April 8, 2005


Who owns Washington?
by Jim Hightower

If you're confused at all on the question of who Washington serves, look no further for clarity than the recent enactment of a "bankruptcy reform" law.

Ask yourself this: Were you the one clamoring for bankruptcy reform? No. The vast majority of us had no idea this was even in the works, much less that we were about to get schnookered by our president and congress. This bill was the wet dream of Visa, MasterCard, MBNA, Citigroup and other giant hawkers of credit cards. Having filled the mail boxes of every American with false offers of "free credit," these bankers are now alarmed that so many folks have fallen behind on payments and are having to declare bankruptcy to get a fresh start.

Rather than accepting responsibility for their own bad business practices, the banks went wailing to Washington, demanding that the people be banned from bankruptcy protection. "Make these bums pay us," was the ugly chant of the banker lobbyists. Never mind that half of the people who fall into bankruptcy do so because they're suddenly hit with unexpected (and uninsured) medical bills, and another 40 percent because of job loss, family death, divorce, or disability.

Instead of siding with these poor folks, Washington has sided with the poor credit card industry — an industry that raked in only $30 billion in profits last year...and also put up millions in campaign donations to both political parties.

One measure of how completely Washington kowtowed to the bankers was seen in an amendment to exempt debtors from losing their full bankruptcy protections if their financial troubles are caused by ID theft. This can happen when thieves get hold of your credit card numbers — sometimes from the banks themselves — and milk you dry. The bankers killed this amendment, meaning that they can be responsible for your having to file bankruptcy, yet they prevent you from getting free of the debt they caused.

This law is a shameful piece of special-interest sleaze, and it shows who really owns Washington.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com.


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