Chapter 9 – Is Bankruptcy Bad?

An excerpt from Attorney Peter Francis Geraci’s “The Complete Book on Bankruptcy.” Learn more about misconceptions about bankruptcy!

Chapter 9 – Is Bankruptcy Bad?

Below is an excerpt from Attorney Peter Francis Geraci’s Complete Book on Bankruptcy.

No. Owing money you can’t pay is bad. Money can be used for good or bad purposes. People end up without money because of circumstances beyond their control, or for other reasons. Bankruptcy merely adjusts the debt situation to 0 again. You start out even. You get a fresh start, while still keeping the necessities of life. But the prevailing attitude about bankruptcy is that is “bad.”

This is an interesting perception. The origin of bankruptcy can be found in ancient traditions, as found in the Bible, Deuteronomy 15.1: “In the 7th year, each creditor shall release his debtors. This shall be known as The Lord’s Release.” In the Old Testament, it was the policy that a debt could exist only 6 years, and should be relaxed or forgiven in the seventh year. The purpose was to prevent damage to society by allowing a debt to live forever. The lender was cautioned thereby to lend only as much as the borrower could reasonably be expected to repay.

There are other Biblical references to debt, such as St. Paul’s admonition in Romans 13:8; “Strive to owe no debt, except that debt that binds us to love one another.” I have found nothing in any religion that states that owing money to another is “good.” In the Koran, there is a prohibition against lending money at interest. In most Moslem countries today, Moslems borrow at no interest from “banks of the faithful.”

In modern times, lenders do not follow this idea. In an era where charge cards are sent out through the mail and applications are “pre-approved”, creditors lend money without regard to whether or not the borrower can pay it back. They cover their losses by charging huge rates of interest. I have seen contracts with interest rates as high as 53%. In olden days, this was known as usury. Technically, any lending of money at interest is known as usury. But, until modern times, it was the money lender, or usurer, that was bad, not the poor person who had to borrow.

Of course, capitalism could not exist without the practice of lending capital and charging interest. But bankruptcy laws provide a legitimate, legal, and moral safety valve for the excesses of the credit system. Now, you don’t have to join the French Foreign Legion, disappear to Australia, or blow your brains out, to escape from your creditors. Bankruptcy was so important to the Founding Fathers of the United States, that, when the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, they directed Congress to make uniform bankruptcy laws. Article III, Section 8 of the United States Constitution states: “Congress shall make uniform laws relating to Bankruptcy.”

Bankruptcy is therefore more fundamental to the United States of America than the Bill of Rights, and such things such as freedom of the press, and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The United States Bankruptcy laws are part of the Federal Code. They were passed into law by the United States Congress, our elected Senators and Representatives. All bankruptcy in the United States is governed by federal law, and the procedures are as much a part of our society as lending money at interest.

After the American Revolution, when the first Continental Congress met in 1787, one of the topics debated was whether or not to have a uniform bankruptcy law. Many of the American settlers had to run from creditors in England. They had to leave the country to avoid being thrown into debtor’s prison. Each American colony had different laws relating to collection of debts. Some had provisions that a person could be jailed for debt, and some, like the colony of Georgia, were havens for debtors and had laws which prevented bad treatment of people who owed money

There was little disagreement between the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, when it came to having a bankruptcy law. Freedom from debt was important, and so was the ability to start fresh. Therefore, in the United States Constitution, Article III, Section 8, we find the provision, “Congress shall make uniform laws relating to bankruptcy.”

However, the banking lobby was so strong that each state kept their own bankruptcy laws until 1898, when the U.S. Bankruptcy Code was passed. It was modified greatly in 1978 to deal with the amazing amount of consumer credit, and is constantly being tinkered with by Congress to balance the interests of those who lend money, and those who borrow it.

Abraham Lincoln was a bankruptcy lawyer. In Springfield, Illinois, Old Abe filed about 1/2 the bankruptcies in Illinois in 1842. 1/2 of his legal work involved debt cases.

It is to the advantage of moneylenders, to use public relations techniques to convince the public that bankruptcy is bad, and to make it something that is bad or evil. I agree that you should not discharge your debts until it is absolutely necessary, but there is certainly nothing wrong or illegal about it. No one comes out to your house and takes your clothes. No one paints a big “B” on the sidewalk in front of your house. In fact, no one is interested.

If you find yourself with no savings, nothing left over after you pay your rent, mortgage, food and utilities, and still have bills to pay, you should consider taking advantage of the fresh start provisions of the bankruptcy law. Bankruptcy is like getting a fresh start. Your debts are forgiven, except those that you want to continue to pay, and you can start saving money and doing things the right way, instead of suffering because of the credit trap.

People come into my office and ask, “What will happen to me if I file a bankruptcy?” No one ever came in, when I used to be a general practice attorney, and said, “What will happen to me if I don’t have get convicted for running a red light?” They never said, “What will happen to me if I sell my house?” But people who are being chased by bill collectors sometimes feel that they should not be able to get relief and that they will be punished if they get a fresh start. They do not realize that a big part of bankruptcy laws is forgiveness.

Nothing will “happen” to you if you file a bankruptcy. You won’t suddenly become rich and famous, or popular, or beautiful or handsome, and, on the other hand, you won’t suddenly be miserable and an outcast. One out of every 22 Illinois families will file for some type of bankruptcy relief, on the average, and in some states, the average is higher.

So, if you have problems with bills, getting the proper advice from a bankruptcy attorney as to whether or not some type of bankruptcy relief would make your life better, should not be looked on as bad. You should think of it as provision in the Federal laws that was put there by Congress to help people get out of debt.

Dial 1-800-CALL-PFG for a free phone mini-consultation, or make an appointment online 24/7 at  Bankruptcy laws are in place to help you.  Who knows bankruptcy like Geraci Law?  Geraci Law has 30,000 5-star reviews 5starsince November 2016!


Author: Elizabeth Doren Paralegal at Geraci Law L.L.C.

I am a paralegal at Geraci Law L.L.C. (the greatest consumer bankruptcy law firm that ever was or will be!) I talk to thousands of people who are struggling financially.

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