Something Missing?

As of 1:45 PM Pacific time, here are the topics on the democrats.org site; the official site of the Democratic National Committee:

The Bush Budget Disaster

Take Action to Protect Social Security

DNC Launches New Radio Ads to Air During Bush Social Security Tour

Listen to the ads…
Read more about “Heartland”…
Read more about “Cuts”…
Read more about “Familias”…


Today on the Blog

Your interview with Gov. Dean: The answers: Governor Dean has answered your questions.

The fight to protect ANWR continues: For the last four years, Democrats have stood up and protected the wildlife reserve from President Bush and his cronies in the energy industry.

Your interview with Gov. Dean: Governor Howard Dean is going to give a high profile interview — and it’s with you. Submit your question today by clicking here and then return on Friday, March 11 to read his answers to this online interview with our grassroots supporters.

DNC Headlines

Mar 10, 2005: The DNC Launches Radio Ad Against Bush

Mar 10, 2005: Bush Wants to Shore Up His Base…of Republicans in Congress

Mar 10, 2005: Republican vs. Republican Part II

Mar 9, 2005: Governor Dean Statement on the Election of Doris Matsui

I know what I’d like to be asking Gov. Dean.

Why doesn’t the word “bankruptcy” appear anywhere on this page?

And how the hell could you have laid down and rolled over for the bankruptcy bill? If there was ever a bully pulpit to stand behind and use to point out the corporatist flaws of the GOP, this was it.

Note that I’m not opposed to government actions that help corporations; sometimes what’s good for G.M. is actually good for America.

But this was such a clear-cut case of taking from the weak and giving to the rich with no public purpose except giving more to those that have that my head is swimming.

And the missed opportunity for the Democrats to define themselves – by challenging irresponsable and rapacious lending as much as they are challenging irresponsable borrowing – boggles my mind.

Even if their side was doomed to go down to defeat, this was a place to make a public stand, and the failure to make that stand is more than a little puzzing to me.

31 thoughts on “Something Missing?”

  1. I’d say that though the Dems do come out of this looking pretty undemlike it’s awfully strange to see a post blaming Dems and not even mentioning republicans.

    As to why the Dems have “laid down and rolled over” on this bill that should be obvious. MONEY.

    But as a side story, I’ve seen nothing but condemnation (well, ok, mostly condemnation) for this bill from such diverse blogs as WOC, Atrios, Redstate.org, Kevin Drum, Instapundit, etc. etc.

    It would appear there is string bipartisan opposition to this bill in the blogosphere.

    Yet there’s little to no press coverage of the deliberations if you could call them that.

    Are blogs only effective at outing journalists that offer fake documents or have a history of male prostitution?

  2. If there’s anything more boring than proposals to fix Social Security, it’s Non-Proposals to Not Fix Social Security. But the Howard Dean answers yer questions! part is fun:

    How do you plan to empower young Americans like myself who want to help shape the NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY, but don’t have the network in place to get involved at levels to truly make an impact both locally and nationally?

    Why is nobody asking the really tough questions, like “How do I pack more witless cliches into a single sentence?” and “How can I regurgitate DNC dribble-think jargon in more efficient and drone-like manner?”

    Or “I think I might just have had an original thought; should I be concerned?”

  3. I’m going to go contrarian on this issue until someone (Dem or Repub) can explain to me why it is contraversial that people should pay back their debts.

    Really now, should we structure laws so that consumers don’t have to pay their debts? Explain please. Just because a person can’t pay (at the moment), isn’t a reason that they shouldn’t live up to their promises.

    I admit that I don’t know all the provisions in the bill — they aren’t discussed above, and frankly I didn’t hear the details on NPR or on Instapundit. I’m open to hearing the case against this bill.

    Disclaimer: I work for a financial institution. I don’t represent their interest in this matter, I am representing my personal opinion.

  4. prak- I think you miss his point. A.L. IS blaming the GOP for the bill. He is wondering why the Dems passed up a great opportunity to lambast them for it.

    You need to spend less time studying Arabic if your English reading skills are going to suffer. ;-)

  5. A.L., Fine. I’ll play the Grinch at the Elf convention.

    But this was such a clear-cut case of taking from the weak and giving to the rich with no public purpose except giving more to those that have that my head is swimming.

    Actually, not so clear cut. This post points to the evidence that (at least some) people load up on credit card debt as a tactic preceding bankruptcy. There is scamming going on here, but the question of who is scamming who is not entirely black and white.

