BANKRUPTCY ABUSE PREVENTION AND CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT OF 2005 -- (Senate - March 01, 2005)
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, we have a lot of urgent problems pressing the Nation and this Congress. We have urgent problems with joblessness. We have urgent problems with the coverage of health care and the costs of health care. We have urgent problems with education. We have urgent problems dealing with poverty. We have problems that go to the heart of fairness and opportunity in this Nation. These are real problems of real people, and they test whether our commitment to America's core values is as important to us as we say it is. But we are not spending this month on any of those issues. We are spending most of the time between now and the March recess on a bill that does nothing about any of these problems, that does nothing for Americans facing job problems, health problems, and education challenges. We are spending our time on a bill that was written by the credit card industry for the benefit of the credit card industry. We are spending our time on changes in the bankruptcy law which were opposed by the two distinguished national commissions which studied those laws during the 1970s and 1990s.
This is a bill which is opposed by a long list of organizations representing many millions of real people, organizations representing workers, retired Americans, consumers, women's organizations, civil rights organizations, a large group of distinguished law professors and bankruptcy judges, 1,700 prominent doctors around the country, and even some financial service organizations that are truly responsible lenders and care about their customers. I am talking about people such as the CEO of ING Direct, the sixth largest thrift institution in the Nation; people like the CEO of the second largest credit union in the U.S., the North Carolina State Employees' Credit Union.
This is what the CEO of ING Direct told the committee about the bill:
The one-sided provisions of this bankruptcy legislation are bad news for consumers, but they are also bad news for the financial service industry. Consumers are our customers. By creating a form of debt imprisonment, this bill will hobble the most important player in the world economy, the American consumer.
Jim Blaine, the CEO of the North Carolina State Employees' Credit Union, had this to say about the bill:
This bird is a turkey.
So why are we here? Why are we spending our time on this supposed resolution to a nonexistent problem rather than addressing the real problems the Nation faces? It cannot be because the credit card industry needs help. The credit card industry is doing just fine, thank you. The profits of the credit card industry rose from $6.4 billion in 1990 to $20 billion in 2000. By last year, those profits had increased another 50 percent to over $30 billion. Let me say that again. Credit card company profits have gone from $6.4 billion in 1990 to $30.2 billion last year. Why are we spending our time on legislation designed to further enrich what is already one of the most profitable industries in America at the expense of middle-income Americans in financial distress, in most cases through no fault of their own?
This is supposed to be a bill about spendthrifts, about people who abuse the credit system and abuse the bankruptcy system. If that were really what this bill was about, maybe there would be some reason for us to be here. If this were a bill that dealt with the truly incredible abuses of the bankruptcy system that we have seen in the Enron case, in the WorldCom case, in the Adelphia case, and the Polaroid case in my own State, then maybe there would be reason to be spending our time working on this bill.
Look at the Polaroid case in my home State of Massachusetts. Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in 2001. In the months leading up to the company's filing, the corporation made $1.7 million in incentive payments to its chief executive Gary DiCamillo on top of his $840,000 base salary. The company also received bankruptcy court approval to make $1.5 million in payments to senior managers to keep them on board. These managers collectively received an additional $3 million when the company's assets were sold off.
By contrast, just days before Polaroid filed for bankruptcy, it canceled health and life insurance for more than 6,000 retirees and canceled health insurance coverage for workers on long-term disability. It also stopped certain benefits for thousands of workers who were recently laid off. Polaroid workers had been required to pay 8 percent of their pay in the company's employee stock ownership plan, the ESOP programs. When the company declined, their retirement savings were virtually wiped out. Now, that is a real abuse of the bankruptcy system.
But this bill is not about consumers who abuse the system. It is not about corporate executives who have exploited the system to line their own pockets. This is a bill for which the credit card industry hopes to squeeze a few extra dollars a month out of Americans who are out on their luck, people who have been hit hard by medical disasters, guardsmen and reservists who have suddenly been called to duty to serve their Nation, forcing them to leave their families and their businesses behind, people who were fired after years of hard work because their employer sent their jobs abroad. This is not what the Senate should be doing. This legislation is not worthy of the Senate. Our time should be spent helping, not hurting, the working families most in need.
This bill does nothing to protect those hard-working Americans who did everything they could to stave off bankruptcy but were left with no other choice after exhausting their own resources. Yet this Republican bill actually makes it more difficult for good citizens such as these to get the fresh start that the bankruptcy laws are intended to offer.
