I had an interesting new client come into my office this week. I thought I'd transcribe my interview with my latest bankruptcy client: The United States of America.
Thank you for coming into my office. Before I begin, I just want you to know that there are only three reasons people walk into a bankruptcy attorney's office:
1. Lost work.
2. Domestic problems or conflicts.
3. Health care issues.
I know it must be hard for you to be talking to me. I know I never thought I'd see you here, but I read the newspapers and the Internet, and I can see what brought you into my office today.
First, let me tell you that being out of work since the first of October has been difficult for a lot of people, not just you. I suppose it must be gratifying to see how much everyone seems to need you -- unchecked salmonella outbreaks, closed national parks and no death benefits for soldiers' families.
You don't go to work, and 24,000 other people are immediately out of work here in the Ogden area alone, and hundreds of thousands more across the country are in the same boat. If you can get back to work, especially with those IRS collection agents, you might be able to turn this thing around.
I'm not sure what to tell you about your domestic problems. I've dabbled in family law and politics, and neither is very pleasant. Marriage can be difficult, but I can only imagine what it must be like to juggle a three-way relationship of Executive, legislative and judicial branches. Seems to me, though, that marriage only works if both parties uphold their side of the marital bargain. You have to talk and compromise. If you don't, things don't go very well. I know your situation right now is a lot like having a spouse that is not giving you any marital affection, has cut off the money supply and is now threatening to not pay any of the bills.
Which brings me to your next problem: Health care.
I know you tried to do something to fix your health care costs with the Affordable Care Act. Since it hasn't gone fully into effect, I don't even know how that is going to work.
The Congressional Budget Office actually says it will save you $200 billion if fully implemented. The previous go-to-the-emergency-room-and-make-someone-else-pay system definitely wasn't working.
I'm a little bit frustrated because I can see that you spend more on health care with worse results than a lot of other countries. While the Affordable Care Act takes some steps on health care, the worst part of the act seems to be that it is subsidizing a multibillion-dollar health insurance industry that really doesn't do much for anyone's health.
Now that we know at least why you are here, let's look at your income, your spending and your bills. I've never had a client with quite this large amount of debt, but I've also never had a client with quite your earning potential.
Other countries that are worse off than you, seem to be making ends meet just fine, so you should be able to pull out of this as long as you keep paying your bills. I'd suggest looking at expenditures and maybe try to spend on something other than blowing things up in other countries. Judging from the shutdown experience, national parks and preventing food poisoning are popular options. You can't just cut expenses, though. You have to figure out how to raise a little more money. Whatever you do, don't not pay your bills.
There are a lot of people counting on you. The people you owe the most money to are Social Security recipients (11 times more than you owe China) -- you have to pay your Baby Boomer support. If you don't pay, October 2013 could go down in history like late-September and October of 2008 or October of 1929.
If you, the United States, don't pay your bills, then what can the world economy rely on? Besides, I'm just a bankruptcy attorney. There isn't a law out there saying what happens when the most economically powerful country in the world decides not to pay its bills. I just can't envision any result that will be very good for any of us.
Sorry I couldn't be of more help, but you do have so many positive things going for you that bankruptcy really isn't a valid option. I hope you get back to work soon and that your legislative spouse starts acting a little more reasonably and responsibly.
E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. He can be reached at 801-392-8200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.