    Now, as to your following sentence…

    And the missed opportunity for the Democrats to define themselves – by challenging irresponsible and rapacious lending as much as they are challenging irresponsible borrowing – boggles my mind.

    … is absolutely dead on. Even if you stipulate the argument in the Volokh link (and I don’t have enough data and expertise to fairly judge this), the lending practices of the credit card companies are abhorrent.

    Specifically, in your earlier post, you advocated that the bankruptcy bill should entail:

    Lender responsibility, in limiting the fines and penalties on distressed borrowers, and in tightening underwriting requirements and marketing regulations to make it harder for lenders to push credit on people, and raise the rates to usurious levels if a payment is missed.

    Bingo. And I’d add that the self evident merit of such a provision makes it unnecessary to cast this as a “clear-cut case of taking from the weak and giving to the rich” – it is possible (and politically desirable) to cast the issue as one of “balance”, which would get even broader appeal – and still, the Democrats didn’t make hay.

    Unsecured, high interest credit has consequences and side effects at least as toxic as those of prescription drugs, and should be regulated and labeled with the same degree of scrutiny. That the Democrats didn’t make more of an issue of this doesn’t speak well of their ability to function as an opposition party. Some Republicans may take heart in this; I do not.

  6. “He is wondering why the Dems passed up a great opportunity to lambast them for it.”

    By checking Democrats.org?

  7. The usual M.O. – A.L. takes any event, and twists his logic into pretzels to use his invective against democrats.

    No mention of the democrats who voted against this.
    Most of the post taken up with criticisms of democrats.

    One line – “corporatist flaws of the GOP”, almost as an aside, for criticism of the GOP.

    One has to WORK at it, to be this “targeted” in one’s criticism.

    It would be very impolite to say what I think. Not because I would curse but my thoughts go to the heart of the legitmacy, or, the honesty of the views presented.

    A person usually stands behind his values and criticizes those who are primary in defeating his values.

  8. freddo411:

    It might be useful to keep in mind that bankruptcy laws were initially drafted for the sole benefit of creditors. Under the English bankruptcy system, creditors convened a bankruptcy proceeding against a debtor in order to seize his property, place it in receivership and distribute the proceeds pro rata to the creditors. The debtor received a discharge from his remaining debts only upon a majority vote of his creditors.

    Prior to the Constitution, various states began modifying these provisions, in ways that were generally more favorable to the debtor, such as eliminating the need for consent to a discharge. The Commerce Clause of the Constutition authorized Congress to enact a “uniform” bankruptcy law. On one hand, this was a limitation on federalism, clearly intended to prevent states from simply abolishing debt (or debt from other states). On the other hand, early federal bankruptcy law followed the lead of the states in allowing debtors to voluntarily seek discharge of debts without the consent of creditors.

    So the simple answer to your question is that the founders were debtors (or had been debtors at one time), but they also sought to become creditors.

    Patrick

  9. Lewy, I think there’s also a lot of evidence of lenders who make loans where they know there is only a small chance that they’ll see timely repayment. But they load up on these loans, because, actually, the various late fees and loanshark penalty rates can make them profitable (compared to lending to good credit risks or sitting on cash) anyway. But why settle for two-thirds of the loaf, if you can buy 100% of one political party and a quarter of the other, to get the whole thing?

  10. Glenn

    What does any of that have to do with the topic at hand.

    For my part, I’d like to congratulate blogs such as this one, Instapundit, RedState.org and many others for stepping outside of partisanship and condemning the actions of their own party (well, OK perhaps not this particular post).

    It’s a breath of fresh air. And something I’d like to see much more of on the left leaning blogs on issues such as agriculture subsidies, especially in regards to ethanol but also in general.

  11. Davebo: What does any of that have to do with the topic at hand.

    Which topic would that be? Their determination to not stop the bankruptcy bill, or their determination to not do anything about Social Security?

    How about their determination to avoid having either a foreign or a domestic policy? I guess that would be another non-topic.

  12. The redstate.org “takedown”: _I’m not going to bore you with a million links to analyses of the bill and its politics — they are found easily enough._

    What I can find from the nothing but superficial opposition to the “greedy credit card companies” I have read on the blogosphere is that this legislation tips the scales in bankruptcy toward the creditor because the debtors have been abusing it. I know this is true from watching my brother in law go bankrupt. If someone can show specifically what is wrong about this bill, I would be very interested to understand. But this reminds me of nothing more than the mindless pillorying of the PATRIOT Act because it came from the Ashcroft DOJ.

