Bankruptcy law just needs few changes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2005

America loves its plastic. No, we're not talking about the scientific wonder that protects our food, holds our cars together and a few thousand other things.

No, the plastic about which we speak is any of a litany of thin, tiny wonders: Credit cards. And the small slivers are killing us.

Americans love these things. We should, too. Credit card companies have been luring us with their promises of a better life, one filled with lots of "stuff."

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Each year, thousands of Americans find themselves buried beneath their debt. The majority of their debt is often in the form of credit card bills.

Often, these folks choose bankruptcy as a way out of their debt. A chapter 7 bankruptcy, in which the full amount of debts is erased, is the preferred way out for many bankrupt individuals.

A new bill passed by the Senate this month and headed for the House next month would offer less wiggle room for these heavy spenders by tightening up the bankruptcy law.

Under the new legislation, would-be bankruptcy filers must pass an income test. If a person's income level was deemed sufficient, the person would be forced to file a bankruptcy under Chapter 13 and thus be forced into a debt repayment plan.

On the surface, we think the proposed law is a good thing. We applaud making the law more focused in an attempt to make people pay their debts and have accountability for their actions.

But one thing we'd like to see added to the law would be an exception clause.

We'd like the House to include a provision that would make credit card companies a little less quick to offer credit to any Tom, Dick or Harry. How many credit card offers have you received this week in the mail, through television or in e-mail?

These companies are the financial equivalent of leeches. They latch on and suck money - often until it is too late for the victims. While obviously personal responsibility must come into play here, the credit companies add fuel to the fire by offering large amounts of unsecured credit to high-risk individuals.

Essentially, the proposed new law would bolster these awful business practices. Perhaps if the House added exclusion for the worst offenders maybe things would get better. An option: Any credit card company that stalks college campuses offering a T-shirt for signing up for credit would be the first nixed from the bankruptcy payback. Maybe that would put an end to it.