APRIL 20, 2005 - Posted at 3:55 p.m. CDT
WHITE HOUSE - President Bush has signed the biggest rewrite of U.S. bankruptcy laws in a quarter-century, saying it'll restore fairness to a system that's been widely abused.
The measure makes it harder for debt-ridden Americans to wipe out all of their obligations. Instead, those who can afford to will have to repay some of what they owe under a plan approved by a judge.
At a White House ceremony, Bush said bankruptcy laws should be a "last resort" because if debts aren't paid back, society ends up footing the bill.
Critics contend the overhaul is a windfall for credit card and banking companies, and will make it harder for the poor and elderly to get a fresh start.
However, Bush says making bankruptcy more rare will make credit more widely available, and cheaper.