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ISN'T THAT A MORAL ISSUE?

Marvin Clark
Jan. 10, 2006



Today I counseled a man in my office and had to explain to him why I couldn't help him, in spite of his dire need. The Republican Congress passed a horrible mistake as law for the benefit of the world's wealthiest elites and to the detriment of good people just like my client who fall on hard circumstances through no fault of their own. The law that I am referring to is the new Bankruptcy law.

Lets not fool ourselves. The Republican majority in Congress is there only because of the Christian vote. In my state, one church and its pastor basically controls the Republican party. Republican candidates are paraded in front of that congregation on Sunday mornings... which is televised live. When I telephoned that pastor last year, before the Bankruptcy Reform Act became law, he claimed total ignorance of the proposed Bankruptcy reforms and passed me off to his lieutenant, "who takes care of the political issues." That lieutenant quickly retorted, "The proposed Bankruptcy law! We don't know anything about that. We're only interested in moral issues!"

When I explained to the preacher that he had responsibility for the Congress that he had helped to elect, he abruptly cut short our conversation.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost, and I am sending them to roost above those who helped to create a terrible problem for all of us.

Before the new law was made effective on October 17, 2005, our state normally saw about 1,500 bankruptcies per year. Since October 17, 2005, only 22 have been filed state-wide. People still are going broke at the same rate as before. But the new law didn't just end bankruptcy abuse, it has ended bankruptcy relief by placing it beyond the reach of those who need it the most. Isn't that a moral issue?

In the past, those down on their luck were given a clean start. That was our heritage as Americans ever since this nation was founded. No one could be pressed into slavery by being kept in perpetual poverty. We outlawed debtor's prisons and gave debtors their fresh start in life. But not anymore. Now, America is to become a virtual debtor's prison because of Christian support for our Republican Congress. Remember, the man said,"We're only interested in moral issues!"

I attended a three hour seminar recently to learn how the lawyer should handle the "means test" that is imposed under the new regime. That is form B22A (Chapter 7). The U.S. Trustee for Alaska presided. What we learned was that the new law "presumes" bankruptcy abuse by the debtor unless that presumption is rebutted in form B22A. My impression is that typical middle-class Americans won't rebut the test unless they go without any income for a very long time, perhaps as long as 6 months during which their overall situation can worsen dramatically. Basically , "abuse" is presumed unless the debtor can prove a negative: that he can't even scrape up an extra $100.00 per month to pay creditors. Excuse me, but almost anyone could live off of rice alone, if necessary, and still have $100.00 at the end of the month. But is that what Christians want to tell parents to do to their children? Isn't this a moral issue?

Furthermore, under the old law the debtor got a fresh start in my law office for $1,200.00. Today I must charge the bankrupt debtor $3,000.00 because of all of the extra hazards imposed upon lawyers by the new law. Lawyers have been made liable by the new law if the client lies to him about his finances. So the lawyer needs to investigate every dot and tiddle if he wants to stay out of trouble. At $225.00 per hour, just how much can be done even for $3,000.00? Many lawyers now refuse to do bankruptcies for this reason alone. When the poor are condemned to poverty because everyone has been made afraid to plead their cases, isn't that a moral issue?

Finally, if the debtor tries to overcome the presumption of abuse, every credit card company and creditor now has standing to file motions for dismissal during that process. Just how many such attacks can a lawyer meet, even for $3,000.00? And if the credit card company lawyer can show where a debtor could come up with a meezly $100.00 per month, guess who will be ordered to pay attorney fees for all of the fat credit card lawyers? Not the debtor, but the debtor's lawyer–right out of his own pocket. Now, just how many lawyers will go there for their clients? When every lawyer is forced to protect the well-being of his own family at the expense of poor people, isn't that a moral issue?

With cheap products from China pressing American workers with mortgages, can an American pastor comprehend where our economy is headed? Christian pastors told their members who to vote for. Christians elected our Congress based upon those recommendations. If poverty is not a "moral issue," then that pastor and his "lieutenant" from Alaska (both of whom are sunning their own behinds in Hawaii on January 11, 2006) need to be recycled through Bible college.

Look, Christians have been given temporary political power in America. But that power won't last long if ordinary people can't get back on their feet after economic failures. I am not a Democrat, but I believe the Democrats and all that goes with them might be back in power quickly if Christians don't correct this travesty.

Please e-mail this letter to as many people as possible!

Sincerely,

Marvin Clark


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