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March 08, 2005

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God damn it, this is ridiculous. I haven't even seen anyone attempt to spin this as less than a slap in the face to the public.

Other than Delaware (where business is everything) and that DINO Lieberman, I'm happy to see the NE blue states Dems are not on this dishonor roll.

Lieberman's going to be hearing from this irritated constituent.

Byrd is going to hear from me. I am really disapointed.

Sadly, hilzoy, while I certainly share your outrage, did you really think the Senators from Delaware were going to spend political capital going against a bill which will benefit the banking industry, the biggest one, AFAIK, in Delaware? Whatever Carper and Biden's feelings on the bill really are, they would have to be incredibly foolish to buck a hometown industry-lobby with that kind of muscle. Biden may be a Senate fixture, but if wants to stay one til retirement, he has to keep the bread/butter juxtaposition in mind - or else.
*sigh*
Well, in any case, at least consumer groups can now make repeal of this awful thing a priority for the next election.

Jay C: "did you really think...?" -- well, no, but one can always hope. And part of the reason I say that is that I think that it's not a foregone conclusion that politicians will one and all be venal, and that if one thinks so, one tends to let them off too easy. It's only if you really think: Joe Biden is a human being like you or I, and could perfectly well decide to do the right thing even at some cost to himself, when the stakes are very high and the cost of his not doing the right thing will be borne by those who can least afford it -- it's only then that you really get mad enough. (For values of 'you' equal to 'me', that is.)

Having defended Sen. Byrd here in the recent past, I want to be the first to condemn him for this vote. Of the Democratic senators on this list, he is the most invulnerable. This might even be his last term. West Virginia is full of people who will be hurt by this bill. What on earth was he thinking?

And Sen. Stabenow!!! Ambition can be the only answer. Despicable. Ditto Salazar. He's useless so far; I begin to fear he will abandon the party on filibustering the retread, unacceptable judges...

Just to clarify my comments: In this case, voting for cloture is the same as voting for the bill, because Republicans can pass it without any Democratic votes. Given the Republican solidity on the ameliorating amendments, there's no reason to expect any of them to oppose the bill, barring some kind of miraculous grassroots lobbying in the next 24 hours.

I'll fax my two Republican senators, just so I can say I didn't go along quietly, but there's no hope of either one opposing this bill.

This might even be his last term.

Well, at least we have that to look forward to. I knew there had to be a silver lining.

I am very angry at these people. This is a bad bill and should have made a good issue for Democrats.

I am especially irritated at the votes of the southerners. When did Arkansas and Louisiana get to be banking centers?

My guys, Kerry and Kennedy, are not on the list, so it's hard for me to complain to a specific Senator. Does it do any good to bring this sort of thing up with the DNC, or the DSCC, the next time they ask me for money?

Hah. As luck would have it, I just got a call from the DNC asking for money so that they could continue to "fight Bush's right-wing agenda". It was a delightful opportunity to explain how angry I was about this vote, and why it made words about "fighting Bush's right wing agenda" ring hollow to me, and why it meant that I would only be sending money to individuals for now, so that I could be sure that none of these fourteen Senators got any of it, and would he please tell his superiors that it was this vote that had cost them any contribution I might have given.

Poor guy. I feel for telemarketers who catch me at the wrong time, on the wrong issue.

"Poor guy. I feel for telemarketers who catch me at the wrong time, on the wrong issue."

Funny, last night I got a call asking about support for a new football stadium. I'm sure he wishes he hadn't called me. I was polite, but not thrilled.

Good work, hilzoy.

It will be worth watching to see how these Senators vote on the actual bill. I wonder how many will have the chutzpah to vote no, and then claim that they were right in there, fighting the good fight.

I am ashamed of these Senators. I gave Salazar 100 bucks, too. I did email a complaint--thanks Hilzoy, for the link. This is really disgusting. Maybe Atrios needs to make a Hall of Shame for thewe guys.
My Senators, Murray and Cantwell, voted the right way.

Yeah, let's get really angry at several Democrats, and ALL of the Republicans. I'd rather be affilitated with 80% of people trying to protect average Joe from getting whacked than 100% of people allowing him to get screwed royally.

I agree with wilfred. A more accurate way to state the issue is that 30 Democratic Senators stood up for the working class and zero Republican Senators voted that way. If one cares about the average American, the obvious piece of advice is to stop electing Republicans, as their politicians are wholly owned by corporate interests.

