Remember Occupy Wall Street? Among other things, Occupy was criticized for failing to identify and pursue any concrete goals. They protested everything but did nothing. Now, years after Occupy’s moment in the spotlight has passed, activists formerly involved with the group are proving more effective alone than they were as a whole.
Strike Debt was formed as an Occupy offshoot. Unlike the movement that brought them together, Strike Debt has a clear, defined purpose: writing off debt. The group has used over $700,000 to purchase and write off nearly $15 million in bad debt. How could you write off $15 million debt with only $700,000? By doing this.
Once a bank decides a debt is unlikely to ever be paid off, they sell that debt. The bank figures it’s better to sell that debt to a collector for at least some money rather than eat the entire debt themselves. A collecting agency would buy, say, $10,000 of debt from a bank for $400. Everyone is happy. The bank get’s at least some of their money back, and the collecting agency – if successful – collects $10,000 for something they only paid $400 for.
Strike Debt is acts as a collection agency – kind of. Through their Rolling Jubilee Branch, Strike Debt buys debt from banks just as a collection agency would. But instead of hounding the debtor for money, they immediately write off the debt.
“Rolling Jubilee is a Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it,” the group’s site says. “Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal. “
The organization calls their work “a bailout for the people.”
“Jubilee comes from many faith traditions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” the group explains. “A jubilee is an event in which all debts are canceled and all those in bondage are set free… For example, a kind of jubilee happened in Iceland after the 2008 economic crisis: instead of bailing out their banks, Iceland canceled a percentage of mortgage debt. What these examples show is that debts are just a promise which can - and should - be renegotiated or canceled when the circumstances warrant.”
The group acknowledges that wiping off $15 million in debt makes only an infinitesimal dent in the debt market. Regardless, they’ve got to feel good about the work they’re doing. Imagine being a debtor and receiving a phone call from an unknown number. Instead of being hounded by a collection agency, the person on the other end of the line tells you they’ve purchased and written it off all your debt. Blessed would be an understatement.