THE CREDITORS’ BALL

If ever there was a chance for the Democrats to re-establish their bona fides as the party of the little guy, the Bankruptcy Reform bill is it. The bill is payback to the big banks and highly profitable credit card companies, which funneled $100 million to candidates and parties over the past eight years–two-thirds of it to Republicans. It would impose a means test to determine whether small debtors can avail themselves of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which lets them pay what they can out of existing assets, giving them a fresh start, or whether they would be forced to take Chapter 13 and continue to pay off creditors out of future earnings. It puts debtors’ attorneys in financial jeopardy and creates a wasteful federal enforcement bureaucracy. The bill’s sponsors avoid mentioning how credit card promoters lure the uncreditworthy; how joblessness, stagnant wages and lack of health insurance force the poor to use plastic to buy basic necessities; and how the bill leaves crooked companies like Enron free to declare bankruptcy and protect themselves from claims by employees who lost their pensions. After beating back earlier versions of the bill, many Democrats appeared to be folding without a fight; the Judiciary Committee approved the latest version–with Democrats Joseph Biden, Dianne Feinstein and Herb Kohl supporting the President. Final passage, despite a few valiant Democrats’ efforts, seemed, at this writing, all but certain.

COLOMBIAN QUAGMIRE

Nicole Karsin writes: After more than five years, Plan Colombia, the $4 billion program of mostly military US aid intended to fight drugs and terrorism in Colombia, is proving to be a flop. Aerial spraying of drug crops has led to health problems in Colombia and exacerbated the crisis of farmers who have no economically viable crops other than coca and poppy. Cocaine and heroin are cheaper on US streets today than when the program started. Colombia’s illegal armies are as strong as ever, and assassinations, mass detentions and forced displacement continue to plague the Andean nation, where a forty-year armed conflict claims some 3,000 lives each year. Although Plan Colombia expires in September, the Bush Administration has requested more than $700 million for Colombia in the 2006 foreign aid bill. With Republicans controlling both houses, US policy in Colombia will likely remain the same. To try to remedy some of Plan Colombia’s flaws, a steering committee comprising some thirty US-based NGOs, including the Center for International Policy, the Washington Office on Latin America and the Latin American Working Group, have developed a “Blueprint for a New Colombia Policy,” which concludes: “Instead of helping Colombia’s military…we must encourage [its] elected leaders to strengthen the rule of law and foster more equitable development.”

WHY DOES FOX FEAR US?

Nation intern Meredith Clark writes: Fox News Channel has proved once again that its motto “fair and balanced” is less than accurate. During the Republican National Convention, Fox rejected a Nation advertisement that declares its freedom from ownership by corporations like Time Warner and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. In early February Fox, which is owned by Murdoch’s News Corp, once again refused the spot. Fox gave no explanation for the rejection, but when asked by Village Voice columnist Jarrett Murphy, a spokeswoman said, “I guess we’re more selective than others.” Yet we here at The Nation have no problem with running Fox’s ads in our pages. Fox has taken out four ads; one of them ran just days before it turned down Nation advertising dollars. The unedited Nation spot will run on CNN, MSNBC, Bravo and the History Channel, and TNT and TBS have aired a cut, Murdoch-free version. The New York Times ran an article about Fox’s August rejection, and now the Voice and CBSNews.com have taken notice. Few others have remarked on the contradiction in Fox’s claim to be both “selective” and “balanced.”