Friday, March 11, 2005

No Deficit of Chutzpah on Capitol Hill

Yesterday, the Senate passed legislation that would tighten bankruptcy laws, making it harder for bankrupt parties to dissolve their debts in court. The sentiment behind the bill was that bankruptcy was being abused to shield gamblers, compulsive shoppers, spendthrifts, and deadbeat dads. In short, it would be unfair for the majority of honest Americans who pay their debts to have to shoulder the burden of those who have been irresponsible in overspending their means. Meanwhile, the House and Senate budget committees have both submitted budget plans that slow the growth of spending ("cut" may be too strong a word), while continuing to cut taxes. By making optimistic assumptions about economic growth, while keeping the costs of Iraq, Afghanistan, intended further tax cuts, and intended Social Security fixes off the books, they can stretch to make a claim to cut the deficit in half (relative to an inflated starting point) by 2009, a claim that requires some serious suspension of disbelief. Some Congressmembers, concerned about responsible spending, proposed amendments to the budget bill to require a balanced budget and a "pay-go" provision: no tax cuts without offsetting spending cuts, and no spending money we don't have. But while Senators pontificated about saving America from irresponsible spendthrifts in the bankruptcy courts, their colleagues down the hall were roundly defeating a balanced budget amendment that was about saving America from the irresponsible spendthrifts in the Congress. I note that the new bankruptcy bill requires bankrupt consumers to pay for their own credit counseling. Perhaps we can find a little money in the budget to pay for credit counseling for members of Congress. Or just put it on the national credit card, like everything else.

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