Rich Get Richer

It’s payback time in D.C. All the big boys from the credit card companies and banks who lined W’s coffers were whistling a happy tune on March 15 when the Senate passed legislation that would place severe restrictions on personal bankruptcy, and (surprise, surprise) generate substantial profits for the credit industry.

So what are the ramifications of this bill—which at press time was in committee—for women? Contrary to what the Washington fat cats would have you believe, most people who opt for bankruptcy are not rich, cheating, lazy loafers who want to weasel out of debt. In 1999, the median income of filing debtors was around $21,000. It is women who are the largest and fastest-growing group to declare bankruptcy, often because they’re not receiving child support and alimony payments due them. The new legislation would make it even harder for women to get that support, most likely forcing even more of them into bankruptcy. It disqualifies many debtors from filing under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where child support and alimony obligations are among the few debts that must still be paid. Instead, many people-including an ex-spouse who owes his family money-would be forced into Chapter 13, where debt to credit card companies—with their sophisticated collection departments and high-powered legal teams—would be allowed to compete for the limited resources of the debtor. “The bottom line is that the credit card companies will now have the same priority; they’ll be competing for the same few dollars as women who are owed child support and alimony,” says Kathy Rodgers of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. “And we all know who’ll win that competition.”

And even worse, anyone declaring bankruptcy would have to go to court (read: expensive) if they wanted to claim that their children needed the money more than the credit companies. Aren’t you lovin’ compassionate conservatism?

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