The idea of a fresh start lies at the heart of our bankruptcy law. In 1833, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Storey, one of the great legal scholars in our history, explained why. He said that bankruptcy laws were intended to divide debtors' remaining assets among their creditors when they could not pay all of their debts, but the purpose was also to relieve unfortunate and honest debtors from perpetual bondage to their creditors. He said that bankruptcy legislation should relieve the debtor from a slavery of mind and body which robs his family of the fruits of his labor.
One hundred years later, the Supreme Court emphasized Justice Story's views. The Bankruptcy Act, it said, is intended to: relieve the honest debtor from the weight of oppressive indebtedness, and permit him to start afresh free from the obligations and responsibilities consequent upon business misfortunes.
The power to earn a living, the Court said, is a ``personal liberty,'' and: from the viewpoint of the wage-earner there is little difference between not earning at all and earning wholly for a creditor.
In short, the same fundamental values which led this Nation to abolish debtors' prisons, also led us to offer debtors a fresh start. They would be required to use their available assets to pay as much of their debt as they could, but no more. They would have full rights to their own future earnings, so that they would not have to live in perpetual bondage to their past debtors.
That is the essence of our free enterprise system. We encourage entrepreneurs. People can borrow money for a car to go to work, for equipment to start a small business, for a tractor to run a farm, for a boat to start a fishing business. When decent people run into financial trouble, we don't write them off forever. We help them get back on their feet so they can provide for their families and contribute to our economy once again. Otherwise, few in America take the risks that our free enterprise depends on. There is a safety net to stop a free fall.
Yet this legislation turns its back on that spirit of American entrepreneurship. It tells our citizens that they cannot get that fresh start unless they can maneuver through a maze of procedural obstacles created by the credit card companies and debt collection agencies. It imposes paperwork burdens that bankrupt Americans can not afford. It forces them to pay for credit counselors, who may be predatory themselves. It forces them to miss work to go to audits of their meager assets. It requires them to hire a lawyer to mitigate this maze, but then tells the lawyer that any error will make the lawyer personally liable.
In short, this bill does everything the mind of the purveyors of predatory plastic could think up to make their cardholders pay in full, and prevent them from getting the ``fresh start'' that bankruptcy offers them. Its purpose is to keep the credit card payments rolling in, and prevent that money from being used to feed their children or pay their hospital bills or make their mortgage payments. It labels them as abusers of the system.
Just listen to the words in the summary of the key standard for the ``means test'' that lies at the heart of this bill. According to this summary, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, you are presumed to be an abuser of the system: if current monthly income, excluding allowed deductions, secured debt payments, and priority unsecured debt payments, multiplied by 60, would permit a debtor to pay not less than the lesser of (a) 25 percent of nonpriority unsecured debt or $6000 (or $100 a month), whichever is greater, or (b) $10,000.
Maybe some people can figure that out--most cannot. But that convoluted paragraph determines whether your debts can be discharged in bankruptcy, or not.
This bill is flawed from top to bottom. That is why, since it was first presented to Congress by the credit card industry, it has been opposed by bankruptcy judges, legal scholars, consumer advocates, labor unions, and civil rights groups. They all recognize that its harsh and excessive provisions will have a devastating effect on working families.
It allows credit card companies to put their profits ahead of the well-being of our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 9-11 about half a million reservists arid members of the National Guard have been called to active duty, half a world away from their homes and businesses. Many of their families are suddenly facing economic hardship, and their creditors keep calling. They are serving far away, and the small businesses they ran are running into trouble. This bill does nothing to protect the men and women who are fighting for us.
When one reservist left home, his wife had to start leading his construction company, and the company ran into trouble. Their family income plummeted by 80 percent. They lost their savings, lost their credit, and the business is on the rocks--all because a soldier served his country. The troubles of families like that will be even more serious under this bill. Instead of helping to ease the burden, it treats that family like tax evaders or defrauders.
This Republican bill also penalizes innocent victims of today's economy. We are stil1 recovering from the 2001 recession. Nearly 8 million Americans are still unemployed. One in five of those workers has been out of work for more than 6 months. The unemployment insurance safety net they rely on has not been updated to meet today's demands. Jobs in health care, financial services, and information technology are being shipped overseas.
