Apr 28, 2008

Use Your Tax Rebate to File Bankruptcy

On January 23, I wrote in this blog that people ought to use their rebate check to file bankruptcy. I pointed out that past attempts to stimulate the economy in this manner had pretty much failed, due to the fact that people used the money to pay down their debt, and that this time the loan sharks would gobble up most of the government's gifts hook, line, and sinker. In an April 25, 2008 Associated Press article by Tom Raum, President Bush is reported to have said the money would help Americans cope with rising gasoline and food prices, as well as aid a slumping economy. According to the article, Sen Charles Schumer (D. N.Y) responded: "It's galling to think that taxpayers' stimulus checks will be lining the pockets of OPEC. The sad truth is that the average American family will spend almost their entire stimulus check on higher gas prices this year." Let's say it like it is: George Bush (and, not so coincidentally, most of Congress) is giving their oil buddies a $150 billion tax rebate. It may be in your bank account for one brief moment, but it will quickly be recycled into the major oil companies' coffers. All of this takes place in the context of the worst housing slump since the depression, record foreclosure numbers, and a recession in many -- if not all -- states. My earlier proposal makes even more sense now. It will help folks who really need help and will serve to make our economy stronger. Everyone with significant debt (which is just about everyone) should use his or her rebate check to file for bankruptcy. The entire process can cost as little as $600 for people who represent themselves (which many currently do, with paperwork help from paralegals and targeted legal advice from lawyers). And even if you choose to hire a lawyer to represent you, the proposed rebates will definitely give you a good start on the fees, especially if you are married. Bankruptcy has been around since biblical times, and has long been recognized as an important component of the capitalist economy in that it restores debtors to the consumer marketplace. Specifically, bankruptcy gets rid of credit card and most other kinds of debt (exceptions are alimony and child support; most student loans; recent taxes; and debts caused by fraudulent or willful and malicious actions). Most people are solvent for the first time in years when they emerge from bankruptcy, and once again are able purchase goods and services without going into more debt. Just imagine how the economy would hum if consumers were freed from the punishing interest rates that often creep over 30% for technical violations of credit contracts. By filing bankruptcy, people will use their government checks to improve their own balance sheet, instead of donating their money to the oil companies and the fat cats who use the large credit corporations to bleed us dry. While it's true that mass bankruptcy filings would tighten rather than loosen consumer credit, it can't get much tighter. Anyway, it's not a bad idea for us to break our national addiction to debt and learn to pay as we go.

To learn more about using bankruptcy laws effectively, see The New Bankruptcy: Will It Work for You?, by Stephen Elias (Nolo).