Morning Report 3/9/05 Debt Toll Mounts in U.S. Attack


The Bush regime steamed ahead yesterday in its economic assault on the U.S., capturing a key bankruptcy bill while deploying a new spinning maneuver on Social Security.

As Stephen Labaton of the New York Times reported this morning:

The Senate assured final passage of the first major overhaul of the nation’s bankruptcy laws in 27 years on Tuesday, when it took two votes that cleared the remaining political obstacles to a measure that the nation’s credit and retail industries have sought for years.

The bill would disqualify many families from taking advantage of the more generous provisions of the current bankruptcy code that permit them to extinguish their debts for a “fresh start.” It would also impose significant new costs on those seeking bankruptcy protection and give lenders and businesses new legal tools for recovering debts.

This was an especially sweet victory for the U.S. CEO, Dick Cheney. Halliburton, which Cheney burdened with billions of dollars of asbestos lawsuits by acquiring Dresser Industries when he was the oil firm’s CEO, recently concluded its escape from that thunderous debt by using corporate-friendly bankruptcy laws.

Despite being flush with billions of dollars from Iraq contracts and other government work, Halliburton units were able to plead bankruptcy to shift that debt and reach an insurance settlement that netted more than $1 billion.

With the passage of the historic bankruptcy legislation almost complete, ordinary Americans will find it much more difficult to use bankruptcy maneuvers to escape from their own crushing debts.

For details on how Halliburton shook off the asbestos albatross that Cheney draped on it, consult Allen Sloan‘s January 11 Deals column in the Washington Post.

Halliburton’s slick maneuvering regarding its asbestos liabilities wound up savaging the pensions of the employees of the company it acquired. I wrote about that on January 18. Check out Halliburton Watch for more on the company that still pays Cheney.

Speaking of pensions, the regime has now re-cast the Social Security debate, and so far, the press seems to be going along.

South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham now insists that all this talk about the “individual investment accounts” is merely a “sideshow,” diverting us from the real problem of Social Security’s “insolvency.” Jesus. Can’t these guys ever stop lying?

Anyway, read this Washington Post story on the GOP’s new Social Security spin.

But then, if you want the current spin and other bullshit properly analyzed, see this report from the watchdog FAIR: “CBS Offers Misleading Pro-Privatization Predictions.”

The best writing on the subject is coming from economist Paul Krugman, who’s consigned to the op-ed pages of the Times but who breaks loose in the New York Review of Books. (My colleague Jarrett Murphy recently talked to Krugman about Bush and other matters.)

Krugman’s latest piece in the NYRB is “America’s Senior Moment.” As usual, he cuts through the bullshit: “The problem isn’t with Social Security, it’s with the rest of the budget.”