Workers who lose their jobs today have great difficulty finding a new job with comparable wages, benefits, hours, and overall quality. Part-time jobs don't begin to provide the same financial stability--yet today's companies are relying more and more on part-time workers to cut costs. The average part-time worker earns $4 an hour less than a regular full-time worker. Few part-time workers have a health insurance plan or a pension plan.
Huge numbers of working families are being squeezed hard by the current economy. Their ability to live the American dream is increasingly out of reach with each passing year. They find it harder and harder to earn a living--to pay the mortgage, pay the rent, pay their medical bill, pay their food bill, pay their gasoline bill, pay the college bill. Yet the cost of getting by continues to rise faster than family income.
Healthcare costs are out of reach. Health insurance premiums have soared 59 percent in the past 4 years. Drug costs have soared 65 percent.
Housing costs rose 33 percent in the last 4 years. Child care can often cost up to $10,000 a year for one child--more than the cost of tuition at a public college. College costs are rising at double-digit rates. Tuition at public colleges has risen 35 percent in the last 4 years.
Today, hardworking families are balancing on a precarious tower of bills that keep piling. Inevitably, many topple over. They go into debt just to get by. The average family now spends 13 percent of its income to pay debts--the highest percentage since 1986. The average household now has more than $8,000 in credit card debt. More than half of all Americans acknowledge they have too much debt. Three-quarters of that debt is a major reason it's harder to achieve the American dream today. It is no wonder so many families face bankruptcy.
This year, more people will end up in bankruptcy than suffer a heart attack. More people will file for bankruptcy than graduate from college. More children will grow up in families facing bankruptcy than in families facing divorce.
Many of us feel the Bush administration is bankrupt in more ways than one. Its reckless policies are bankrupting the economy and literally bankrupting millions of families. Bankruptcy is up 33 percent since President Bush took office. An American now goes bankrupt every 19 seconds. In Massachusetts, there is a bankruptcy every half hour.
One of the greatest weaknesses of this bill is its failure to address the issue of bankruptcies caused by serious illness or injury. Illness is bankrupting millions of Americans who have done everything right. They have worked hard, played by the rules, earned a good salary, saved their money, even purchased health insurance--only to find all that is not enough.
More than half of all families facing bankruptcy today are facing it because of overwhelming medical costs. They are not irresponsible spendthrifts who bought too much at the mall, or were enticed to go in over their heads in debt by a credit card solicitation they couldn't say no to. They are facing bankruptcy because of a sudden serious illness or a severe injury that caused a mountain of debt they couldn't afford.
The average American facing a serious illness is burdened with more than $13,000 of out-of-pocket expenses, even though they have health insurance. If you have cancer, it is $35,000. That is money you have to pay out of your own pocket for expenses not covered by your health insurance.
If the bill before us passes, those fellow citizens will be penalized twice--once by the failure of the health care system and a second time by the failure of the bankruptcy laws. This bill will only make the second failure even worse.
We need to make sure that bankruptcy continues to be available as a safety net for those Americans--men and women who have spent down their savings on a serious injury or illness, who face huge doctor and hospital bills their insurance didn't cover, who are unable to go back to work after suffering serious medical problems.
They are people such as April Wetherell, a 50-year-old woman from Toms River, NJ, who went back to school after raising her children and received her master's degree in social work. She was serving as a visiting nurse 2 years ago, when she suffered a stroke while recovering from knee surgery. The stroke left her unable to speak, work, or care for her own needs. At the time, April still owed $25,000 in student loans. She had been making payments faithfully on her student loans until her illness left her unable to return to her job. Her health insurance did not cover all her medical costs, and she was left with more than $20,000 in unpaid medical bills. At the time of her stroke, she had about $7,000 in credit card debt, which she had been paying off on time. Even though she had done all the right things, she was forced into bankruptcy because of her serious, incapacitating illness.
Walton Pinkney of Frederick, MD, has been an electrician for more than 10 years. He changed jobs in 2000, and his new employer did not provide health benefits for the first 90 days of employment. Sadly, Walton suffered heart failure during his first month on his new job. His new health plan had not yet taken effect, and he was responsible for more than $45,000 in medical expenses for his heart condition. He tried to return to work, but his employer said his health was too uncertain for him to return. Faced with large medical bills he could not pay after he lost his job, he had to file for bankruptcy in 2003.
