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Hang On To Your Bootstraps!

posted by Debb Thorne

One of the things that so many Americans pride themselves on is their ability to make it on their own. Call it the "boot-strap" approach, if you'd like. Very individualistic. Much more so than most other industrialized nations. I was reminded of this quintessential American attitude when I read an email from one of our research assistants who is currently completing questionnaires with bankrupt families for the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.

The questionnaires ask folks what they did to try to "make ends meet" before they finally filed bankruptcy. While we give them a list of prepared options, we also provide them the opportunity to tell us about "anything else" they did to try to make it. Today, one woman told our RA the following:

"I ran an ad in the local newspaper that said, 'Disabled woman wanting to sell household items for gas money.'" This woman went on to say that she had sold almost everything in her house that she doesn't use on a daily basis, as well as family treasures that had been passed down from her grandmother. She said that she also has 25 zucchini in her garden that she is thinking about selling at a veggie version of a lemonade stand. However, she's reluctant because she's afraid she will be fined for not having a vendor's license.

Now if that isn't the American way, I don't know what is. Kind of blows that whole "bankrupts are deadbeats" myth right out of the water, doesn't it?

How deplorable that this country treats its most vulnerable citizens with such disregard. 


No, your story of the disabled woman does not blow anything out of the water. The fact that some people choose not to file for bankruptcy frivolously does not mean that nobody files for bankruptcy frivolously. It doesn't even mean that a large portion (or even most!) of filers are not deadbeats.

Finally, the only deplorable thing I saw in your post was that a disabled woman could not open a vegetable stand because she could not navigate government licensing authorities.

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