Tag Archives | Debt

Occupy Wall Street Eliminates $15 million of Debt

Since the protest started in Zucotti Park in New York City near the financial district, the Occupy Wall Street movement has done a lot to raise awareness of the iniquities and corruption in the American political and economic system, whilst receiving biased mass-media editorializing and suffering undue violence from the local police. Since November 15, 2012, the Occupy movement started a program of debt-relief called “Rolling Jubilee,” which seeks to bailout individuals who have accrued debt through credit cards as well as medical bills. To date they have relieved millions of dollars in debt for just pennies on the dollar.

VIA Guardian

A group of Occupy Wall Street activists has bought almost $15m of Americans’ personal debt over the last year as part of the Rolling Jubilee project to help people pay off their outstanding credit.

Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy’s Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012.

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ACLU Uncovers Illegal Debtors’ Prisons Across Ohio

debtors' prison

Despite being blatantly unconstitutional, citizens are commonly being jailed for their inability to pay tickets and fines, wreaking havoc on people’s lives (and costing the state far greater sums than the unpaid tickets), ACLU Ohio reveals:

The resurgence of contemporary debtors’ prisons sits squarely at this intersection of poverty and criminal justice. In towns across the state, thousands of people face the looming specter of incarceration every day, simply because they are poor.

For Ohio’s poor and working poor, an unaffordable traffic ticket or fine is just the beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed simply for being too poor to pay fines.

The U.S. Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio Revised Code all prohibit debtors’ prisons. The law requires that, before jailing anyone for unpaid fines, courts must determine whether an individual is too poor to pay.

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Congressmen Say Their Own Personal Debt is OK, but not Government Debt

Flickr user: Images_of_Money (CC)

Ah, “elected” government, where hypocrites are paid to advocate for causes they may or may not even agree with, and legislate rules that they themselves don’t follow. And apropos of budget hysteria and economic terrorism being wrought against popular public programs, the trumped-up fears are not only false (the debt crisis is imaginary, and only 6% of the country is aware that the deficit is actually falling) but it’s no surprise to anyone that the ‘debt-fixing’ warriors don’t have the same view of their own debt as they do of the country’s, or yours.

As Josh Israel of ProPublica points out, fourteen of the most vitriolic enemies of vital programs themselves live with the personal irresponsibility of private debt (to the tune of millions).

These hypocrites include:

  • House Budget Committee Member Tom Rice (R-SC):Wrote: “At a time when hardworking American families are living off of a budget, the federal government should be no different.
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Malls for the ‘Sheeple’

Into Boksburg and ERMDurban, South Africa: Back in 2002, South Africa hosted a UN environmental Summit on sustainability. It drew a rag tag army of green activists from all over the world, many excited to visit the now free South Africa that they fought for through the apartheid years, and hoping to meet members of the liberation movement led by Nelson Mandela

The closest to Nelson Mandela they got was to gather in front of a giant statue, created by a Swedish artist, in a commercial Square named after the South African icon. When they pictured the new South Africa, they probably saw the townships where tens of thousands of people marched for justice.

Instead, they found themselves in Sandton, a “township” that only capitalists could imagine, an upscale enclave within the city of Johannesburg devoted to corporation, banks and giant malls even more opulent than similar temples of consumption in other countries.… Read the rest

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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