Zoraya Marrero is a single mother with three children from Woodbridge, VA. Her oldest child suffers from spina bifida. She received State disability benefits and medical coverage for her child due to the illness. After moving to another State 5 years ago, she no longer qualified for new benefits, and she also had to pay back $60,000 for benefits she had already received. She has been fighting the $60,000 claim and paying her own medical expenses while working in a doctor's office. She cannot afford private insurance, and cannot afford to pay for her son's costly medical care. Overwhelmed by debt, she filed for bankruptcy.
These people had no intention of seeking relief in bankruptcy. They were not ``gaming'' the system to avoid their responsibilities. They and millions of other Americans in similar circumstances filed for bankruptcy, but only after they had exhausted all the other options--not because they wanted to but because they had to.
In fact, before declaring bankruptcy, they had spent at least 2 years, on average, making very real sacrifices in a futile effort to pay for their health care and make ends meet. One in five went without food. Almost one-third had their electricity shut off.
I am talking about individuals who went into bankruptcy as a result of medical expenses, even though about 65 percent of them had health insurance before they actually went into bankruptcy. That is what they did, according to the Elizabeth Warren report from the Harvard Law School.
One in five went without food, almost a third had their electricity shut off, almost half lost their phone service, many went without needed medical care, and some even moved their elderly parents to less comfortable nursing homes.
As this chart indicates, here is what has happened to the lavish lifestyle of our fellow citizens. These are half of all the bankruptcies at the present time. How did they live, and what did they do for 2 years before filing for bankruptcy? They went without needed medical care, 61 percent; without doctors, 50 percent; utilities turned off, 30 percent; without food, 22 percent; and 70 percent moved their elderly parents to cheaper care facilities.
These are our fellow Americans whom we want to punish with this bankruptcy bill? If you want to go after the spendthrifts, let us do that. But do you think we are going after corporate America in this bankruptcy bill? Read today's newspaper. Here it is: Former WorldCom chief executive, once hailed as one of the most brilliant telecommunications executives, told the packed courtroom, ``I don't know about technology; I don't know about finance; also, I don't know about accounting.''
There it is. The corporate CEOs will be able to escape.
But do you think these hard-working Americans are going to be able to escape anything with this bill at all to deal with WorldCom, Enron, Polaroid? There is absolutely nothing in here. Yet there is the result of what this legislation does.
Generally around here, we have legislation that is reasonably balanced. Not this piece of legislation. The most profitable industry in the country, 100-percent profits in the last 5 years, and they are out there trying to squeeze some additional money ought of these hard-working Americans. I would have thought at least a majority who were going to write this legislation here in the Senate would have tried to do something about corporate bankruptcies. But, no, no. They are letting those individuals alone, and most of those--we come back a little later to discuss how they profited--a number of them even profited after they went into bankruptcy. There is even one individual who profited after he was convicted of larceny. But we are not dealing with those particular issues.
We often talk in America about safety nets. Social Security is a safety net to guarantee financial security for senior citizens. Poverty programs are safety nets for children and families. Our bankruptcy laws are a safety net for millions of families, too.
Americans who live responsibly, do everything right, and still suddenly fall on hard times deserve a second chance, and the bankruptcy laws give them that chance. They can make a fresh start and pull themselves back up. They have renewed hope for the future.
Unexpected financial setbacks for families should not mean the end of their American dream. They should not lose all hope for themselves and their children. It's the old ``cowboy up'' philosophy--when you fall off your horse, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
When disaster strikes, when storms buffet a community, Americans respond. We see the images on television and immediately we send a donation to help out. That's the American spirit.
But when financial disaster strikes a family--when a business collapses, when medical bills pile up, when a reservist is called up for extended active duty, when workers lose their jobs because of a plant closing or outsourcing--the economic catastrophes can be hidden from view. That is where our bankruptcy laws come in. We got rid of debtors' prisons almost two centuries ago for a reason. It is the American spirit to help these families through financial disasters.
But this bill will destroy that financial safety net for many, many citizens who deserve help.
This legislation is a bonanza for banks and credit card companies, and a nightmare for millions of average Americans. It rewrites the bankruptcy laws in a way that kicks average families while they're down, in order to pad the already high profits of the credit card industry and other lenders. It is greed, pure and simple.
