Jubilant greetings from Strike Debt !

Several of us will be joining the reddit community tonight to talk about some of our projects including the Debt Resisters Operations Manual [PDF] and the Rolling Jubilee, a campaign to purchase and cancel people's debt. You may have recently heard of the Rolling Jubilee due to the massive media coverage it has received in the past few days.

Tomorrow, the Rolling Jubilee will officially begin with the Peoples Bailout Telethon, a variety show featuring musicians, lectures, comedy, and magic; special guests include members of Sonic Youth, Fugazi, TV on the Radio, and more! We've already officially abolished 100,000 dollars of medical debt for only 5,000 dollars; there is a much bigger cancellation coming soon, as through our crowdsourcing efforts we have currently raised 170 thousand dollars--enough to buy more than 3 million dollars worth of medical debt!

It will be live streamed online and folks will be getting together across the country to watch it collectively. The Telethon was supposed to be a launching pad, but it will probably be something closer to a victory party given the amazing success it has already had in the past few days! We would be happy to talk with you about all aspects of the project, and how it fits into the larger strategic trajectory of Strike Debt.

tl;dr we are part of Strike Debt, we formed an organization to buy and abolish people's debt, and the telethon will rock.

Hey thanks everyone, we've got a big day tomorrow so we're going to go to bed. Please join us for The People's Bailout on N15 8PM EST. You can watch the live-stream on our website rollingjubilee.org

Comments: 850 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

lordkuruku57 karma

A friend of mine (who has been involved with RJ) said that the debt being targeted is largely medical debt, at least to start, but I can't find that verified on any of the literature. Is that true?

Strike_Debt103 karma

That is true, we are kicking this off by buying medical debt. We've already abolished a 100,000 dollars of medical debt it only cost us 5,000.

Rebornkiller32 karma

I'm quite curious on how you can buy 100k in Medical Debt for $5,000, is there any special method? I'm not too "in the loop" when it comes to debt and solutions to debt.

Strike_Debt37 karma

This Wikipedia article does a pretty good job of explaining how the process works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_buyer

For those who are really curious here is a wonderful policy paper by the New Economy Project about how debt buyers have basically privatized the court system in New York City [pdf]. I highly recommend it:


Rebornkiller5 karma

Wow, that's pretty eye-opening. How do you find your 'cases,' if they can be called that?

Strike_Debt24 karma

If by cases you mean people in debt, we find them by buying their debt. We can buy specific types of debt but we can't buy specific peoples debt.

scienarasucka37 karma

Have you thought about the tax consequences for people whose debt you forgive? I think you could really end up screwing someone over, however good your intentions.

Strike_Debt50 karma

We are not lawyers, although we do have lawyers advising us, please read this article, it explains it better than we can:


asafoetida31 karma

What a brilliant concept! How did you realize this was an option, and how do you plan to target the debt you purchase and erase?

Strike_Debt54 karma

This has been an idea floating around activist circles for several years now, but it took a lot of people working together to make it actually happen. We want to shine a spotlight on various injustices within our debt economy. We're starting with medical debt, but will be targeting other injustices too. There are so many injustices out there.

onidavin31 karma

How will you judge the efficacy of this as an exercise/intervention?

Strike_Debt24 karma

In many ways it is already a success. We're really enjoying all the questions that people are starting to ask about the illegitimacy of the debts the 1% think we owe.

Jeffool31 karma

When you forgive someone's debt, how will you let them know?

May I suggest doing a few in person, a la Publisher's Clearinghouse?

Strike_Debt85 karma

We are going to contact them by certified mail. We take debtors' privacy very seriously. There is a lot of shame around debt. We want to remove that shame. Showing up a la Publisher's Clearinghouse style is probably not the best way to do that.

On the issue of debt and shame, we highly recommend our friend Chris Kasper's beautiful essay in Yes!.

societalmire28 karma

Looking forward to the telethon tomorrow! I've donated as much as I can at the moment, and hope to see the movement continue to grow!

Strike_Debt18 karma

Thank you! Every little bit helps.

queptar19 karma

Will you be notifying the debtors that you liberate that you have canceled their debt? If so, will you include a copy of the Debt Resistor's Operations Manual, so they are less likely to get into similar situations in the future?

Strike_Debt23 karma

We will be notifying debtors and we are considering sending them the DROM. We would like the DROM to spread as much as possible.

annyc19 karma

Are you worried that instead of refusing to sell to you the owners of debt will just raise their prices and say "too much demand"?

Strike_Debt48 karma

The debt buying market is so big that we won't be able to increase the demand. If we could get that big we'd be super pleased but it's just not realistic.

Rebornkiller19 karma

  • What types of 'loopholes' can be used to abolish all of this debt?
  • How long does it usually take to abolish the debt?
  • Do you charge your clientele for the debt abolishment?
  • What do you think about the possibility of Clinton/Gore 2016?
  • What inspired you to get into debt abolishment? You guys rock, I absolutely love you.

Strike_Debt43 karma

  1. It's not a loophole we're buying debt the same way a debt buyer does.
  2. The process can take months to do the due diligence.
  3. We do not charge anyone to abolish their debt.
  4. ...
  5. Most of us came to this because we have debt and/or are sick of seeing people suffering from debt. It really boils down to wanting to help people.

ntlord18 karma

This is pretty interesting. I guess I can get behind you buying people's medical debt. That seems pretty noble. But do you have plans to expand to other types of debt, and if so, don't you think they have some sort of personal responsibility? Assuming its the type of debt they volutarily entered into, why should they get forgiven?

