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"Millions are forced into bankruptcy; few choose it. About 50% of all families who file for bankruptcy do so as the result of medical expenses. Another 40% have suffered a death in the family, lost their job, gotten divorced, or some combination."


Action Alert: Defeat The Debt Slavery Bankruptcy Bill Now!
Posted April 7, 2005 thepeoplesvoice.org

By: Evan Augustine Peterson lll, J.D.

Dear Friends:

The U.S. House of Representatives is about to take up the grossly unfair "Debt Slavery" Bankruptcy Bill (H.R. 685). The bill was written by credit-card companies, which made $30 billion in profits in 2004, but are blinded by greed. Although this bill was passed by the Senate (S. 256), we can help stop its advance in the House -- but we have to move IMMEDIATELY.

If we lobby, they will listen! Why?
Our U.S. Representatives must stand for election every two years, whereas our U.S. Senators only have to stand for election every six years. These bi-annual elections make our Representatives FAR more responsive to lobbying efforts from their constituents.

What can you do to implement this Action Alert?
First, you can sign PDA's superb constituent letter, which urges your U.S. Representative to vote AGAINST the "Debt Slavery" Bankruptcy Bill. Then you can e-mail it directly from PDA's website, either exactly "as is" or customized with optional paragraphs (see endnote [1] below): http://capwiz.com/pdamerica/issues/alert/?alertid=7319731&type=CO

Second, you can learn more reasons for opposing this bill by reading my 4-1-05 TPV essay, "Defeat Bush's Social Darwinist Agenda Now: Regressive Bankruptcy Bill Will Hit Poorest Americans Hardest" (then read everything in endnotes 1 and 2 below): http://thepeoplesvoice.org/voices/2005/print/Defeat_Bushs_

Third, you can find out more about our nationwide grassroots effort by visiting: http://www.DebtSlavery.org

Fourth and finally, you can urge people everywhere to join our nationwide grassroots effort by FORWARDING this Action Alert to everyone on your e-mail list! [3]

With Heartfelt Gratitude To Everyone Who Implements This Action Alert,

Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D.
Executive Director A.C.I.L.


[1] At the PDA website, you can add all nine of these optional paragraphs to your letter (just click the red arrows on the right side of the box titled "Optional Text To House"):

Optional Paragraph 1. Millions are forced into bankruptcy; few choose it. About 50% of all families who file for bankruptcy do so as the result of medical expenses. Another 40% have suffered a death in the family, lost their job, gotten divorced, or some combination. 61% of those who file bankruptcy have gone without medical care. 50% have failed to get prescriptions filled. 33% have had their utilities shut off. 21% percent have gone without food.

Optional Paragraph 2. Abuse is minimal. The non-partisan American Bankruptcy Institute estimates that, at most, 3% of filers - and almost certainly less - are able to discharge debts they could actually pay.

Optional Paragraph 3. There already is a means test. Under the current system a judge looks at actual income and expenses, and is permitted to distinguish between someone whose child has diabetes and someone who's gone on reckless shopping sprees. Under the bill before the House, no such distinctions can be made, and a court must use standard government figures for expenses like rent, regardless of what someone's rent and other expenses actually cost. The new system would predict future income based on the previous six months of income, even if someone was just laid off. If your income is below the median, it would spare you the means test but require that you purchase credit counseling and pay for significant new legal procedures and paperwork.

Optional Paragraph 4. The Senate rejected amendments that would have lessened the damage, including amendments to: - close a loophole that allows millionaires to stash unlimited wealth in "asset protection trusts"; - place a maximum value on houses that can be kept through bankruptcy; - require all states to provide a minimum homestead exemption; - protect employees' and retirees' earnings and savings when a business files for bankruptcy; -discourage predatory lending practices; - exempt debtors from means testing if their financial problems were caused by identity theft; - limit to 30% the amount of interest that can be charged on any extension of credit; - preserve protections for caregivers to ill or disabled family members; - exempt from means testing debtors whose financial problems were caused by serious medical problems; - require enhanced disclosure of payment information to consumers; - protect service members and veterans from means testing in bankruptcy.

