Morally Bankrupt

The United States credit card industry rakes in $2.5 billion a month in profits — largely in fees and interest charged to the American consumer. But the industry’s thirst for additional profits is insatiable. The industry is pushing for a bill that would deny bankruptcy relief to “people with low or moderate incomes who have fallen on hard times because of illness, job loss or divorce.” Meanwhile, the bill does nothing to stop “abusive lending practices by credit card companies.” The overwhelming majority of Americans do not become bankrupt by purchasing Rolex watches and plasma TVs. The leading cause: getting sick. A Harvard University study found that half of all respondents “said that illness or medical bills drove them to bankruptcy.” Another group saddled with credit card debt — largely due to costs out of its control — is the nation’s elderly. Between 1992 and 2001, “the number of older Americans filing for bankruptcy tripled.” Why are members on both sides of the aisle willing to sell out the sick and the poor to pad the profits of the credit card industry? Follow the money. Over the last four years credit card companies have contributed $24.8 million to congressional and presidential candidates. MBNA — the company leading the industries hardball lobbying campaign — was the largest single contributor ($240,675) to President Bush’s reelection campaign. It’s a reasonable investment; if the bill passes it is expected to “add $75 million a year to MBNA’s bottom line.”