Taking credit where discredit is due

America's big bankers are terribly upset with you consumers! It seems that more and more of you are taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws by --gasp! -- declaring bankruptcy.With the incomes of the middle class being knocked down, lots of folks are having to use credit cards to make ends meet. They have to pay off their debt on one credit card by using another card, and then pay off that one with another, until the whole load comes crashing down. Then they declare personal bankruptcy to try to claw their way out of the financial rubble. This has mightily upset the bankers, who are now asking Congress to limit your access to bankruptcy. But, wait a minute. Who shoved these credit cards at consumers in the first place? Right. These very same bankers, sending out ten cards in 1996 for every man, woman and child in America, saying spend, spend, spend! And even now, they continue to find more creative ways to put you deeper into their debt. The banker's latest gimmick is the "instant loan." This is a devious device in which banks are sending "live checks" -- real money -- unsolicited, to potential customers. Victor and Debra Goldberg in Ithaca, N.Y., for example, told The Associated Press they were stunned to get a $7,500 check from Signet Bank in Virginia: a loan they never sought from a bank they never heard of. They refused the come on, but Signet has signed up nearly $1 billion in new debt with these flim flams. Beneficial Corp. is putting out similar live-check loans, telling unsuspecting customers, "This is a real check -- cash it for an instant loan." No forms to fill out, not even a phone call -- take it, it's yours! Never mind the fine print, which quietly notes that the interest rate is more than 25 percent. U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey has a bill to stop this ripoff. Contact him at (202) 225-6335.