Predatory credit card companies are doing all they can to urge unsuspecting citizens to pile up huge debts on their credit cards. They especially target the elderly, college students, and the working poor. They advertise nationwide. They send out billions of solicitations every year to entice more people to sign up for their cards. The bold type talks about the minimum monthly payments--but you have to read the fine print to see the exorbitant interest payments that inevitably result.
You cannot go to any college campus, any sporting event, or your mailbox without being solicited for another credit card, no matter how many you already have. Young students, still in their teens, are greeted with a deluge of offers from credit card companies. Before they buy books and find the cafeteria, they see credit card offers with credit lin1its in the thousands of dollars.
So, in many cases, the very same companies that have been trying to get a bill like this passed for decades and had their lobbyists write this bill for them in 1997, are the ones who caused the indebtedness that they now complain about.
Does this bill do anything abut that? Absolutely not.
A lot has changed since the Senate last looked at this bill 4 years ago. Health costs are way up, health insurance protection is less obtainable and less affordable, hundreds of thousands of families have suffered economically from military callups, unemployment insurance has not been updated.
The economy is still working its way out of a serious downturn. Corporate mismanagement and fraud have become a way of life in the highest echelons of corporate America.
So I say to each of our colleagues, please consider who wrote this bill and why. Please think about your hard-working constituents who will be dealt a double whammy by this bill if they fall on hard times. Please think about what has happened since we last considered the bill. Please keep an open mind as we discuss the serious problems with this bill and the need for many substantial revisions and additions before it is ready to even be considered for adoption by this body.
We do not work for the credit card companies; we work for our constituents. We can do better than this bill for our constituents, and we must do better than this bill for those we represent.
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First of all, I refer to a letter from ING Direct to the American Bankers Association urging them to reconsider their support for the bill:
As a member of the American Bankers Association, ING Direct urges you to reconsider your wholesale support for the Bankruptcy Reform Bill currently before the United States Senate. ..... Yet this legislation has not received a thorough review in the last 4 years. It has simply been reproposed without careful thought. ..... It actually encourages further bad lending decisions by removing an important market discipline--the possibility of a clean bankruptcy. Without important changes, millions of consumers, who might otherwise be encouraged into debt by aggressive credit card companies and other lending. They will be unable to clear their names, even if they fall into debt because of an illness or an economic downturn that costs them their employment.
We at ING Direct believe this country is still willing to give working Americans--the engine of our economy, a second chance when debt overwhelms them. This bill seriously limits that second chance. The one-sided provisions of this bankruptcy legislation are bad news for most Americans. But they are also bad news for the financial services industry. By creating a form of debt imprisonment, this bill will hobble the most important player in the world economy-the American working family. For all these reasons, we ask you to reconsider the ABA's support of this bill in its current incarnation.
This is written by Arkadi Kuhlmann who is the president of the company. It is the sixth largest thrift savings company in the country.
The second letter is from the Consumers Union:
Much evidence suggests that rising consumer bankruptcies are tied to abusive lending practices by creditors. Yet this bill does nothing to address this fundamental problem. Instead, the bill protects predatory lenders who offer credit, with abusive repayment terms, to high-risk consumers. It also provides creditors with additional opportunities to employ strong-arm collection tactics, threatening debtors with new, costly litigation.
Furthermore, the bill protects credit card companies who fail to disclose the true cost of credit they provide to college students and others, who may quickly find themselves trapped in serious debt, ruining their credit ratings for years to come.
This is what they are pointing out.
Furthermore, the bill protects credit card companies who fail to disclose the true cost of credit they provide to college students and others who may quickly find themselves trapped in serious debt, ruining their credit rating for years to come.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I want to speak for a few more moments about the excellent amendment that has been offered by my friend and colleague from Illinois, Senator Durbin, which I strongly support. Yesterday, in Massachusetts, I had an opportunity to have a meeting with a number of veterans. They actually were disabled veterans. We have 34 Massachusetts young men who have been killed primarily in Iraq. I think we had two killed in Afghanistan, but primarily Iraq. And we have had a number of wounded veterans.
We had a very good meeting about their reentry into the community and what we can do to help them in terms of education, training, and employment. A number of the large companies in Massachusetts have made important commitments to employ veterans, and particularly the disabled veterans. I will mention one: Home Depot, a national company, employed 10,000 veterans last year. They expect to exceed that number this year. It is a very impressive record.
