TheQfactor
Wednesday, September 14
 
The Graft Goes On
By Molly Ivins, AlterNet, September 14, 2005

Here's a good idea: Consumer groups and progressive congressfolks have joined in an effort to stop hundreds of thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina from being further harmed by the new Bankruptcy Act, scheduled to take effect Oct. 17. This law was notoriously written by and for the consumer credit industry, and is particularly onerous for the poor.

The bill was passed with massive support from the Republican leadership in Congress and from a disgusting number of sellout Democrats. While it was being considered in committee earlier this year, Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee offered an amendment to protect victims of natural disasters. It was defeated, without debate, on a party-line vote.

Now, Congress has a chance to rethink some of the most punitive parts of the bill. Katrina victims who were planning to file before the new law goes into effect are S.O.L. -- where are they gonna find a lawyer, let alone an open courthouse?

Under the new law, anyone whose income is over the state median must file under Chapter 13, a more restrictive category that requires some repayment of debt. The new law grants no exemption for natural disaster, even though it's going to be a little tough for some citizen sitting in the Astrodome who no longer has a home to come up with tax statements, pay stubs, and six months of income and expense data. Let's see if Congress can manage to open its marble heart on this issue.

Meanwhile, it's an ill wind that blows no one good, so we should not be surprised to learn the first winner out of the gate on Katrina is none other than the Halliburton Co., whose deserving subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root has already been granted a $29.8 million contract for cleanup work in the wake of Katrina.

Of course, no one would suggest Halliburton and its subsidiaries get government contracts (more than $9 billion for reconstruction work in Iraq, with Pentagon audits thus far showing $1.03 billion in "questioned" costs and $422 million in "unsupported costs") just because Vice President Cheney is still on the payroll. Heavens no. The veep continues to receive deferred pay from the company he formerly headed -- $194,852 last year.
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