We discussed the evils of proposed bankruptcy reform below. The Senate is pushing through the bill, and have killed all reasonable amendments, including one to exempt military personnel, to carve out a safety net for those who file bankruptcy due to medical catastrophe, and Kennedy's amendment to raise the minimum wage, among others. In an hour or so, at 1:15 central time, the vote on cloture will occur. Democrats are in a caucus lunch at this time. If they cannot stay united and defeat the cloture vote, this bill will pass the Senate and will have smooth sailing in the House. Krugman discusses the importance of this vote today:
When everything else goes wrong, Americans can still get a measure of relief by filing for bankruptcy - and rising insecurity means that they are forced to do this more often than in the past. But Congress is now poised to make bankruptcy law harsher, too.This is a difficult issue for Democrats because so many Americans are convinced that any and all financial debts are moral issues. And, since we are all in a land of equal opportunity, any request to come out from under those liabilities is not a sign of weakness and suffering so much as it is an immoral act of irresponsibility. This bill in many ways sums up the Republican surge of the last 12 years. There is still a chance the cloture vote can be defeated. 41 votes are needed. Stay tuned. A helpful blog devoted to the bankruptcy bill is here.
Warren Buffett recently made headlines by saying America is more likely to turn into a "sharecroppers' society" than an "ownership society." But I think the right term is a "debt peonage" society - after the system, prevalent in the post-Civil War South, in which debtors were forced to work for their creditors. The bankruptcy bill won't get us back to those bad old days all by itself, but it's a significant step in that direction.
And any senator who votes for the bill should be ashamed.
[UPDATE] The cloture vote passed I'm sorry to say, 69 -31. Democrats voting to keep the Republican war on the poor rolling along included: Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), Carper and Biden (DE--home of MBNA), Lieberman (CT), Byrd (WV), Landrieu (LA), Lincoln and Pryor (AR), Stabenow (MI), Johnson (SD), Conrad (ND), Kohl (WI), and Salazar (CO).
In truth, there are only 31 Democrats in the US Senate. Mental note for 2008: Clinton voted for poor people; Biden voted to strengthen the hammer of the credit industry.