  13. Jane Galt’s take is IMO just about the right one:

    I don’t buy the legend of blameless bankrpts, but I have no interest in helping credit card companies change the law so they can squeeze that last elusive drop of blood from their victims. I’m against the bankruptcy reform not because I think that one side or the other is getting shafted, but because I think that easy bankruptcy is one of the great unrecognized strengths of the American economic system. Easy bankruptcy is what frees people to be entrepreneurs, to take risks without fearing that one wrong move will destroy them forever.

    I understand that bankruptcy reformers think that they can target the deadbeats without touching the merely excessively daring, but I’m not so sure. And while the abuses of the system may be morally outrageous, I don’t see that they’re particularly damaging. Capital One and its ilk seem to be getting along pretty well without our help. I’d be happy to leave it that way.

    RTWT, and also be sure to read all of the Todd Zywicki posts she links to.

  14. Most people who file for personal bankruptcies do so because of overwhelming medical costs (say, a battle with cancer).

  15. Jane Galt’s article is more generalization as is the quote above and as are all the Zywicki links. Specifically what is wrong with this legislation? What problem is it trying to fix? Is it really a problem? If so, what would be a better way to fix it?

    I’ve had experience with corporate bankruptcy. I can say that based on my experience it is the most corrupt part of our judicial system. That appears to continue to be the case here.

    Seven years this legislation has been pending? During that time, our legislators have no doubt been shaking down the criditors for every penny they can. Now that the bidding is over, the legislators have gotten so much that they have to stay bought.

  16. Smitty, it may be true that many people with overwhelming medical costs file bankruptcy but as Zywicki demonstrates, it is not true that most people who file for bankruptcy do so because of medical bills.

    And what difference does it make whether someone went into bankruptcy because of medical bills? We are almost all going to have to face the fact that medical science can keep us alive as long as we can pay. Our decision will be how long to pay.

  17. ::it is not true that most people who file for bankruptcy do so because of medical bills.::

    Yes it is.

    http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.w5.63/DC1

    ::And what difference does it make whether someone went into bankruptcy because of medical bills? We are almost all going to have to face the fact that medical science can keep us alive as long as we can pay. Our decision will be how long to pay.::

    So a case of cancer should be a (if not a literal one, then a) financial death sentence for the average American? Credit card companies are not exactly going broke here.

  18. prak, JC –

    Sorry to be late responding; have been travelling for work. But c’mon. You’ve been reading my stuff long enough to know what I’m about. It’s simple: The Democratic Party, as constituted today is ineffective in doing what I think is important for it to do – which is defend the interests of the less powerful – both because it is stupid in its political choices, meaning it is being edged out of power, and venal which prevents it from pointing out the corruption and venality of the GOP (who are all about locking in the imbalance between the powerful and powerless).

    Note that this is way oversimplified, but it’ll do as an explanation.

    I intend to kick the crap out of the Democrats, and try and get as many people as possible to kick the crap out of the Democrats, until they reform.

    Because you know what?

    I don’t see enough difference in the lives of poor people (as opposed ot the poeple who make their livings off of poor people) between a Gray Davis administration and a Arnold Schwartzenegger one to matter.

    A.L.

  19. Smitty: Credit card companies are not exactly going broke here.

    And you know why not? For the same reason that insurance fraud hasn’t bankrupted the insurance companies – the cost is passed along to the honest policy holders. And every credit card holder pays for someone else’s bad debt.

    Some smaller, merchant-issued cards have gone broke because of bad debt, and when that happens all their credit customers who are in good standing get screwed: their cards are cut off with no warning and their checks bounce.

    I’m not arguing in favor of this bill, BTW, just pointing out something that ought to be kept in mind. People go on about CC companies “squeezing the last drop of blood” out of bankruptcy cases, but every drop that isn’t squeezed out has to be paid for by someone else.

  20. So a case of cancer should be a (if not a literal one, then a) financial death sentence for the average American?

    Then who pays, Smitty? Them or me? And if me, how do I control the cost? Because the doctors can keep us alive for a long, long time, if we’ve got (and they get) the money.

  21. “I intend to kick the crap out of the Democrats, and try and get as many people as possible to kick the crap out of the Democrats, until they reform.”

    Who’s your intended audience here?

  22. A.L.

    bq. _”I don’t see enough difference in the lives of poor people (as opposed ot the poeple who make their livings off of poor people) between a Gray Davis administration and a Arnold Schwartzenegger one to matter.”_

    If I remove the words in parenthesis and read the sentence; are you trying to tell me the poor in California were no better off / no worse for the wear than under either Gray or Schwartzenegger? If that is truly the case then one really needs to assess the California budget and where the dollars are really going. If I understand you correctly the poor did not benefit from higher taxes and social services and are no worse off with lower taxes and less social services.

