AR-01: I Hear Sears Is Having A Sale On Hypocrisy, Rick

Politico has a story today about a letter that freshman Republican representatives are sending to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which includes this passage:

Mr. Reid, your record on spending in the Senate is one of failure. You have failed to pass a budget, failed to restrain spending, and failed to put our country on sound fiscal footing.

We do not accept your failure as our own.

The author of the letter is none other than Arkansas’s own Rick Crawford (AR-1).  Now, as anyone who followed the AR-01 campaign knows, Rick Crawford knows a thing or two about what fiscal failure looks like, having filed bankruptcy in Missouri in 1994.  What you might not realize, however, is just how much hypocrisy is dripping from Crawford’s words.

You see, when the story of Crawford’s bankruptcy broke last July, the candidate’s campaign responded somewhat vaguely, explaining that voters should choose Crawford, despite the apparent hypocrisy in his cut-spending position, because “Rick certainly does not want our country to go through what he personally had to go through.”

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Just what did he have to go through?  At the time, that was hard to tell; Crawford refused to let any of his prior creditors release his records (though he did authorize University Hospital in Columbia, MO, to say that he had “a zero balance”), and the story was reported as “$12,611.67, including $7,531.48 in credit-card debt [and] $4,239.95 in medical bills.”

Now, at the time Crawford filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April 1994, he listed year-to-date income of about $1,600.  With an income like that, it’s easy enough to see how $4000+ in medical bills might cause problems.  (Somewhat ironically, I note that Crawford ran as an outspoken critic of the healthcare reform bill; I guess he prefers defaulting on medical bills to having insurance.)  ‘

With an income that low, it’s even easy to see how one might be forced to rely on credit — like the government is doing currently — to make ends meet.  I mean, it’s not like Crawford ran up a seemingly irresponsible $1,593.87 in store-specific credit cards on top of the $5,937.61 in general credit he used, right?

Oh, wait, what’s this here on Schedule F of Crawford’s Chapter 7 filing?

Dillards: $202.21
Famous Barr: $579.44
J.C. Penney: $162.68
Sears: $649.54

Yeah…so there’s that.  Still, it’s not like he wasn’t trying as hard as he could to, at minimum, pay for the very basic expenses like phone bills and utilities, right?

MCI (phone): $165.52
City Utilities of Springfield, MO: $177.40

Wow. OK.

Well, at least we can rest assured that certain debts — say a personal signature loan that would have been granted based entirely on his trustworthiness as a borrower — would not have been included by Crawford in the bankruptcy.  Surely something like that, which would reflect directly on his good name, would have been paid.

Boatmen’s Bank of Kennett, MO: $497.45

Or, you know, maybe not.

What’s that Crawford was saying about “restrain[ing] spending”?

But wait, let’s not forget what Crawford’s spokesperson said when this story first came to light about how “Rick made good on all his obligations.”  So he paid these debts after the fact, right?  Not according to City Utilities of Springfield, at least.  According to their records, Crawford never paid a dime after the debt was discharged in bankruptcy.

Of course, that’s exactly what you would expect in this situation, as Chapter 7 results in outright discharge from the debts listed on Schedule F.  Once the discharge is granted, not only is a person not legally obligated to pay any of the now-$0 balances, but the creditors on the discharged debts are forbidden from contacting the debtor to try to collect.  So, Crawford’s statement can probably be more accurately interpreted as a cleverly misleading way to say, “I paid everything I was legally obligated to pay after the bankruptcy…which was absolutely nothing.”

Look: I do not care that Rick Crawford declared bankruptcy nearly 17 year ago.  It happens.  In fact, I know several people who have or may still have to declare bankruptcy as a result of the current recession.  I do care, however, that someone who could not afford his utility bill, but was still running up credit card debt at stores like Dillard’s, would not find it terribly hypocritical to insist on this type of Draconian fiscal discipline, especially when he has previously had to avail himself of the federal government’s protections for those who can’t pay their obligations.

One would hope that Rick Crawford would be willing to eschew fiscal austerity, regardless of current debt, to avoid cutting funding for education and other programs that have legitimate worth to society.  Maybe if those programs were sold next to the sweet shirts at Dillard’s, he would be more inclined to spend that money.

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