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Gitz gets compassion

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Dr. Bradley R. Gitz, the Lyon College professor who contributes a twice-weekly column to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has some favorite topics.

Liberals, for one. He doesn’t like them much because, according to him, they hate capitalism and love socialism.

Money is another recurring theme. As he wrote Dec. 1, “Take away the concept of greed and there is precious little left of the economic value system of the Democratic Party. Democrats might not stand for much anymore, but they continue to know what they hate, and what they hate with great gusto is the thing called greed. The problem comes in realizing that, whatever its relevance in other contexts, the idea of greed has absolutely no political meaning.”

Greed should have no political meaning, Gitz suggests in another column, because people are doing so much better economically. “While those in higher income brackets inevitably experienced greater absolute gains,” he wrote of recent times, “those in each of the brackets below them also saw historically impressive advances.” No thanks to government welfare programs, by the way. He also has written, “…we have forgotten that the cycle of multigenerational poverty and dependence, symbolized by unwed black mothers on welfare raising children slated to become first dropouts and then convicts, was largely a consequence of our last effort to eradicate poverty in the form of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.”

Gitz once offered “proven ideas” to reduce poverty. “The most prominent of these are the cultural values of educational achievement and personal responsibility, and public policies featuring incentives for entrepreneurship and hard work.”

Given his emphasis on personal responsibility and his stated resistance to a compassionate government (“compassion isn’t, after all, found anywhere in the nation’s governing documents”), you’d think Dr. Gitz would love the new bankruptcy code. It doesn’t coddle those who’ve irresponsibly run up bills with capitalists that they can’t pay.

Perhaps he does favor the new code. All the same, on Oct. 10, seven days before the new bankruptcy code went into effect, Gitz and his wife filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code on $212,302.83 in debt — their home mortgage and $74,000 in unsecured debt, mostly on a dozen credit cards. He reported about $270,000 in assets — home equity, two cars and a college retirement account.

The couple reported about $96,000 in income in the most recent full year, 2004, reported on the bankruptcy filing — $57,470 from Lyon College, $11,645 from the Democrat-Gazette and $27,444 from the American Cancer Society.

More than 1.1 million people filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2004. Under the old bankruptcy law, Chapter 7 filers had certain assets liquidated with the money going to creditors, and most remaining debts canceled. Because many Chapter 7 filers didn’t have assets that qualified for liquidation, creditors often received zilch. Credit card companies weren’t happy about that and Congress gave them more protection.

Under a new law that went into effect Oct. 17, tougher conditions mean fewer people are allowed to file clean-the-slate Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Under the alternative, Chapter 13, the filer is put on a multi-year repayment plan that can make it harder to get out of a hole.

A call to Gitz about his filing found him “waiting on a conference call” with an agreement to speak the next day. Subsequent attempts to reach him have so far been unsuccessful.

Bankruptcy is a legal process, provided for good reason. I know people who have filed; good, middle-class people who lost a job, or had a family member get sick without insurance. When it finally happens, it’s about as humiliating as it can get, especially for anybody who sweats the bills every month and gives a little smile when the ends manage to meet.

Given that, the idea that there are nogoodniks out there filing bankruptcy just to get a matched set of Coach luggage and a trip to NASCAR fantasy camp without paying for it is, in my experience, a fairy tale.

So why rub Gitz’s face in what is arguably a personal financial matter? Because conservative columnists like him routinely and vocally seek the annihilation of “liberal” programs like welfare, food stamps and bankruptcy protection (Gitz himself has not written about the bankruptcy code as best we could tell), the very programs that step in to help put hard-working people back on their feet. Perhaps his own experience will soften future criticism of the welfare state.



Taking the Christ out of

X-mas since 2003!

david@arktimes.com


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