    Richard

    bq. _”Then who pays, Smitty? Them or me? And if me, how do I control the cost? Because the doctors can keep us alive for a long, long time, if we’ve got (and they get) the money.”_

    That’s the big question isn’t it. Last news I heard there are doctors that wont practice because of liability insurance. Lawyers on the other hand don’t seem to have a money issue at all.

    bq. _”The redstate.org “takedown”: I’m not going to bore you with a million links to analyses of the bill and its politics — they are found easily enough.”_

    That seems to be the case. I find a lot of links and rhetoric but the link to the bill – now that’s another matter. Not to mention seven years on the docket. Why dust it off now?

  23. prak –

    Who’s my intended audience? Influentials who can/will create a critical mass that will slightly steer the party.

    Richard H. –

    The bill makes it hard for middle class debtors to wipe out their debts are retain any assets – but rich debtors can create asset-protecting trusts, which are protected under the bill.

    It mandates what was once a subject of judicial discretion – Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13, and ensures that middle class debtors will almost certainly be forced to file under Chapter 13, which will ensure that portions of their debt are repaid, while all their assets are liquidated.

    It does nothing – nothing – to rein in abusive lending.

    A balanced bill would have address both sides of the issue – debtors who use bankruptcy as a financial management tool (kind of like large corporations, now that I think about it…) – and lenders who rake in profits by selling junk debt to desparate and ignorant borrowers.

    A.L.

  24. A.L.
    I know you want to holler about democrats not doing what they should be doing and the examples you use are revealing to say the least.

    “Social security scripts”:http://www.democrats.org/news/200503100003.html

    *Heartland – Rural Script* _”Well, first, he’ll put us deeper in debt, borrowing $4.5 trillion from foreign countries, like China and Japan. Then he’ll cut benefits by about 40%.”_

    *Community – African American Script* _”Social Security is an important part of many African American families’ lives. It is the sole source of retirement income for 40% of African American seniors. But Social Security’s benefits reach beyond seniors. Without it, 65% of African American women would live in poverty and surviving children and spouses depend on Social Security when their loved ones are gone.”_ … _”But now President Bush and Washington Republicans have a plan to privatize Social Security — a plan that will cut your benefits by 40%, force us to borrow $4.5 trillion from foreign nations and divert your money to their rich friends on Wall Street.”_

    *Familias – Latino Script* _”Sin el Seguro Social, 33 por ciento de los hispanos de la tercera edad quedarían en la pobreza.”_ … _”Pero el plan de privatización del presidente Bush recortaría los beneficios en 45% y dejaría a nuestras familias sin estos vitales beneficios.”_

    Now there’s some messages for you. Rural America you’re screwed 40% reduction in benefits. Black America your screwed worse because you need it most and BTW 2 out 3 African American women currently draw social security and you lose 40% of your benefits. Finally Latino’s listen up your the bunch that will be hit the worst. Not only are 33% of your elderly population falling below the poverty level. We’re taking away 45% of your benefits not just 40% like everyone else.

    No wonder the democratic party has an issue. They can’t get their message straight. Forget the fact that Heartland, Community and Familias can not be treated equally. Not only do Democrats talk to them differently they can not even bring themselves to give them the same information. Talk about raising racial tensions here. Whites aren’t even mentioned they are assumed. African Americans and Hispanics are specifically targeted. Numbers are inconsistent and thrown out without any explanation as to why other than the difference being dumb hick, African American or Hispanic.

  25. The bill makes it hard for middle class debtors to wipe out their debts are retain any assets

    I’m having a hard time figuring out why this is a problem. If you borrow it, you ought to pay it back. I always have.

    but rich debtors can create asset-protecting trusts, which are protected under the bill.

    This seems like a probelm. Why don’t we fix it. I think there’s a lot that’s wrong with trusts and not-for-profits. They seem like unaccountable tax dodges that ought to be eliminated. I could get behind that.

    But this idea that things will be right if we let the poor do the same bad things the rich can do instead of stopping the rich from doing them is nuts.

    It does nothing – nothing – to rein in abusive lending.

    Then let’s propose some legislation to rein in abusive lending, not pervert the bankruptcy laws to do it. If the legislation will rein in abusive lending. I doubt it will. Stupid people will always be taken for a ride. The more government tries to protect them, the less everyone worries about risk and acting prudently.

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