Optional Paragraph 5. Unexpected medical expenses have done in about half of all families who file for bankruptcy. Another 40 percent have suffered the death of a family breadwinner, or lost a job, or gotten divorced, or suffered some combination of all the above.

Optional Paragraph 6. Our current bankruptcy law gives these families a chance to get back on their feet, without losing everything. Under this current system, a judge looks at a family's actual income and expenses and has the ability to distinguish between a debtor whose child has diabetes and a debtor who's gone on reckless shopping sprees.

Optional Paragraph 7. Under the bankruptcy "reform" bill before the House, judges would no longer be able to make these crucial distinctions. Courts would have to apply standard "means testing" formulas for expenses like rent, regardless of what a family's rent might actually be. The new system would also predict a family's future income based on the previous six months of income, even if someone in that family was just laid off. Families earning below the median income would be spared the foolishness of this "means testing." But these families, under the new law, would be required to ante up for credit counseling, and pay for significant new legal procedures and paperwork.

Optional Paragraph 8. Our current bankruptcy system is working. Abuse is minimal. At most, says the nonpartisan American Bankruptcy Institute, only 3 percent of the families who file for bankruptcy protection discharge debts they could have paid.

Optional Paragraph 9. This bill does nothing to protect the wages and savings of workers whose employers declare bankruptcy, and nothing to stop millionaires who file for bankruptcy from stashing away unlimited riches in "asset protection trusts."

[2] Read these articles and essays to learn more about the terrible bankruptcy bill:

A. David Sirota's 4-5-05 TP article, "So You Support Usury, Senator?" [The House is getting ready to debate the Republican's phony bankruptcy "reform" bill, but Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced another House bill, entitled the "Loan Shark Prevention Act," which is designed to limit usurious interest rates and to prevent other unconscionable abuses by credit-card companies and commercial banks.]: http://www.tompaine.com/articles/so_you_

B. Marilyn Gardner's 4-4-05 CSM article, "Bankruptcy Reform Hits Women Hard" [Reports that the Republicans' credit-industry authored bankruptcy bill will have a disproportionately negative impact on American women.]: http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0404/p13s01-wmgn.html

C. Michael Negron's 3-31-05 TP exposť, "Talking Points Memo: The $2 Million Dollar Flip-Flop" [Shows us how the sleazy credit industry's campaign "donations" bought off 18 US Senators, so they would vote against a Senate amendment to the phony bankruptcy "reform" bill, which would have limited interest rates to 30 PERCENT.]: http://www.tompaine.com/articles/the_2_

D. David Swanson's 3-31-05 CD/BC essay, "Debt Slavery: What The Bankruptcy Bill Could Do To You" {A thorough explanation of the Republican's terribly unjust bankruptcy bill, its politics, and the reasons to vote AGAINST the "Debt Slavery Act of 2005."]: http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0331-33.htm

E. Kathleen Day and Caroline Mayer's 3-6-05 WP article, "Credit Card Penalties, Fees Bury Debtors: Senate Nears Action On Bankruptcy Curbs" [Reports that credit card companies regularly engage in predatory lending practices, such as bait-and-switch tactics that result in usurious 30% to 40% interest rates and astronomical $50.00 late fees. However, the Republicans' phony bankruptcy "reform" bill does absolutely NOTHING to stop these, and other, outrageous predatory practices.]: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn

F. Democrats.com has another constituent letter to U.S. Representatives that opposes the "Debt Slavery Bankruptcy Bill" [It's not as good as PDA's, but ut it gives you another opportunity to lobby your Representative through e-mail!]: http://www.democrats.com/peoplesemailnetwork/31

[3] Important Note To Online Editors & Activist Organizations: This Action Alert was prepared FYI, and not for publication. However, please consider adding a link directly from your website to PDA's Action Alert letter. Again, here's the URL: http://capwiz.com/pdamerica/issues/alert/?alertid=7319731&type=CO


About the Author: Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D., is the Executive Director of the American Center for International Law ("ACIL"). ©2005EAPIII  EvPeters8@aol.com



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