What is odd is that there was no filibuster underway -- the cloture vote was intended to prevent further debate over proposed amendments, which were proving highly embarassing to Repubs (i.e., refusing to adopt provisions to close the millionaire loophole or give troops in Iraq a break from onerous new provisions).

In other words, the bill is such an embarassing stinker that they shut off debate to prevent further exposure of that fact.

This is what happens in a country with no left-wing party to balance the center and the far right - particularly when the far-right party controls all three branches of government.

It's just... scary. As comments above show, you don't have to be a socialist to find far-right government scary and repulsive: you just have to be not-rich.

I read somewhere that while the cloture vote shut down the debate over amendments, there is still something like 30 hours of debate left over the bill. Is there any hope that the Democrats will be able to use these hours to draw more public attention to the bill in the hopes of making it more toxic for those who vote to pass it?

My Senators (Feinstein and Boxer) appear to be on the side of the angels on this one. What can I do to hold other Senators' feet to the fire?

Given some recent comments about Instapundit, I thought you might all find this interesting.

Bankruptcy reform is warranted but this isn't the Bill to do it.

BTW, my opposition to the current bill doesn't reflect the following comment.

As comments above show, you don't have to be a socialist to find far-right government scary and repulsive: you just have to be not-rich.

JFTR

Gag. I must be pretty naive b/c I just can't understand why so many senators voted for this thing... It will make a terrible problem worse for voters. I wonder what a poll would reveal about how Americans feel about 'bankruptcy reform'?

Just how much clout does the banking industry have w/ the weenies? Enough to make the vote against their constituent's wishes, methinks.

When I agree with an entire post from Instapundit, ya know its gotta be bad. He rightly points out that the real problem is the unscrupulous practices of the industry, not bankruptcy. They are a cancer on America and we're going to pay the price eventually.

I'd rather be affilitated with 80% of people trying to protect average Joe from getting whacked than 100% of people allowing him to get screwed royally.

True dat. But my favorite line from Roth's The Plot Against America still echoes:

"'What about the Democrats?' I asked.
'Son, don't ask me about the Democrats, I'm angry enough as it is.'"

I'm right about in the middle of that book, Paul. Impossible to say that it couldn't have happened that way, only that it didn't.

ID theft is supposed to be a growing problem. Credit card companies, SFAIK, put the burden of proving ID theft on the person whose name has been stolen.

Does anyone know how many people have huge debts which were incurred by someone else, via ID theft? And how many of them wind up having to declare bankruptcy as a result?

Wilfred and Felix have a point, but:

1. I expect better of Democrats on issues like this. Republicans are going to vote the way business lobbyists want them to.

2. These Democrats not only are supporting a bad bill, they are providing political cover for the Republicans. Want to raise hell about the bill? Gee, it got broad bipartisan support.

3. This ought not be a controversial issue for Democrats. It's not like opposing the bill can be characterized as some sort of looney far-left position. There's not much ideology here, just a fight over money, really.

About the fact that this post gets mad at Democrats: I wrote it within minutes of the time the roll call went up, and I was furious. Rightly or wrongly, I had expected the Republicans to support it, though not unanimously, so their support wasn't as surprise. (I mean, they control the Senate, so if their leadership didn't support it, we wouldn't be having this vote.) I am angry about that, but it's not exactly a new or surprising anger, so t wasn't what leapt out at me when I read the roll call.

It was the Democrats who surprised me, This ought to be a core issue, a no-brainer for us. Obviously, feeling this way, I don't support the Republican leadership. But that seemed, at the time, to go without saying.

Hilzoy, comment not directed at you, but at the torrent of rage at Dems when the opposition went unslapped in the comments.

I join in your anger at the Dems who sold out but that anger is not even close to that of these Republicans and their minions who have let their party be taken over by greed and hypocrisy. Right now i'm ready to flush both sides but they will get away with this as long as the masses aren't marching in the streets and demanding more from our representatives.

Impossible to say that it couldn't have happened that way, only that it didn't.

Yes, of course. There's a thinness to The Plot Against America that I think makes it less than it might be. It might be a better book if Roth had depicted in more detail how "it happened here." And 1st person narration is a pet peeve of mine; if any book cries out for an omniscient narrator Henry James-stylee, it is The Plot Against America.

