I resisted half a dozen urges to post a political entry today, despite several that left me seething. My straw came in the form of a mailing from “Florida’s Working Families.” It was an attack on the congressional voting record of the Democratic nominee for Governor in Florida, Jim Davis.
As anyone can tell you, misleading attack adds are a dime a dozen during election season. What makes them worse – and WAY, WAY more prevelent – are all of the Political Action Committees who do all of the dirty work for a given candidate, granting him or her “plausible deniability” against the charge of “going negative” in an election. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Republicans are worse than Democrats when it comes to slinging mud (even if they do have more money, which means they can mail out more of it). Nobody’s hands are clean, and my intent with this entry is not to demonize one party or the other. This is just an example that jumped out, because I was very familiar with the issue being misrepresented.
Among other charges (of which I’m less familiar, and have no inclination to research now), it states: “JIM DAVIS voted against limiting the amount of interest credit card companies can charge; squeezing working families and the middle class after taking nearly $400,000 in campaign cash from corporate banking interests.” There was a little, superscript “4” next to this sentence, referring to the fine print: “S. 256: April 14, 2005.”
The reason I was pissed off (besides everything else that happened today), was that I knew what Senate Bill 256 (2005) was… it was more commonly known as the: “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.” Anyone paying attention to the 109th Congress knew that this was one of the big news makers of the year… and that it was well known that the bill had two PRIMARY, practical effects: it made it harder to file for bankruptcy, and it made fewer debts dischargeable in bankruptcy proceedings. Depending on your political leanings, you may or may not have thought this was a good idea… but think of it in light of the charge against Davis. Considering credit card companies and banks had a HUGE stake in what debts can be discharged (given that much of those debts are owed to them), and Davis voted against the bill that would keep more of that debt in tact… that $400,000 in campaign contributions to Davis wasn’t very well spent, was it? If I recall correctly, the banking and credit card industries (which are mostly one and the same) were lobbying really-really hard FOR this bill. I figure working and middle class families probably had a lot at stake too. I may be wrong, but my guess is they are the LARGEST group of folks who file for bankruptcy… since they are the largest group of the US population. A working family who falls on hard times, through no fault of their own, would probably like to discharge debt in a bankruptcy, duh? I’m really going out on a limb here, but they might even like to be able to file in the first place.
It is true that part of the bill sought to reduce the amount of interest credit card companies charge, in order to help reduce the number of filings in the first place, but I still think it’s disingenuous (at best) to make the claim Davis was against capping credit card interest rates. That’s only one part of the bill. Considering that banks and credit card industries were lobbying for the bill, and banks and credit card companies often have this hang-up over WANTING TO MAKE MONEY… which do you suppose they stood to lose more money over: the reduction in credit card interest rates, or debts that continued to get discharged in bankruptcy proceedings. It doesn’t take a math major to figure that a bank could make up a reduction in interest rates with an increase in VOLUME (of debt still owed). It’s the same principle that allows Wal-Mart to drive out competition in the old retail “downtowns” of years gone by. Given the answer to that question, which outcome do you suppose was more in favor of working and middle class families? What’s good for the collector can’t be good for the debtor too.
The Democratic Party is far from perfect, but the economic issues of the working class (and working poor) are the bread and butter of the Democratic Party (re: universal health care, minimum wage increases, etc). I have no doubt that 100% of the Democratic Congress would vote yes on a bill that did nothing BUT cap interest rates on credit cards, and would have on this bill too if a big target of this bill wasn’t working class families who file for bankruptcy (or used to anyway).
I’m done now. I’m giving up politics for a while (I’m going to try anyway)… it’s just too damn depressing.
**Author’s note: I guess I wasn’t done. It’s an hour later and I’ve posted about 15 or so revisions of this entry since it was first posted at quarter to ten. Now I’m really done – if for no other reason than my fingers are starting to really hurt.