Tag Archives | Debt

What If All the World’s Debt Just Went Away

Picture: Roman Oleinik (CC)

Joe Brewer writes at Common Dreams:

Just for fun, imagine if all debt were wiped away when the Mayan Calendar ends this Friday…

How would the world be different?  What would become possible for you personally in your life?  How would nations and corporations invest our newfound wealth differently if we all started from a clean slate?  Problems like global warming and extreme poverty would instantly become financial drops in the bucket—easily tackled with fair contracts and forward-looking investments.  The structural debts of entrenched subsidies, invested capital, tax havens, and trade agreements that keep them from being addressed would simply no longer exist.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  Well just such a fantasy used to be standard practice in the Hebrew Tradition throughout the early days of their civilization.  They held a great Jubilee every seven years to erase all debt and end economic slavery.  Accounts kept on stone tablets were broken.  Those stored on papyrus were burned to ash.  Slaves were returned to their families.  Everyone was given a fresh start.  (This tradition is being revived today through the Occupy-inspired project, Rolling Jubilee, that has already abolished more than $9,000,000 in US debt for everyday citizens.)

The Invention of Debt

What you may not know is that debt arose recently on the human stage.  Throughout more than 99% of our history we have not even had a concept for debt.  (The interested reader can pick up David Graeber’s excellent book Debt: The First 5000 Years for full story.)

Anthropological studies of hunter-gatherer societies reveal that there were no barter systems, no currencies to use for money, and — in the absence of these cultural artifacts — there was no debt.  With all the great variation cross cultures one might expect from ethnographic research, the anthropologists found that some tribal communities engaged in “gift economies” where status arises from how generous a person is who has acquired wealth, while others have remained egalitarian and non-hierarchical for thousands of years by sharing their food and materials based on the principles of “from each as they are able, to each as they need.”

This belies the great misunderstanding about communism that treats it as a state-centric governing system, when in truth it is the foundational sentiment of any community that builds upon the trust and good will of social relations between people who know and depend upon one another — a condition that has held for all hunter-gatherer societies throughout our long 200,000 year history as a species.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Are American College Students The Coal Miners Of Today?

Via Counterpunch, Darwin Bond-Graham argues that students are positioned at a “choke point” in the debt economy:

Now that we know the debt situation is untenable for an entire generation, what are we going to do about it? UC Santa Cruz professor Bob Meister is advocating the university and the plight of the student as a starting point for a wider movement against debt. Historically students have been galvanizers, taking direct action at seemingly impossible moments. Will they do it now?

Meister compared the students of today to the coal miners of early industrial capitalism. Under that regime of production, coal miners had the power to shut down the economy because they labored away at the site of a singular choke point of value extraction upon which all the spinning looms and colonial plantations depended. Students now occupy a choke point, according to Meister. Student loans are assets in the books of banks and the personal fortunes of the wealthy 1%, used to leverage up debts throughout all other sectors of the economy, debts that penetrate into the social collective and reinforce financial servitude for the masses.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Shadow Banking Industry Now Worth $76 Trillion

Will unregulated, debt-based financial products destroy the world? Bloomberg reports that the funneling of capital into instruments of so-called “shadow banking” continues to balloon to unimaginably large proportions:

The shadow banking industry has grown to about $67 trillion, leading global regulators to seek more oversight of financial transactions that fall outside traditional oversight. The Financial Stability Board, a global financial policy group comprised of regulators and central bankers, found that shadow banking grew by $41 trillion between 2002 and 2011.

The size of the shadow banking system, which includes the activities of money market funds, monoline insurers and off-balance sheet investment vehicles, “can create systemic risks” and “amplify market reactions when market liquidity is scarce,” the FSB said.

Supervisors consider shadow banking activities to be those that allow banks to carry out business off balance sheets, as well as those which allow investors to bypass lenders and the functions they traditionally fulfill on the markets.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Occupy Movement Buys Up Debts…And Forgives Them!

'Occupy' Zürich Lindenhof 2011-10-30 15-56-28Douglas Rushkoff describes a positive turn in the life of the Occupy movement, for CNN via his blog:

Much like President Obama, the Occupy movement is alive and well and entering its second term, thank you very much. It’s no longer about squatting in public parks, getting on the news, or — in some cases — getting arrested. No, instead this decentralized, bottom-up, anti-Wall Street effort is taking aim at your medical, student and other loans: It aims to relieve your debt.

Just as Obama appears to have left the lofty rhetoric of “being the change” behind him as he confronts the more practical realities of working a financial plan through an intransigent Congress, the occupiers have given up on winning media mindshare or public support and have turned instead to direct action that helps real people. In its Act 2, Occupy is just occupying the space where it’s needed.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Can Debt Spark A Revolution?

