Letter to The Hartford Courant, written Nov. 7, 2002 and published Nov. 15, 2002
Democrats Should Stand Against Bankruptcy Bill
In "Democrats Stood For Nothing" [Other Opinion, Nov. 7], syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. gave examples of the Democrats' lack of ideas, courage and passion. Another example of how the Democrats lost their electoral base and deserved to lose is their standon H.R. 333, the so-called bankruptcy reform bill.
The bill, initiated by Republicans and major lenders, gathered more than enough Democratic votes, including those of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and Reps. John B. Larson and Jim Maloney, for Congress to forward the bill to the House-Senate conference committee. Democratic support came despite the opposition of bankruptcy lawyers, leading law school deans, major consumer groups and civil rights organizations, which all recognized the harshness and unfairness of the bill.
The bill would create a large class of people too well-off to file under Chapter 7, but too poor to file under Chapter 13, barring them from bankruptcy protection. Judges would lack discretion in waiving the proposed rigid means test.
In contrast: In several states, many affluent debtors would still be able to retain multimillion-dollar homes.
The late Sen. Paul Wellstone, who had not lost the way and had led the opposition toH.R. 333, wrote, "It boggles the mind that at a time when Americans are moreeconomically vulnerable, when they are most in need of protection from financial disaster,we would eviscerate the major fiscal safety net [the bankruptcy law] in our society for the middle class."
It boggles the mind that Democrats have become indistinguishable from Republicans, but it should not boggle the mind to understand their well-deserved defeat. Democrats can begin to find their way by working to defeat H.R. 333.
Jay S. Lapidus
The writer is the franchisee for We The People-Newington,a non-attorney bankruptcy preparer.