Letters to the editor Featured

10:48am EDT October 23, 2001
Make 'em pay

Kudos on your article discussing current and proposed bankruptcy legislation -- and, more important, our society's tolerance of financial irresponsibility ("We owe them this much," SBN Magazine, June 2001).

I am part of the 20-something generation and see many of my peers who fit the profile of your husband's old roommate with the "sweet deal." I am continually amazed -- and frustrated -- by how many people live beyond their means and then file for bankruptcy without any repercussions. In fact, I have an acquaintance who frequently buys a round of drinks for his friends, proclaiming, "Don't worry -- this round is on Huntington!"

The financial, political and social implications of this "I deserve it because I want it" mindset are astounding. You are 100 percent right -- not paying a debt is akin to stealing and, with the rare exception of true financial hardship, people should be held accountable for their spending habits. Period.

I may not have much right now, but I will take my modest rented home, my '97 Pontiac Sunfire and my zero balance credit cards and revel in the knowledge that the little I have is mine, all mine!

Thanks for a great article. I couldn't agree more!

Colleen McCarthy

Columbus

Hold companies responsible

I read with interest your recent editorial in SBN Columbus concerning your support for not allowing individuals Chapter 7 relief except in the most extreme cases.

I am bothered, however, by your not also calling for businesses and business owners to pay the same price you are asking individuals to pay.

Why should businesses that go broke not also have to pay the same price by forcing their officers/directors and stockholders to liquidate their personal assets in order to pay the corporation's debts before the corporation is allowed to file for Chapter 7? Why are businesses that go broke, and their owners/officers/directors, given a free ride?

If "teaching responsibility," as you put it, is the key to the new bankruptcy philosophy, why should not those with the greater sophistication shown by their being a business owner (or director or officer or shareholder) also not have to take responsibility? Business owners, particularly those employing more than 10 employees, after all, have access to professional services (CPAs, business consultants, attorneys, etc.) that the average person does not.

Losses from business bankruptcies exceed losses from individual bankruptcies -- but who is calling for responsibility there? Why should responsibility begin and end with the average Joe? Why shouldn't it apply to everyone?

Your philosophy is wonderful, if it is applied equally to all. I saw nothing in your column about "teaching responsibility" to all. It appears to me that you only want to teach responsibility to the little person.

Stephen Swaim

attorney

Columbus

and a creditor in the current bankruptcy of a Fortune 200 company

Business behaving badly, too

I disagree with your recent editorial regarding bankruptcy in the United States ("We owe them this much," SBN Magazine, June 2001).

You state that the reform movement is not about helping big business. I believe you are either naive or poorly informed. Certainly some people approach bankruptcy in a casual manner as a way to escape responsibility for their own excesses. However, the fact that your husband's roommate was one of those people does not mean the majority of people who apply for bankruptcy fall into his category.

I suggest that businesses which send credit cards to people who are poor credit risks are also responsible for the volume of bankruptcy filings. Retailers that sell on credit to people who do not qualify as good credit risks are partially responsible. Banks that loan mortgage money to people well in excess of what is reasonable are also responsible.

I would suggest that most people agree we, as a society, do not want bankruptcy to be too easy. Do you really know anyone who retained an art collection while going through a bankruptcy? I do not know of such a case.

You quote that 1 million people filed for bankruptcy during the last two years. That would equal less than one-half of 1 percent of the population per year. Is that a law that is being used too much or not? I have limited experience with people who have filed for bankruptcy but you seem to have even less and seem to be making a knee-jerk statement about bankruptcy based on one experience in your past.

The several experiences I have had with people who went through bankruptcy involved people who were in debt for things the family needed, such as a family member's large hospital and medical bills or because of the loss of the main job for the family for an extended period of time and not because they were intentionally living over the family means.

Your article makes no attempt to support your assumption that most people using the bankruptcy law are doing so out of irresponsibility rather than for the reasons the law was passed.

I hope the lawmakers are not being influenced by the kind of assumptions and biases you exhibited in your article, but I believe they are being lobbied and influenced by big and small business, the very people you claim bankruptcy reform is not intended to help. Do big business and small business have no responsibility regarding where they loan money and to whom they provide goods?

Does the responsibility only run to the person who receives the money or goods and not to the businesses that loan the money or provide the goods, when those businesses have every reason to know better in today's society, where credit history is virtually impossible to conceal?

Barry W. Littrell

law partner

Gallagher, Gams, Pryor, Tallan and Littrell

Columbus