But I do love the potency of Roth's depiction of "his" family's anger and fear and humiliation as their country changes--as everthing changes--virtually overnight. That's the real strength and the core of the book, I think.

Not to derail, but what do you think of it?

"The main lobbying forces for the bill - a coalition that included Visa, MasterCard, the American Bankers Association, MBNA America, Capital One, Citicorp, the Ford Motor Credit Company and the General Motors Acceptance Corporation - spent more than $40 million in political fund-raising efforts and many millions more on lobbying efforts since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that studies the role of money in the political process. By definition, the critics of the legislation had limited lobbying resources." (cite)

That explains Stabenow.

I notice that all six of the Democrats who voted for Gonzales are on this list. Are they just screwing us over on general principle? And do ZERO Republicans know better? Has Frist captured their family pets? Okay, cheap shot, but--where do they get that sort of discipline? I mean, Lincoln Chafee's pretty much ending his career for a party whose leadership he can barely stand.

CaseyL,

I know that Ben Nelson (FL) is on the above list of shame, but he did introduce an amendment that would have exempted debtors from means testing if their financial hardship was caused by identity theft.

In thinking about all this, I'm definitely open to the argument that people should be held responsible for their own financial carelessness. I just don't think it justifies the changes this bill makes.

But here you've got a clear situation where someone can face bankruptcy through no fault of their own. Considering, as you say, the enormous burden already placed on the victim of identity theft, you'd think it would be a no-brainer to exempt these victims of fraud from having to face a more punitive form of bankruptcy.

Rejected 61-37.

I really don't understand this.

CaseyL,

I know that Ben Nelson (FL) is on the above list of shame, but he did introduce an amendment that would have exempted debtors from means testing if their financial hardship was caused by identity theft.

In thinking about all this, I'm definitely open to the argument that people should be held responsible for their own financial carelessness. I just don't think it justifies the changes this bill makes.

But here you've got a clear situation where someone can face bankruptcy through no fault of their own. Considering, as you say, the enormous burden already placed on the victim of identity theft, you'd think it would be a no-brainer to exempt these victims of fraud from having to face a more punitive form of bankruptcy.

Rejected 61-37.

I really don't understand this.

oops. my apologies to all for the double post.

Does anyone know how many people have huge debts which were incurred by someone else, via ID theft? And how many of them wind up having to declare bankruptcy as a result?

Good point, Casey. I wonder how many of the 100,000+ people who recently got screwed because ChoicePoint gave all their info to identity thieves are now going to get screwed again by this bill?

I'll admit to being totally confused about the identity theft issue. My understanding is that you are not responsible for the debts incurred by the identity thief. Are we talking (above) about cases where the identity theft triggerred a bankruptcy even if you remove the debts of the thief? (I'm sure that could happen, I'm just wondering if I was wrong about the identity theft debt issue.)

Lincoln Chafee's pretty much ending his career for a party whose leadership he can barely stand.

I'd wondered about the eerie Republican discipline, too, especially on all the ameliorating amendments. I attribute it to contributions, past and anticipated, from the financial corps pushing the bill (same as what's pushing all other Sens on the wrong side).

The only silver lining in this bit of overreach is that it opens the door to Dem. advocacy of the only policies that can undo the effects: universal national health care and tax shifting and simplification. It's what people thought they were voting for in 1992. With a real grassroots at the table now, maybe the party can put together something bold enough to be effective (as politics and policy).

Thanks, hilzoy, for the info re Stabenow. All is clear now.

The bill just passed 74 - 25.

74! 18 Dems voted for it (including Reid!), and Clinton didn't vote.

I know it was going to pass and all, but if that's the case, why not take a principled stand anyways?

Ugh.

Sebastian,

Most of the evidence I've read for identity theft contributing to bankruptcy has been anecdotal, so take it for what it's worth.

You're correct that the victim is not responsible under the law for debts incurred by the thief. But the process of clearing your name can be excruciatingly protracted (particularly if you discover the theft after some institutions' reporting windows have closed). I've had friends who had to fight for months to get everything squared away, and their losses were relatively minor. Sometimes, the losses are so great and the burden of proof so heavy that people turn to bankruptcy as a way out.

Another way identity theft and bankruptcy can meet in a nasty fashion is if the identity thief runs up debt and then declares bankruptcy under the stolen identity. I don't think that's what Nelson's amendment was about, but it still doesn't sound like a whole lotta fun.

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