The "Debt Trap" cover story (November 23rd issue) uncovered some real truths about the bankruptcy industry in Memphis. Preliminary research conducted by the RISE Foundation for the Memphis Debt Collaborative, a network of nonprofits, financial institutions, credit counselors, and public agencies, confirms that bankruptcy filers are not trying to rip off the system. They are working families whose job loss, lack of health insurance, or divorce has created a circumstance that pushed them over the edge of financial viability.
We are currently in the midst of a major research project for the American Bankruptcy Institute, designed to survey some 1,000 bankruptcy filers in Memphis. While the study is far from complete, we have learned that bankruptcy filers are desperate, stressed to the point of distraction, and are not prepared to make logical or rational choices. In short, people who enter the system do not know very much about it, and consequently some get blindsided by the process.
On the plus side, the Memphis Debt Collaborative offers public information sessions called Bankruptcy S.O.S. to better prepare people to face the trauma of bankruptcy. Pervasive financial education is the key. Children need to learn early on how to make decisions regarding spending and debt accumulation. For adults, a focused intervention is needed. RISE, the parent organization of the Memphis Debt Collaborative, has recently begun offering financial education seminars in the workplace for employers desiring to offer their employees basic money management skills. Finally, steering financially vulnerable families away from high-cost loan products like auto title loans, refund anticipation loans, or payday lenders can help prevent the debt traps that have made bankruptcy a default option.
Kudos to the Flyer for turning up the volume on a topic that is a serious threat to the overall quality of life in our community.
Memphis Debt Collaborative
A Marathon Headache
I just spent over an hour of my life trying to cross North Parkway just to go TWO BLOCKS. I have never seen such ridiculously poor traffic routing in my life. The St. Jude "Anger Management Marathon," although noble in intent, is the most civically inconsiderate event I have ever seen. Last year, my wife and I almost got a divorce just going to pick up a Christmas tree. The jackasses who plan this thing should at least provide available crossing point/routing information to residents who are being inconvenienced by the byzantine system of roadblocks. This crap is utterly paralyzing and has put a very bad taste in my mouth regarding St. Jude.
An event that is intended to rally support for children with cancer and instead induces paroxysms of anger is extremely counterproductive. Not to mention, it's only going to be a matter of time before some poor shlub gets run over by someone innocently trying to make an eggnog run.
September 11th was remembered grandly on its five-year anniversary, and rightly so. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said Pearl Harbor's date would "live in infamy." This December 7th will be the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Will it be as grandly remembered as 9/11? With 1,000 World War II veterans dying each day now, it's time we honored those who defended freedom before most of us were born. Don't forget to tell a vet "thank you."
The Iraq war has now lasted longer than WWII, and we must all face with horror the implosion of Iraqi culture. With President Bush recently trying to compare his war to WWII, we're also reminded of FDR's sage words: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." W and his administration have changed that to "The only thing we have is fear."
The Road to Disaster
I was among your many readers who wrote letters to the editor to warn of the insanity of our preemptive attack on Iraq. Nation-building based on fantasy, lies, and manufactured intelligence is a road to disaster.
For a while, I was overcome by the glut of SUVs with black "W" stickers and stopped writing in protest. But now that the wheels are falling off in Iraq while Bush wants to "stay the course," I am reminded of the wisdom of Sun Tzu in The Art of Warfare: "There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare."