At a hearing on the effect of the bankruptcy “reform” bill held in the Senate right after the fall elections, the American Bankers Association piously testified about the care with which its member banks solicit new credit card accounts. The blame for debt that a consumer could not repay was not, they recited, the result of careless or over aggressive lending practices.
This was the chorus that lead to the enactment of the ill titled Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act in April, 2005. Consumers, they said, were responsible for taking on more credit than they could handle and were calculating in using bankruptcy to escape repayment. The door to bankruptcy relief must be narrowed, they said, and thus we have bankruptcy “reform”.
In February, 2007, CardTrak reported that since bankruptcy reform, credit card companies sent out 8 billion card solicitations, up nearly 1.5 billion over the number send in 2005. I don’t think it overly cynical to say that banks are rushing in to sell more of a highly profitable credit product, secure in the knowledge that the traditional safety valve for the consumer found in bankruptcy had been plugged.
Jed Berliner at Bankruptcy Law Network says he’s getting fewer credit card solicitations in his mail. I, however, have been saving the credit card solicitations sent to my two college aged sons, both of whom are full time students without meaningful employment. They get on average a solicitation a week from one aggressive lender or the other, promising 0% interest, no annual fee, a “confirmed offer.”
I find it hard to construct a portrait of “responsible lending” from these pieces.