April 19, 2021

John Oliver explains how bankruptcy "reform" led to a system that made it almost impossible for it to be used by the people who need it the most. Via Slate:

This week, Last Week Tonight walked its audience through America’s byzantine system of personal bankruptcy. It turns out it’s a lot more complicated than The Office led us to believe! It also turns out Joe Biden, who is currently president, made a bad situation a whole lot worse back in his Senator from MasterCard days. It’s not surprising to discover that yet another American institution is glommed up with a bunch of rickety scams targeting poor people and minorities, nor is it surprising that Democrats were shoveling cash to the rich just as quickly as anyone else, but I don’t think anyone was expecting John Oliver to do an extended impersonation of Julianne Moore at the pharmacy from Magnolia this weekend, so there is at least one surprise here, which I’ve just spoiled. Check it out!

The real villains in this story are—well, okay, they’re the usual gang of rich ghouls who profit from everyone else’s misery. But the most enraging villains are people like Suze Orman and Kevin O’Leary, who understand exactly how the financial system works, but nevertheless encourage poor people to feel guilty about availing themselves of one of the very few options they have to escape ruinous debt. That kind of shaming and social pressure—as though anyone should care about disappointing Bank of America on a personal level!—keeps people making minimum payments for decades instead of cutting their losses and walking away. Moral bankruptcy is also a thing.

I recently spoke with a woman whose son, a college student, incurred huge medical bills from being hospitalized with covid. She said she didn't know how he could ever pay it off. "Look, it's $1800 to file for bankruptcy," I said. "It's a no-brainer."

Well, she was shocked. "We're not that kind of people," she said.

"What kind of people do you mean?" I said. "Not like multimillionaires and billionaires?"

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