When I was a law professor, I spent years studying why middle class families were going broke. I went into this area of study believing the hype – that people who were declaring bankruptcy must be gaming the system and going on too many shopping sprees at the mall.
My academic research showed that three things caused more than 90% of bankruptcies: A serious medical problem, a job loss, or a family breakup. These were good people who worked hard, played by the rules – and, for most of this, a twist of bad luck had turned their financial lives upside-down.
So, in the 1990s, when the big credit card companies tried to make it harder for working families to straighten out their lives using bankruptcy, I was determined to fight back. And that’s how I came to meet Senator Ted Kennedy.
I told the story in Springfield a few months ago. Take a look:
Senator Kennedy led the charge to stop that bad bankruptcy bill for ten years. It wasn’t something that made headlines, and it wasn’t something he got a lot of praise for – after all, there aren’t any lobbying groups or high-dollar PACs for people who are about to go bankrupt. He did it because it was the right thing to do.
And then five years ago today, we lost our champion Senator Ted Kennedy. Not a day goes by that we don’t miss his passion, his enthusiasm, and – most of all – his commitment to working families.
After all these years, I still have a voicemail saved from Senator Kennedy about our work together on consumer issues. Every once in a while, I listen to it just to hear his voice. I wish I could thank him one last time. I wish I could tell him that I’m doing my best to honor his memory, and to do what Senator Kennedy taught all of us to do: to fight for the millions of hard-working families who are counting on us.