Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The bailout of the 99% by the 99%

Why should the 1% get all the bailouts? Now, an Occupy Wall Street offshoot has launched an exciting project called Rolling Jubilee that lets you turn a little cash into a helping hand for folks who deserve it a lot more than Bank of America does.

Here's the deal. Jubilee is an ancient biblical tradition in which, periodically, debts were forgiven, slaves were freed and slates were wiped clean. It was a time for starting afresh, of renewal. Now, Rolling Jubilee takes that concept to a new level. According to their website, it works like this:

Banks sell debt for pennies on the dollar on a shadowy speculative market of debt buyers who then turn around and try to collect the full amount from debtors. The Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt, keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then abolishing it. We’re going into this market not to make a profit but to help each other out and highlight how the predatory debt system affects our families and communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99% by the 99%.

Millions of working people are still haunted by the debt they ran up while trying to stay afloat during the Great Recession. And while the government doled out hundreds of billions of dollars to big corporations and too-big-to-fail banks, normal folks have been pretty much left to fend for themselves.

By wiping out this debt, Rolling Jubilee spares thousands of hard-pressed people the agonies of getting pursued by aggressive collection agencies, many of whom use abusive, illegal practices to try and extract money from people who might be struggling to get back on their feet after losing a job, falling ill or other personal disasters.

So far, Rolling Jubilee says it's collected nearly $300,000 in donations, enough to extinguish more than $5m in debt. The group hopes to grow a broad debt resistance movement – and help build a non-exploitative economy that works for everybody.

Learn more: This trailer for the documentary film Maxed Out features professor (now, newly elected US senator) Elizabeth Warren explaining the predatory practices of banks and credit card companies. Then, if that doesn't make you angry enough, check out this ABC News expose of outrageous practices in the collections industry. More