Thursday, March 10, 2005

IN DEBT, AND FEELING BETRAYED ... Over at The American Street, eRobin posts her feelings about the passage of the bankruptcy bill, as she sits at her kitchen table trying to pay her bills:

I’ve never been to law school, but I have sat at a kitchen table facing a pile of bills and wondering which ones I could put off until the next paycheck cleared. I’ve put inescapable car repairs on a credit card, knowing I wouldn’t be able to pay the bill in full when it came the next month. I don’t read the Yale Law Journal, but I’ve called hospital billing offices to set up payment plans for multi-thousand dollar bills. In fact, I’m still paying off one of them. It’s over two years old. I don’t think I’m alone.

No, Robin, you are not alone. In fact, even though I know that millions of Americans are in debt up to their eyeballs, I still feel waves of relief washing over me when I read paragraphs like the one above and realize that I am so not alone.

I get calls from credit card collection agencies every day. I haven't put any new charges on any of my credit cards for probably about two years now, but I have not been able to pay off the thousands of dollars on those cards because my income is so low. I got a paralegal degree so I could increase my income, and all I increased was my debt: Now I have thousands of dollars in student loans that I can't repay, and no paralegal job. I wait until I get the shutoff notice from the gas and electric utility, and then I call them and finagle partial payments. I am putting together information about my "financials" so I can work out a payment plan with my mortgage company -- I haven't been able to make my February or my March house payments. I was on the verge of bankruptcy a year ago, and was saved only by a buyout from my ex-husband on our house. That money is all gone now -- spent to stop the foreclosure and pay off other debts. I have no health insurance, so I wait until May 20, when I will have been employed part-time at Barnes & Noble for a year and can qualify for their benefits plan.

And I try with all my might to keep my 15-year-old daughter from finding out how dire my financial situation is, because I know it would terrify her.

Robin says she feels betrayed by the Democrats in Congress who voted for this bankruptcy legislation, which will shut down the only avenue for debt relief available to millions of low-income and middle-income Americans, while leaving in place huge loopholes for a tiny minority of extremely wealthy individuals. I feel betrayed, too -- but feeling betrayed comes with the territory if you vote Democratic.

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