impose as much economic hardship on as many young men and women (and their families) as possible.  One instrument, of course, is consumer debt.  Yes, Al Greenspan and his establishment buddies have been setting up--for many years now, perhaps even before the origin of the phrase "WMD"--an elaborate bait-and-switch for those so many American families who are now just scraping by.  Offer 'em low interest debt, then harden the debt when the war starts going badly.  Offer military recruitment signing bonuses.  Then wait and see what unfolds.  This IS what the establishment is thinking.

    Isn't it funny how this whole phony Social Security debate is a way to sneak this other monstrosity through under the radar?  Convenient cover for all those "red-state" and "centrist" Democrats (read: Copperheads).          

    ... and the truth will set you free.

    by RJR on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 09:35:22 PM PST

  •  Hmmm (none)
    Feingold did not want his amendment to pass.  If he did, he would have made it so the the mega-exemptions in Texas and Florida would remain intact-apparently, his amendment canceled them.  It's not that these are good exemptions, it's just that it gave the Republicans an out to cry state's rights.  Feingold would or should have realized this.  I'm disappointed in Feingold for playing politics here.  (Of course, that's a mild sin verus what the Republicans are doing.)
  •  Special offer! (none)
    Fuck it! To hell with this whole goddamn stupid country. My apologies to anyone who has had to fight for this terrible place. This is a regime and a system driven by hate and resentment; people aren't happy unless someone else is miserable. It's also futile to try and change it; it just can't be done. So to hell with it. If you really think you can make a difference, go for it, best of luck. I think the Fight Club solution is the only way to make the mothers at MBNA and other places listen. I might also suggest that the next time someone wants to fly a plane into a building make it the US Capitol (Kapital). Fuck it all, I'll be living in the desert with Ed Abbey and George Hayduke.
  •  People are more important than corporations. (none)
    Bankruptcy laws are in place to protect people. Bush Co wants to protect the creditors - but no laws have been passed to protect us from reckless corporations that go bankrupt. Why should Corporations get better protection than people? People are more important than corporations.

    If we have no safety net when we fall on hard times (because for instance Enron runs off with our savings), then all the debt of the failed corporations gets passed on to us, it falls on our backs. The deficit is all of the government debt getting passed on to us, falling on our backs. The radical changes in taxes, protection law and social security shift the debt burden, the deficit burden, and the war burden onto the backs of the people. It is wrong to put this unfair burden on Americans and their children.

    We are the creditors to the corporations - we the taxpayers, we the stockholders, we the workers who have pension plans and 401ks, WE the people. WE ARE THE CREDITORS. Where is our protection?

  • Close


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