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The “bankruptcy reform” bill “passed the House on a 302-126 vote on Thursday, a month after the Senate voted 74-25” (Marcy Gordon/Associated Press, “Congress Passes Bankruptcy Reform Bill,” The Guardian 15 Apr. 2005). Techpolitics reports that not only did 73 House Democrats vote for the bill but those who voted for it “included 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, 13 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, 2 Progressive Caucus members and all but 3 Blue Dogs” (“Bankruptcy Bill Vote: 109th Congress, 1st Session,” April 14, 2005).
Be sure to look at Techpolitics’ table of the bankruptcy vote, which sorts the data by “caucus, vote, party and Representative as well as by the median household income for the congressional district in the 2000 census” (“Bankruptcy Bill Vote: 109th Congress, 1st Session,” April 14, 2005).
The most important vote, however, was taken on March 8, 2005, on the “Motion to Invoke Cloture on Bill S. 256,” which passed 69-31. That was “the only vote that opponents of the bill had a chance of winning” in the words of Paul Krugman (“The $600 Billion Man,” New York Times 15 Mar. 2005). Remember the 14 Democratic Senators who voted Yea, to cut off the debate on the bankruptcy bill and make it impossible to filibuster it:
This is a bill that finance and credit companies have long sought for. Observe how they radically increased their bribes over the last several years: “Finance/Credit Companies: Long-Term Contribution Trends”
How the finance and credit industry bought the “bankruptcy reform” is one of the clearest proofs that America is a plutocracy, not a democracy. While it is important to attempt to replace the Democratic Senators and Representatives who voted for debt slavery by men and women who are actually committed to upholding the interests of the heavily indebted US working class, electoral politics alone will not break open the virtual debtors’ prison that the “bankruptcy reform” will soon create.
Money wins elections, more than 90% of the time: “In 95 percent of House races and 91 percent of Senate races . . . , the candidate who spent the most money won, according to a post-election analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. . . . The biggest spender was victorious in 415 of 435 decided House races and 31 of 34 decided Senate races. On Election Day 2002, top spenders won 95 percent of House races and 76 percent of Senate races” (Opensecret.org, “2004 Election Outcome: Money Wins,” 3 Nov, 2004).
It is time for the American wing of the global justice movement, which has been struggling to force the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to drop the debt under which peasants and workers of the global South groan, to take on the finance and credit industry that oppresses US workers by usury. Source: Patrick McGeehan, “The Plastic Trap: Soaring Interest Compounds Credit Card Pain for Millions” (New York Times 21 Nov. 2004)
Proclaim liberty to the captives, and open the prison to them that are bound (Isa. 61:12) — at home and abroad. Why not begin this weekend, when global justice activists gather in Washington D.C. to protest the 2005 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund? Unless and until US activists of the global justice movement begin to connect the debt burden on US workers with that on workers and peasants in poor nations, the movement will never grow beyond usual suspects.
Charity, an exercise in altruism, need not begin at home, but class struggle that has a winning chance surely does.
YOSHIE FURUHASHI is an activist in Columbus, Ohio and author of the blog Critical Montages.