Older Americans are going bankrupt in record numbers. Under a front page headline, “Bankruptcy Booms among Older Americans as Safety Net Frays,” the August 6 New York Timesrelates how the rate at which Americans 65 and older file for personal bankruptcy has tripled since 1991. This data comes from a new study by the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, “Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society.”
Without a Net
The headline of the Web version of the story (“Too Little Too Late”: Bankruptcy Booms Among Older Americans”) drops the reference to the social safety net. And, in fact, the US safety net hasn’t frayed—it’s been hacked to pieces, coolly and maliciously. The Consumer Bankruptcy Project study found that as the conservative ethos of “responsibility” has gained ground over the past three decades, financial risk has shifted from government and employers to individuals. “Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy” exaggerates only slightly when it calls bankruptcy the little that is left of the social safety net.
The shift of financial risk onto the individual is no accident. Government policies deliberately favor the rich over the poor and middle class. These policies are primarily the work of the Republican Party, acting on behalf of the richest 1% of Americans, but the Democratic Party, which has also latched onto the neoliberal agenda, is also to the blame.
Yet the Times nowhere mentions Republicans or Democrats. Or…