On bankruptcy bills and credit cards
It's been all over the blogosphere--Josh Marshall, Atrios, Ezra Klein, and Big Media Matt among others have been pushing this story all day, and for the last week or two. It's a shitty bill, no question, for lots of people who have one thing in common.
They care about their credit.
That's where we part ways. I don't care about my credit. I've been in credit hell before and I'm heading back there again--one of those credit card companies that will make out like a bandit from this bill offered me a card five years ago, and then kept offering to increase the credit limit (an offer I took every time) until my credit limit was--and I'm not shitting you here--more than fifty percent of my annual income. Fifty-eight percent, to be exact, and that wasn't my only card. In fact, at one point, I had revolving credit lines that exceeded my annual pre-tax income. Now I spent the money on those credit lines--no question about that--but what's the penalty to the credit card companies that extended that credit to me when no sane lender would have done so? Apparently, none whatsoever.
Except for this one. The big card, the one with the outrageous limit that I never should have gotten in the first place? I'm shining them now, because I can't afford to pay them. I've walked away from debt in the past without going into bankruptcy, and I'll do it again, because it is possible to survive without credit in this society, believe it or not. I've got an answering machine on my landline (a line I use only for dsl service, so I don't even keep the ringer on) and I let the Mooninites talk to the bill collectors and the telemarketers. They're coming for you, and they're coming drunk, in the night, sweating beer. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, Aqua Teen Hunger Force season three extras and that's all I'm saying about that.)
I guess my point is this--lots of people on the short end of the economic spectrum get shafted by these bastards all the time, and a big part of the reason is because they think they're playing by the rules. Well here's what I've learned: the lending game isn't a Marquess of Queensbury boxing match--it's a brawl outside the bar at 2:00 a.m. and the lenders have thirty of their closest friends with baseball bats and chains on their sides and you've got... your ass, and that's about all. Did I forget to mention that in this scenario, you're in a wheelchair and only have three fingers left on the hand that's on the one arm you still have? That's what you're facing, and now, Congress is about to break those fingers, so you can forget whatever jedi mind trick jujitsu you were about to pull.
Your only weapon is the refusal to pay, and the willingness to tell these credit companies that you can live without them if they don't want to play fair. The only way we'll be able to stop predatory lending practices and usurious interest rates is if those of us at the bottom--the ones they're preying on--deecide we don't need to carry a gold card around, and that we'll make do with what we can pay cash for. It worked for the survivors of the Great Depression--it can work for us.