Occupy Wall Street has been making headlines again thanks to its new role as the main source of mutual aid to those affected by Hurricane Sandy. In addition to supplying blankets, food and clean water to those who are still without power and shelter, the OWS movement recently announced a new plan to bolster the 99%.
Through a new effort called the”Rolling Jubilee,” Occupy Wall Street plans to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. This brilliant idea has been in development for months, and it has the power to mobilize the power of crowdfunding to help those who are struggling in a way that has never been seen before.
“The basic premise is simple: people shouldn’t have to go into debt for an education, because they need medical care, or because they have to put food on the table during hard times,” Occupy’s website says.
In case you’ve wondered, buying debt is a relatively cheap business investment. A few hundred dollars will buy thousands of dollars of debt. It’s then the responsibility (and usually pleasure) of the new owner to hound and harass the debt holder for the balance, all while collecting interest as pure profit.
Well, Occupy Wall Street’s idea is to use this little-known system against itself to provide real relief to real people who are really suffering because of this unnecessary debt, passed onto us by irresponsible Wall Street bankers.
As explained on the Rolling Jubilee website:
We buy debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, we abolish it. We cannot buy specific individuals’ debt – instead, we help liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal.
According to blogger and OWS organizer David Rees:
OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)
This is a simple, powerful way to help folks in need — to free them from heavy debt loads so they can focus on being productive, happy and healthy.
Aghast at how simple-yet-brilliant this idea is? Me too.
So here’s how it’s going to work: The Rolling Jubilee campaign will launch on November 15th with THE PEOPLE’S BAILOUT, a telethon and variety show at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. There will be music, comedy, education, magic and more. Confirmed guests include: comedian Janeane Garofalo, Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, actor/director John Cameron Mitchell (‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’), comedian Hari Kondabolu, David Rees (‘Get Your War On’), Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio and more. Tickets to this once in a lifetime show will be available for a donation from $25 – $250. Every single dollar raised will be used to buy and then vanquish a certain amount of debt held by a fellow member of the 99%. You can, of course, still donate funds even if you can’t attend.
Watch the video and find out how you can help promote the Rolling Jubilee here.
Image via david_shankbone/Flickr