Occupy Wall Street Is Buying And Paying The 99%’s Debt

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.

Related Reading:

Occupy Wall Street And The Return Of Worker Solidarity In America

Occupy Wall Street Celebrates 1st Anniversary With 181 Arrests

The Corporate Media’s Attempt To Kill The Occupy Movement


Image via david_shankbone/Flickr


Judith K. Bogdanove
Judith Bogdanove2 years ago


ERIKA SOMLAI2 years ago


ERIKA SOMLAI2 years ago


Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

Why should Wall Street object to someone buying some sliced and diced debt to forgive? It should help the seller of the debt or he/she would not have sold. The price of distressed debt will naturally rise as there seems to be some demand to buy it. So, it will cost Occupy more to buy distressed debt as the supply decreases. But there is no reason for Wall Street to object to some greater fool buying up some of the distressed debt, whatever the buyers motive.

rene davis
irene davis6 years ago

This is truly amazing,. Well done OWS - smart thinking. Could hardly believe it.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Don't dismiss this idea. Even if not everyone will be helped, we have to start somewhere or nothing will ever change! Little by little, this could turn into a snowball effect. Those that get helped can continue by helping others. I wish OWS success and that the idea will spread around the world!

Thorn Briar
Past Member 6 years ago

Thank you

Dave I.
Dave I.6 years ago

Who is the beautiful short curly haired woman?!

Nicolette B.
Nicolette LaDuke6 years ago

What a wonderful thing. My husband and I are drowning in our sons student loans. The only way out for us is death.

simon s.
Simon Short6 years ago

Darko J: How very cynical of you!
Excellent - this is the way we MUST think if we ever expect to have anything to do with "Politics" (The PR Dept of Multinationals). To think otherwise is to assume the 1% are cartoon villains rather than the webs that actually DO run our world.
Indeed, if Occupy can do something, it will be something International Finance have already considered - and they'll do something to ensure that Occupy doesn't succeed.
However, for Occupy to succeed they need two things:
1:For as many people as poss to know about this.
2: LOTS of donations to do this.
You'll note there's a feedback loop in these two.
So, rather than worry about 'secrecy' (International finance knows al this stuff anyhow. It's the Media that keeps this 'Secret') just make sure you pass the news onto as many people as you can
- And most important, pass it onto people who "Aren't political". Ordinary people who post about kittens, the Sopranos and Justin Beiber.
To succeed, Occupy must not be a tiny group of politically committed people.
Stay cynical and keep optimistic. It's a tricky balancing act, but vital.
Good luck! Really.