A people’s bailout: OWS seeks to ‘liberate debtors’

A Occupy Wall Street activist marches with demonstrators through the financial district on the one-year anniversary of the movement in New York, September 17, 2012.(Reuters / Lucas Jackson)
Straight from the pages of Fight Club, a group of Occupy Wall Street-linked activists plans to wipe the debt slate clean. Rather than go down the path of Project Mayhem, they have another plan: buy debt for pennies on the dollar and “abolish it.”

“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” has long been a rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement following the $700-billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that kept financial firms afloat after their bad bets went south.

A coalition of OWS groups under the banner of “Strike Debt” has organized the Rolling Jubilee with one goal in mind: create an economy “where our debts are to our friends, families, and communities — and not to the 1%.”

To do this, to group hopes to buy up delinquent debt, like medical and student loans, in order to forgive it.

The activists announced via their official site that they are unable to buy specific individuals' debt, and will instead “help liberate debtors through a campaign of mutual support, good will and collective refusal.”

David Rees, one of their organizers behind the project, announced a test run whereby $500 dollars allowed them to buy $14,000 in distressed debt. “We then erased that debt,” he continued.

The practice of buying up distressed debt at a fraction of the cost from creditors is a staple source of revenue for collection agencies. Once a third party buys up the debt, they are free to do with it what they want. But instead of jacking up interest rates and beginning a campaign of harassment to make good on their investment, OWS hopes to free the debtors and one day put an end to the predatory lending that has ensnared so many in the first place.

Their goal is to raise $50,000, which they hope will allow them to abolish more than $1,000,000 dollars worth of personal debt.

In order to raise publicity for the cause, “Strike Debt” has a telethon and variety show planned for Thursday which will bring together a who’s who from the world of alternative music and comedy in New York.

Apart from the debt relief action, the group also is helping to raise public awareness about predatory lending practices, debt resistance and mutual aid.