Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bad Deal

I feel moved to blog on the bankruptcy disaster, even though I know it will make no difference whatsoever.

This posting by professor b.

and this chart which I found via a post at Atrios

and various other posting and the comments on them around the sphere – for instance, at Crooked Timber,

for instance – have just made me unable to shut up anymore.

See, I declared bankruptcy this year.

This is after ten years of being in debt to the credit card companies.

At the end, I owed over a hundred thousand dollars.

What was up with that?

Wide-screen TVs? Hundreds of dollars worth of shoes? Luxurious vacations down to the islands?

Well, no.

Despite what those who have commented at Dr. B’s site and at Crooked Timber seem to think, no.

First, I got cancer.

As my doctors kept jovially assuring me, thyroid cancer is the type to get, if you have to get cancer at all, very high cure rate, very treatable, but even so – ha ha ha ha – cancer costs you some bucks, let me tell you. And getting cancer in Louisiana will really cost you, cause guess what, folks?

Hospitals down there can charge you interest on the money you owe them!

Twenty-four percent interest, in my case. It was cheaper to put what I owed on the credit cards, which were only charging me eleven percent interest at that point.

Then I had a baby. Then I had surgery, to remove a pesky gall bladder.

For all of these, I ended up owing the hospitals, and the doctors, and the various other medical technologists, money above and beyond what my medical insurance covered – lots of it. The kid was born in Idaho. Idaho also allows hospitals to charge interest on what you owe them. North Carolina, where I had the surgery, does not – but it does allow hospital to turn your bill over to collect agencies. Charming.

In any case, and meanwhile, we moved three times during all of this, and all of those moves also went on the credit cards, because universities do not pay moving expenses. (Certainly I could take the moving expenses off on my taxes, and that would matter, I suppose, if I were in one of those income brackets where such things made a difference.)

Meanwhile, changing jobs three times in ten years meant COBRA payments three times in ten years (any idea what COBRA payments run?), and my trailing spouse not getting a real job, and, once we had the kid, child care expenses that made it not worth him getting a McJob.

Meanwhile, trying to make the minimum payments on the credit cards, or even paying off a little of the growing debt, meant never being able to build up any savings, so that whenever anything went wrong – the kid got sick, or the car broke down (and of course we only ever had one car, and of course it was a cheap piece of junk that was always breaking down), or someone got sick – we had to put the emergency on the credit cards.

So no.

There’s no wide-screen TV in our house.

There’s no trip to the islands or Europe in my past.

There’s no Gee, I think I’ll buy a six hundred dollars worth of DVDs this weekend while you scrimp and save and bring home your sack lunch to eat for dinner, Mr. Middle Class Person.

In fact, I have about five pairs of shoes, only one of them decent enough to wear to work, and my clothes are so shabby my students joke about them. My parents buy all the kid's clothing, or I get them from relatives. Our cars are both (we do finally have two now) still ancient pieces of junk, and mine, the oldest, still breaks down on a regular basis.

So what really happened here?

The medical system is broken. That's what happened here. When I got a catastrophic illness, it destroyed my life. I couldn't recover from it.

And three months ago, the sheriff came and pounded on my door and shoved a lawsuit in my face, saying Discover card was suing me for a quarter of my salary, because I couldn’t make the minimum payments on their credit cards anymore. (Haven’t been able to, not for months. Know why? Because my medical insurance cost six hundred dollars a month, the co-pay on my drugs is three hundred a month, my rent is eight hundred a month, and I’m a college professor – you do the math. Where’s my Xanax, BTW?)

If I hadn't been able to declare bankruptcy, in other words, I'd be a slave to Discover card right now.

So, yeah. This bankruptcy bill is a really, really, really bad idea.

Not just because it impoverishes us, though, folks.

Because people get desperate, folks, well, damn. They do desperate things.


Laura said...

Wow, delegar! That really sucks. Your situation is actually what I think of when I think of people who've declared bankrupty. Mr. Geeky had an uncle who declared bankruptcy as a result of a bad divorce followed by a job loss.

BTW, I had a near-miss with thyroid cancer. I had half my thyroid removed this past September. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing, but if it had been cancerous, I think I was going to be in for a rough ride. I'm very grateful, but still fearful that something could still happen there.

bitchphd said...

Fffffffuck. Yeah.

I fucking love how you can have a college job and not have any money. Pseudonymous kid's grandparents buy almost all his clothes, too. And yup, one old car. But basically we're doing okay.... as long as nothing bad happens.

And yeah, COBRA payments are the devil. My sympathy. We are collectively on the way to some kind of serious desperation, as you say...