Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bankruptcy Laws That Are Debtor Friendly - Why It's Easier For Congress to Throw Money Up in the Air

By Alex Wathen

My perspective may be different than in Washington, but as a San Antonio bankruptcy attorney I cannot agree with how things are done on Capitol Hill. Back in 2005 the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act BAPCPA passed with the blessing of 74 senators both Republican and Democrat. Now that our economy has gone south it still seems to difficult for Congress to do the right thing. They do not hesitate to spend trillions of dollars on bailouts benefiting corporate America, yet they cannot seem to enact simple reforms that benefit regular Americans such as those who need to modify their home mortgages.

The mortgage modification bill only garnered the support of 45 senators, none of whom were Republican and a number of Democrats also defected. The stimulus on the other hand even got Republican votes. The problem is that the stimulus bills have mortgaged all of our futures throwing money up in the air and hoping it will land in the right place. The mortgage modification bill would cost the tax payers very little but would not only benefit consumers but it would also fix the mortgage industry and cut their losses from empty homes. The industry cannot fix itself because their hands are tied behind their backs due to contracts with the investors who bought securities backed by the mortgages.

In this morning's weekly radio address, President Obama emphasized the need to pass the credit card disclosure bill. This bill even though it sounds good is of marginal help to consumers. While it would put the breaks on retroactively changing interest rates on existing balances and require more upfront disclosures, it will only take a small dent of out the credit card debt of most consumers. Even if Congress would fail to pass it consumers would still get these benefits in the form of a regulation rather than a statute.

The question is why did Obama not stand up for the mortgage modification bill. Why did he not help line up the votes in the Senate. How could he not use any political capital to get the nine Democrats who voted no to vote yes including recent convert Senator Specter. How about the two moderate Republican Senators from Maine? Obama did not deliver passage of S. 61 because it was not a priority to him. Ironically that the one thing that could probably have made the most difference for the economy and the most people in distress was not a priority for our President. That is sad indeed.

Alex Wathen is a San Antonio bankruptcy attorney with offices in San Antonio and Houston. He is Board Certified in Consumer Bankruptcy Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and serves on the Board's Bankruptcy Exam Commission. He also represents clients in a number of bankruptcy appeals. He frequently argues cases before federal courts of appeal and is a frequent speaker at seminars. You can follow him on Twitter at SABankruptcy, as well as FedCourtAppeal and FightTexTickets.

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