And now back to your regularly scheduled complaining

It's Black Friday, and a curmudgeon like me who is fond of neither crowds nor shopping couldn't be persuaded to head out into today's capitalist mayhem no matter what the bargain. The closest I'll come will be taking Monkey to the airport for her flight back home this afternoon, and perhaps stopping off for some orange juice to help me try to fight off this nascent cold.

Part of the reason I'm so curmudgeonly has to do with my finances. As I've written before, I'm going through bankruptcy right now, and that's hit a complication or two, because unfortunately, my lawyer, a very nice man I'd met a couple of times in person, died of a heart attack about a month ago, and his firm is based in Chicago, which makes communication a little more complicated.

That will work itself out, though I'm getting a little impatient--I'd like to get it over with and move on with my life. And it seems like some credit card companies want to help me do that.

See, the reason I decided to go ahead and declare bankruptcy was because a credit card company (I won't name it) sued me for the balance I owed them and got a judgment against me. Rather than wait for my wages to be attached or for one of my other creditors to follow in their footsteps, I decided I'd take the bankruptcy route. (The reason my credit went bad was because I had serious dental issues when I lived in California, and the choices were to pay the credit cards or pay the dental bills. I was drinking close to a third of a bottle of whiskey a night trying to kill the dental pain.) Wednesday, I received a pre-approved credit card offer in the mail--from the same company that has a judgment against me.

One of the requirements of the last bit of bankruptcy legislation is that you undergo financial counseling, so that you won't make the same mistakes again, and even though I found the program to be a little condescending, I won't say that it's a bad idea overall. If you don't understand just how quickly compound interest adds up, then it's a good program to go through. I'm just wondering why there isn't one for the credit card companies.

Okay, I'm being snarky there. The folks who run those companies know what they're doing. My offer of a credit card came with a $69 up front fee, and a $69 yearly fee, and would have had a limit of somewhere in the $300 range. This company would have figured that a person trying to reestablish his or her credit would pay a premium to do so, and if they run out on the debt, would be liable and could be hit with all kinds of fees in the process.

But is that responsible? I only ask because during the debate over the last bankruptcy bill, there was a lot of talk about personal responsibility for debtors--that was the reason for the counseling, and for the tightening of the requirements for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Consumers needed to be more responsible about their spending, I heard over and over. No talk about the companies who were extending credit.

This is a small scale example of a larger problem. The sub-prime crash we're going through right now is my situation, except with overpriced houses at stake. Mortgage lenders gave credit to people who couldn't afford to pay back the loans, and who wouldn't have qualified for them in the first place. Look, I don't qualify to have a credit card right now--that's the price I should be paying for being in bankruptcy. I'm paying that penalty, but only because it's self-imposed. I could have signed up for five or six other credit card offers in the last couple of months, if I'd been so inclined.

I don't want to make it sound like I'm some sort of self-abnegating hero for passing up the temptation. I'm just trying to point out that when credit card companies start complaining about how they're the victims of unscrupulous people who run up huge debt and then simply vanish into Chapter 7 bankruptcy--and that was the line during the last bankruptcy legislation debate--that they're part of the problem. A big part.

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