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Bankruptcy Bill Draws Line In Sand for Dems

Judging by the mainsteam media coverage, you wouldn't think the votes to pass the Bankruptcy bill (S. 256) in the U.S. Senate were all that important. NBC's Meet the Press and ABC's This Week, for example, lavished substantial air time on the steroids in baseball issue, but zilch on the Bankruptcy bill, which will affect the economic well-being of millions of working people. The mainstream print media, with a few notable exceptions (liberal columnists Molly Ivins, Paul Krugman and David Broder), was only marginally better.

The Bankruptcy Bill ranks high on any list of the 10 most odious pieces of legislation considered in recent years, "a nightmare for the poorest of the poor and the weakest of the weak," in the words of Senator Edward Kennedy. Kennedy also noted:

It favors the credit card companies, the giant banks and the big car loan companies at every turn. It favors the worst of the credit industry -- the interest rate gougers, the payday lenders, and the abusive collection agencies. It hurts real people who lose their savings because of a medical crisis, or lose their jobs because of outsourcing, or suffer major loss of income because they were called up for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. It protects corporate interests at the expense of the needs of real people.

It does absolutely nothing about the glaring abuses of the bankruptcy system by the executives of giant companies like Enron and Worldcom and Polaroid, who lined their own pockets, but left thousands of employees and retirees out in the cold.

It favors companies like MBNA, a top credit card issuer, with over $80 billion in loans, and which has contributed $7 million to federal candidates - half a million dollars to President Bush alone, and spent over $20 million in lobbying, since 1997, when their lobbyists wrote this bill.

Despite the comparative indifference of the traditional media, the liberal blogs and political websites were smoldering last week with heated coverage of the Bankruptcy Bill votes, (See Salon's Warroom, Gadflyer, Democrats.com and liberaloasis, for example)-- and rightly so because few bills now before Congress do more to violate the "first principles" of the Democratic Party. Certainly opposing multi-billion dollar transfers of wealth from poor and working people to corporations and the rich ought to be a "first principle" strongly reflected in Democratic political strategy.

Regrettably, however, 18 Democrats voted with the Republicans for cloture and/or final passage, including Senators Lieberman, Bayh and Biden, who are frequently mentioned as possible Presidential candidates in '08. No Republicans voted against cloture or the bill. As Kennedy said, "This bankruptcy bill is mean-spirited and unfair. In anything like its present form, it should and will be an embarrassment to anyone who votes for it." House of Reps Dems, Take note.