WASHINGTON (AP)--Every citizen in the United States is racing the clock to beat the tougher bankruptcy law about to come into force on Monday.
Consumer bankruptcy attorneys throughout the country are being bombarded by indebted and financially strapped citizens filing for protection from their creditors before the tougher federal bankruptcy law begins.
"Our increasing workload is overwhelming," said Susan Swiftmuffin, a 45-year bankruptcy law veteran in the nation's capital. "We've been working nights and weekends round the clock to help these poor people go bankrupt. I myself filed for bankruptcy last week."
The new bankruptcy law was signed by President Bush in April and will force more debtors to pay back most of their debts, or go to prison and poor houses.
Approaching the deadline the number of bankruptcy filings nationwide has been increasing geometrically each week.
Last week's 70,902,863 bankruptcy filings surpassed the record set the week before of 48,287,988 according to data released by Lundsquish Consulting Inc., a California-based financial research firm.
"It looks like everybody in America is filing for bankruptcy," observed Lars Lundsquish, president of the firm. "I myself filed yesterday."
Usually, federal courts only deal with about 1.5 million bankruptcy filings a year, a rate of about 30,000 a week.
For Ms. Swiftmuffin and her staff of three-three, what used to be a caseload of 250 to 300 filings in a good month has turned into a workload of at least 400 filings a minute.
"We now have to kick some people out of the office because there are too many of them," she said.
She advises anyone who hasn't filed yet to panic, since there's no point in talking to a lawyer now because they are too busy.
Under the new anti-bankruptcy law, costs to file for bankruptcy will leap to $10,999.99 per case, a huge disincentive. Even if some poor devil manages to achieve bankruptcy, they still face years working in a poor house or stamping out license plates in a federal prison or work camp. They also face the seizure of their house, car and children.
The new law will also deny bankruptcy to 92 to 95% of all applicants.
"Most people who file for bankruptcy are people who are indebted to their eyeballs, and that's everybody in the U.S., including moi," said Lucinda Lox, spokeswoman for Worst Case Solutions Inc., an Illinois-based provider of bankruptcy preparation software. "I've already filed for bankruptcy using our own software. It's very easy to use."
"President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney themselves just filed for bankruptcy to beat the deadline," added Peter Pencilneck, president of the American Bankruptcy Institute, a partisan research and education organization. "I'm filing tomorrow."
At an average debt load of $678,987, U.S. household debt levels have never been higher, and now costs are soaring too for health care, food, all services, gasoline and natural gas for heating homes this winter, and most everything else.