These young people are looking for how they are going to be able to live and have useful, productive, constructive, valuable lives. There is a lot that has to be done, obviously, by the VA and by the various organizations in the State and in the private sector, as well as at the national level, to help them in these ways. We can all be extremely involved and helpful in that endeavor.
One of the central concerns they mentioned during the course of the discussion had to do with the times they heard from a number of their friends and colleagues who were in the Guard and Reserve serving in Iraq. We have 1,000 at the present time serving from Massachusetts and many more in the regular services. They are in the Guard and Reserve. But they told me of the concern their families have in terms of the dangers of bankruptcy and what would happen to these families. I do not think it is enough to say, well, we'll defer this to another day, or the existing laws are going to take care of it. We have a good opportunity to address that. And if we are serious about addressing it, we ought to accept the Durbin amendment. We are either going to be serious about doing this or we are not. The Durbin amendment is a serious effort to address this issue, and it deserves all of our support.
Military families struggle financially for a number of reasons. Often, the low pay for newly enlisted men and women is not enough to support a family. Service men and women are also prey to predatory lending schemes that leave their families high and dry. Military retirees have been victims of pension schemes that destroy their savings. National Guard and reservists often face a loss of income when they are activated and deployed, and their families are left in serious financial distress. Veterans are not getting the federally promised health care benefits they need to stay healthy.
The most recent data available show that in 2003, 20,000 active-duty members filed for bankruptcy. They would be considered active duty, even though they are in the Reserve or Guard because they are on active duty. That is 20,000 members of the Armed Forces whose service to their country resulted in financial ruin. Military service should be the source of pride, growth, and opportunity, not a financial crisis.
That is why Senator Durbin's amendment is so important. It will ensure fair and strong bankruptcy protections for military families and veterans.
The typical family who files for bankruptcy is at or near poverty at the time they file. It is appalling that America's service men and women, or any veteran, can be plunged into poverty in connection with their service to the Nation.
The base pay for newly enlisted men and women is often between $15,000 and $20,000 a year. That is far from enough to support a family back home. Yet nearly half of all members of the military have dependents who rely on their income. The most recent data shows that more than 6,000 military families are forced to rely on food stamps. Do we hear that? We have 6,000 military families who are forced to rely on food stamps because of low pay.
I pay tribute to our friend from Arizona, Senator McCain, who did so much to reduce that number. I am hopeful we can eliminate it during this session of Congress.
In addition, predatory lenders often prey on service men and women. Payday lenders offer high-interest, short-term loans of usually $500 or less, and focus on the military, with their financial inexperience and regular paychecks. These loans result in huge interest rates and often leave the borrower in significant debt that can lead to bankruptcy. The Durbin amendment will protect military members against this shameful practice.
National Guard members and reservists have other types of financial burdens. Since 9/11, 469,000 National Guard members and reservists from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force have been called up for combat tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. That is virtually half a million. Their tours of duty can last for up to 2 years, and the Pentagon is currently considering broadening even that time limit. These deployments can cause extraordinary financial stress for their families.
For example, an Army reservist medic with four teenage kids in Hot Springs, AR left for Iraq, leaving his family's gas station convenience store with no one to operate it. One month later, the family fell into serious financial trouble. They had no choice but to file for bankruptcy.
After the bankruptcy, they couldn't pay their mortgage and had to give up their house. They moved in with the soldier's parents. But because the parents had cosigned on the loan for the store, they were forced to file for bankruptcy, too, or risk losing their own home. The grandfather is disabled, so the grandmother had to go back to work to keep the family financially afloat.
Too many National Guard reservist families face this type of economic distress. Thirty percent of spouses of active reservists report a loss of household income after the reservists' mobilization. Forty percent of all reservists report loss of income. For those who are self-employed, it's even worse. Half of self-employed reservists lose income when they are deployed.
Of spouses who reported lost income, half had monthly decreases from $500 and $2,000 per month, and nearly a quarter lost over $2,000 a month. That's $24,000 a year in lost income that puts a heavy financial squeeze on these families.
With other key expenses rising every year in the Bush administration, it's even harder for military families to make ends meet. Since 2001, health insurance premiums have soared by 59 percent. Prescription drug costs have risen 65 percent. Housing costs are up 33 percent in the last 4 years.
The last thing Congress should do is make it harder for these families when they face bankruptcy. I urge my colleagues to support the Durbin amendment to protect military families.
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