Via the Nation, David Graeber on rebellion against indebtedness:

The rise of [Occupy Wall Street] allowed us to start seeing the system for what it is: an enormous engine of debt extraction. Debt is how the rich extract wealth from the rest of us, at home and abroad. Internally, it has become a matter of manipulating the country’s legal structure to ensure that more and more people fall deeper and deeper into debt.

Financialization, securitization and militarization are all different aspects of the same process. And the endless multiplication, in cities across America, of gleaming bank offices—
spotless stores selling nothing while armed security guards stand by—is just the most immediate and visceral symbol for what we, as a nation, have become.

As I write, roughly three out of four Americans are in some form of debt, and a whopping one in seven is being pursued by debt collectors. There’s no way to know just what percentage of the average household’s income is now directly expropriated by the financial services industry in the form of interest payments, fees and penalties…[data] suggests it is somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Debt Collectors and District Attorneys Collude to Deceive Debtors

Picture: Artist unknown (PD)

The New York Times has a story on the ongoing unethical collusion between debt-collectors and prosecuting attorney’s offices:

The letters are sent by the thousands to people across the country who have written bad checks, threatening them with jail if they do not pay up.

They bear the seal and signature of the local district attorney’s office. But there is a catch: the letters are from debt-collection companies, which the prosecutors allow to use their letterhead. In return, the companies try to collect not only the unpaid check, but also high fees from debtors for a class on budgeting and financial responsibility, some of which goes back to the district attorneys’ offices.

So here’s the deal, it’s a crime to write a bad check if you know that the bank isn’t going to honor the instrument. But in most states, in order to be convicted the State has to prove that you knew the check was going to bounce when you wrote it.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

US Debt Collection Agencies Salivating Over Trillion Dollars in Student Debt

Picture: F.W. Murnau (PD)

Unless you owe money yourself, it  may be hard to understand how quickly having outstanding student loan debt can become an almost unbearable situation. College is expensive, and many young people come to school with a fatal combination of financial naivete and unrealistic expectations of what the job market has to offer a college graduate.

There’s over a trillion dollars in US student loan debt, and it’s a growing industry. Families can on occasion escape from their commercial credit debt: They can foreclose on a home. They can file bankruptcy. Student loan debt is forever, a never-ending all-you-can-bleed buffet for those companies fortunate enough to land contracts from the government.

From RT:

Most US college students hope to land a good job with a high salary after graduation. But for some the reality is very different. Many find themselves faced with insurmountable debt – and a loan industry that’s happy to cash in on their misfortune.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

America’s Student Debt Crisis

Picture: j.o.h.n. walker (CC)

Student debt activists and education advocates Kyle McCarthy and Natalia Abrams are tired of the ‘silence and complacency’ that our elected (and duly bribed) officials exhibit in the face of overwhelming evidence of usury and millions of voices of the disaffected. At least two out of three of students take out loans for college and at least 1 out of 5 of those will default.

Via Huffington Post:

Since 1978, college tuition has skyrocketed by over 900%, while simultaneously, grants and scholarships continue to be slashed. The result? Students are forced to mortgage their futures with student debt, from which there is no escape. In 2010, student debt actually eclipsed credit card debt as the second largest consumer debt in the country (second only to mortgage debt, surpassing $1 trillionin total). The Atlantic recently reported that, since 1999, student debt has increased by 511%.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Banks Falsify Credit Card Lawsuits in Ninety Percent of Cases?

Philip Taylor (CC)

We hear every week about the massive LIBOR interest rate fixing, or the shady practices by which banks drain money from local municipalities, or the false promises given to homeowners across the country by the finance industry, or as much as 90% of foreclosed homes remaining off the market but still shuttered in and out of dispassionate algorithms, or that San Francisco’s assessor discovered ‘errors’ in 84% of home mortgage foreclosures (read: scams). It’s not a big leap of the imagination then to consider that almost all credit card lawsuits brought by banks are fraudulent. Lenders are still continuing the dubious fraud that caused such a scandal last year with robo-signing.

via Russia Today:

US credit card companies have been churning out lawsuits and improperly collecting debt from consumers 90 percent of the time, at least according to a New York judge who deals with these cases.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Iceland Jails Bankers, Erases Citizens’ Debt, Recovers Strongly

 Seriously, the most advanced place on Earth. Bloomberg writes:

Icelanders who pelted parliament with rocks in 2009 demanding their leaders and bankers answer for the country’s economic and financial collapse are reaping the benefits of their anger.

Since the end of 2008, the island’s banks have forgiven loans equivalent to 13 percent of gross domestic product, easing the debt burdens of more than a quarter of the population.

The island’s steps to resurrect itself since 2008, when its banks defaulted on $85 billion, are proving effective. Iceland’s economy will this year outgrow the euro area and the developed world on average, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates.

Iceland’s approach to dealing with the meltdown has put the needs of its population ahead of the markets at every turn. Once it became clear back in October 2008 that the island’s banks were beyond saving, the government stepped in, ring-fenced the domestic accounts, and left international creditors in the lurch.

Read the rest
Continue Reading