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IGNORANT, DUMB OR MEAN?
Understanding the Senate

By Avery Walker | RAW STORY COLUMNIST

Every so often (usually right after an election,) the powers of darkness join forces in what they call a bipartisan effort—a cause so misguided it takes the collected efforts of two parties to justify it. And each time, the outcome can only reasonably be met with one question: Are our elected officials ignorant, unintelligent, or just mean?

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All three options are difficult to believe. After all, these are people who organize the infrastructure that allows our society to operate. These are people who wage and carry out wars in far away lands. These are people who write tax codes so complicated they require a lawyer, an accountant, two translators, and a Voodoo Priestess to decipher. And they're also people who dedicate their lives to public service, in exchange for the pleasure of a low-paying job and intense public scrutiny. Still, they must be one of the three to handle America's problems (often imaginary ones,) the way that they sometimes do. The answer they come up with to virtually any problem is the same: harsh punishment for anyone displaying a symptom.

If this Congress and this President were Doctors, their medicine bags would be shaped like a violin, rattling suspiciously, and unable to pass through a metal detector without setting off a "beep".

Bankruptcy, made much harder for the average American under a reprehensible bill that just passed the Senate with a three-quarter majority, is a symptom of several economic problems: a sluggish economy, volatile job market, over-borrowing and a terrible system of health coverage. The Senate, however, sees only the symptom, and treats it as the problem.

These astute lawmakers seem to believe that by making it more difficult for people to protect their homes and stop harassment by creditors, debtors (who are bankrupt, remember,) will suddenly, somehow come up with the money and pay up. The President, who is positively giddy about signing the law, also seems to believe that these people had money all along—they just weren’t motivated enough to pay up. Now, thanks to 30% interest rates, unending harassment by creditors and other provisions (the bill stops just short of allowing muscle-bound goons to break one knee for each week late with a payment,) our national credit problem will end.

Not that many of these people are standing upright to begin with. A Harvard study released in February concluded that just under half of all people filing for bankruptcy met the definition of “major medical bankruptcy.” In order to meet this definition, a debtor had to have unpaid medical bills meeting a certain two-year amount, lost at least two weeks of work due to injury or illness, or mortgaged a home to pay medical bills. What a bunch of dead-beats. And if those freeloaders weren't enough to turn your stomach on end, get a load of what happens when we expand the definition to include events like childbirth and death of a spouse. Now, over half of all those filing meet the criteria.

What is frightening is that seventy-five percent of these people actually had medical insurance. Many lost it when they became ill and were unable to work. For the rest, it just wasn’t enough.

Researchers concluded that a national health insurance system, “divorced from the current job-based model,” could eliminate half of all bankruptcies, sparing about 2.2 million hard-working, bill-paying citizens from financial ruin every year and leaving their money for the eager grasp of creditors. So, was every Republican in the Senate, along with 19 Democrats (counting Clinton, who lacked the moral fiber to cast a vote,) unaware of this information, unable to comprehend the logic, or simply so lacking in morality and compassion that they don’t care to differentiate between a thief and a new mother whose husband died in Iraq?

I know that sounds like a sick joke, but it isn’t. Some Democrats tried to amend the bill to exclude a number of persons from the tighter grip, including military widows. Each time, the amendment was shot down. Picture this sympathy card from the Federal Government: “Sorry your husband died in Iraq. But that’s no reason to be late on your VISA payment!” A smiling, high-gloss photograph of George W. Bush is a given.

Nearly 150 times, Democrats lead by Feingold and Kennedy attempted to make the bill a little more bearable for the American people. Time after time, the Senate decided that a handout to credit card companies was more important than doing what’s right for the American people and American economy.

Adding injury to... well, injury, the bill that claims to end credit abuse actually enables credit cards to extend the amount of lending they solicit. The problem this country has with over-borrowing will be made even worse under this law. A more accurate name would have been the, “Bankruptcy Promotion and Consumer Abuse Act”.

Luckily, the credit card industry is one of the few that, even in a long economic slump, can still buy and sell Congress, the President, and enough votes to keep them all in line. Last year, credit card companies in America generated $24 billion in fees alone—not counting money made on interest rates that could be as high as 34%. They need this law so little, they could actually afford to buy it.

Unfortunately, the other side of this argument can't make their car payment, let alone buy a United States Senator—not even one from Rhode Island. To people who need it, bankruptcy is a way to avoid losing their home in exchange for ten years’ of no credit in sight. It’s a symptom of our failure to provide affordable health care, a symptom of a plague of over-borrowing, and a symptom of a long economic slump.

It’s easy for someone who’s uninformed or isn’t thinking to say that people should simply pay their bills. But this ignores the harsh reality that almost anyone who owns a home, has a car payment, or owes any creditor even very manageable debts is just one unpreventable tragedy away from filing for bankruptcy. Who knows when you could get hit by a bus, come down with a serious illness, or be exposed as a fake journalist and part time prostitute? (I promise, that is my very last Jeff Gannon joke, which is difficult for me, since we all just discovered that he played for a gay baseball team. The fun I could have had with position names alone... left field, right field... pitcher, catcher... )

And while it’s true that there are plenty of people out there who simply choose to buy shiny new things rather than pay the bills for their old ones, I think any compassionate person would agree that they need to be treated differently than people who work hard, try their best, and are thanked for it by the middle finger of fate. In Bush’s America, we treat them differently by making sure they suffer as much as humanly possible.

George W. Bush has just the way to reign in the unbelievable medical costs that are driving people to bankruptcy: even bigger handouts to corporate lobbies. Mr. Bush actually asks us to believe that Insurance Companies will drop their rates if we limit the amount a victim of malpractice can receive upon winning a case, and that Doctors will then charge less for their services in turn. "Sorry we took the wrong tit, toots. Have twelve grand." Well, doesn't that thought just melt Mr. Pendleton's cold, cold heart?

Truth be told, the number of lawsuits seeking punitive damages have been on the decline for the last decade, and actual awards have become smaller and smaller. Meanwhile, the cost of treatment has gone higher and higher. This kind of strategy can only be explained by insurance company money having bought the President’s endorsement, total ignorance about the issue, or a level of stupidity so off-the-scale that it defies any explanation.

Social Security will hit one hell of a rough spot in about forty years. Bush’s answer? Let people take money out of the system, and reduce benefits for everyone to compensate for it. Thankfully, it is unlikely that he or Laura will need Social Security in this lifetime, so the handout that Wall Street thinks is too little to be worth their time wouldn’t really affect his family.

It's unlikely that, no matter how bad things get, Bush will ever put squeegee to windshield in his lifetime. If Bush’s business history has proven one thing, it is that with the right connections, even the biggest failure can never have to pay his debts. Wouldn't it be weird to live in a world that doesn't work that way—you know, the way almost everybody else does?

Actually, the real question we should be asking is this: Is the President incapable of comprehending that the rest of us out here actually have to work to pay our debts, or is he just a jackass?

Given the logic behind the Bankruptcy Bill, we also have to ask ourselves if moderates like John McCain, Harry Reid, Joe Biden and Olympia Snowe are ignorant, stupid, or just a tad evil. Do this Congress and this President lack information or the mental capacity to understand the nation’s economic problems? Or are they actually arrogant enough to believe that a government that has racked up the biggest debt in history—literally the biggest group of dead-beats in the history of mankind—is in any kind of a moral position to tell other people not to abuse borrowing?

These people have repeatedly shown that they cannot diagnose, let alone treat, the ailments of the American people. Stupid, lazy or mean, I don't suppose the reason really matters. What is important is that the American people can't handle another six years of legislative malpractice from these Senators.

 



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