A Grand Time to be Rich and Powerful We're All In This Alone March 8, 2005March 1, 2017 It’s true Congress hasn’t raised the minimum wage in 9 years, but look on the bright side: for those receiving $1 million a year dividends, Congress has cut taxes $246,000. And here’s another good thing, as noted by the Center for American Progress: A bipartisan coalition in the Senate is determined to help the credit card industry, which took in $30 billion in profits last year. That’s why many senators are supporting a bill (S. 256) that would make it harder for average people to recover from financial misfortune by declaring bankruptcy. And they refuse to let anyone – not victims of identity theft, not those suffering from debilitating illness, not the military – get in their way. Last week the Senate rejected a series of amendments to the bankruptcy bill that would have, among other things, closed loopholes for the wealthy, cracked down on predatory lending practices and protected the homes of those who were facing bankruptcy from medical bills. (For more on the bill, check out this memo by American Progress CEO John Podesta).There is no more time to waste – a final vote on this bill is scheduled for tomorrow [today]. Write your senators now and demand that they oppose the bankruptcy bill. From John Podesta’s memo, in part: The real bankruptcy challenge isn’t the 4 percent of debtors who abuse the system. The real crisis is the 96 percent who are broke when they file for bankruptcy. Two million Americans go bankrupt every year-1 every 15 seconds. If current trends continue, 1 in 7 families with children will go bankrupt by the end of the decade. These rising bankruptcy levels directly correlate with rising levels of consumer debt. And those rising debt levels in turn reflect a tectonic shift in our economy-away from a time when families could afford to save, and into a time when their wages are stagnant (+12% since 1978) but the costs of their health premiums (+163% since 1988), their tuitions (+170% since 1978), their mortgages, and their child care have risen dramatically. Because of all these trends, families stand on a precipice, and one sickness or pink slip sends them off the cliff, with no safety net below. Shutting down access to bankruptcy courts of course does absolutely nothing to address these challenges… While conservatives press ugly and inaccurate stereotypes about the “deadbeats” who typically go broke, progressives should tell the truth about an economy that no longer works for the middle class. Under Bill Clinton (to whom Podesta was chief of staff from 1998 through to the end of his term), taxes on folks at the top were raised; the minimum wage was raised; the earned income tax credit was raised . . . and although the rich still did better at a faster rate, after tax, than everyone else, everyone else did better, too. It was a good time to be an American of any economic stratum. Under George Bush and the Republican Congress, it’s been a grand time to be rich and powerful – no one can dispute that. But it’s become increasingly tough if you’re not. One of you writes: Roublen Vesseau: “I can understand toughening bankruptcy laws in the abstract. But I cannot understand any Senator of conscience not making an exception of people who are bankrupted by medical emergencies. I cannot understand any Senator of conscience opposing treating bankrupt veterans with a little bit of leniency. And most of all, I cannot imagine any Senator of conscience who supports toughening bankruptcy laws, yet opposes attempts to crack down on the most egregious abuses of bankruptcy law, e.g. ‘asset protection trusts.’ “I remember when OJ Simpson was found liable for the deaths of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown, he was able to shirk making payments due to clever manipulation of bankruptcy laws. Now, if this bill passes, OJ Simpson will continue to go scot-free, playing golf and living his comfortable lifestyle, while some middle class family will feel the lash of usury and the debt spiral, some uninsured person will have to think twice about going to the emergency room. “It would be easy to dismiss these Senators as scoundrels and crooks. But they aren’t, or at least not all of them. How can they justify their support of this bill, and in particular how can they justify their votes on the specific amendments? After voting this way, how do they manage to shave themselves in the morning?” ☞ I don’t know. How does Florida governor Jeb Bush shave in the morning having opposed a hike in the minimum wage, having fought so hard to keep from reducing classroom size (some Florida students are crammed 40 to a class), having slashed drug treatment programs – yet all the while having cut by 75% the Intangible Property Tax . . . the one tax which applies only to the richest among us? What kind of society are we becoming? George Bush claims Christ as his favorite philosopher. Has he read the Sermon on the Mount? The Democrats, to one degree or another, operate on the general principle that we’re all in this together. That can be taken to extremes, to be sure; but my own feeling is that from 1993 to 2000 we had struck a pretty successful balance. The Republicans operate on the general principle that (to borrow Senator Dick Durbin’s characterization) “we’re all in this alone.” But you and I? What do we care? We don’t pay credit card interest or suffer $29 fees for being a week late on an $85 payment. It is a grand time to be rich and powerful in America, and it looks as if for the next few years it will only get better.