Strike_Debt30 karma

We do plan on branching out into buying other types of debt. As for the second part of your question sorry for the canned answer but we get this one a lot and this is the best "quick" way we can explain it.

We believe that nobody should have to go into debt for basic things in life like housing, health care, or education. The debt buying industry is clearly an unjust industry meant to profit a few and keep our system of inequality going. The banks got a bailout in 2008, even though they caused the crisis and caused so much suffering around the globe. It is clear that the people are the ones who deserve a bailout.

ntlord16 karma

Well I think this requires something more than a canned answer. For example, you mention nobody should go into debt for housing. Yet probably most people do. It's called a mortgage. If your point is that you want to help people who are in such financial need they need to put their basic needs on a credit card, I would think there are more efficient ways to help them. For example, helping them through bankruptcy proceedings.

Strike_Debt50 karma

A functional bankruptcy process IS a kind of jubilee. The problem is that our bankruptcy laws have been rewritten to screw the 99%.

If I could pick just one law to be the "poster child" for the critique that Strike Debt and Occupy Wall Street have of our corrupt system it would be the 2005 Orwellian named Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. This was a bill that would never in a million years get passed if our "representatives" actually represented us. This was a bill that was literally bad for 99.999999999999% of Americans. It was written by a lobbyist for the credit card industry and the only people it benefited were the banks and the credit card companies. That's it. It rewrote the laws to make it harder to file for bankruptcy and harder to get your debt discharged, even if you had a good reason to do so (got sick, lost job, got hit by hurricane Sandy, took a risk in your business and it didn't work out, etc). Without bankruptcy protection the banks can continue to bleed people of their hard earned income. Again, if we had anything resembling a democracy where representatives actually represent the interest of their constituants then a bill like this would be dead in the water. Yet it passed. That should tell us something.

Meanwhile the rules are different for the 1%. Seriously, just read this article about the way American Airlines went through a strategic bankruptcy earlier this year.

Even though American Airlines had over $4 billion dollars in the bank account, even though they paid their executives multi-million dollar salaries, even though they could pay all their debts and bills and paychecks for the foreseeable future, the investors in American Airlines decided that they could make more money if they just walked away from their obligations. They filed for bankruptcy ($4 billion doesn't sound bankrupt to me) and got their debts wiped out. Once they filed for bankruptcy they were able to break the promises they made to their workers in the contract they entered into. They just tore that contract up, turned around and laid off workers and cut the pay of others. Now THAT'S bankruptcy abuse.

tl;dr: we need a jubilee because for all intents and purposes we do not have a bankruptcy law that is designed to help the 99%

too_many_bats17 karma


Strike_Debt20 karma

Terms like the 1% or the 99% exist because people need a way to label how they feel about an unjust system and their place in it. Our feud is with the banks and the politicians. It's with any one who uses "the system" to hurt people. We don't begrudge people their wealth but we do think that the majority of people need a bailout just like the banks got.

therealcheney10 karma

Do y'all have any ideas about how we could spread the word about this on college campuses etc? Do you have any materials we can use?

Strike_Debt14 karma

Social media is a great tool. The DROM linked above is a great tool to give people. We're working on more materials. Please keep going to our website and we'll try to get more things out to you guys.

anrathrowaway9 karma

I just came here to say thanks. This is a fantastic idea, and one that actually helps tons of people that are in need. Keep it up! Make sure to disregard some on the left who claim this is supporting banks, they don't know what they're talking about.

Strike_Debt8 karma

Thank you!

PresidentSantos7 karma

Hey guys, really excited about the campaign and the potential to fight a really terrible industry. I was wondering if you guys are anticipating a pushback from the debt industry on what you're attempting? What, if any, issues did you have during the first purchasing of debt? Do you think it will become more difficult as your actions become more public?

Thanks for coming here and keep up the good fight!

Strike_Debt11 karma

We're not sure just yet how the industry responds. So far it seems mixed but mostly positive.

July776 karma

I heard there are rumors that you guys will be starting your own bank. Why give your money to these corrupt institutions, when it can be held by the people.

Is that true?

Strike_Debt15 karma

At this time we have no plans to start a bank but if you have a plan for one let us know.

poop_pants6 karma

How much money needs to be raised to erase everything? What's the goal (target sum of donation)?

Strike_Debt19 karma

The Rolling Jubilee will not be the solution to fix our broken economic and political system. It can, we hope, be a tool to

1) build mutual aid networks 2) shine a spotlight on various ways in which debt perpetuates economic inequality 3) help us build a global debt resistance movement

The question is, how can we organize massive non-cooperation with the 1% while building new forms of social relationship with one another.

dmonet5 karma

Why are you not working to have student loans be absolved through bankruptcy like all other forms of debt?

Strike_Debt8 karma

Strike Debt came largely out of the work of the Occupy Student Debt Campaign. They were founded on four basic principal of free public higher education, no interest loans for private institutions, that private institutions should open their books and be honest about where their money goes and that all current student loan debt should be written off.

They are not currently working to have student loans absolved through bankruptcy but many groups are. Please see their website to learn more about their campaign.

okay_okay3 karma

I love the idea of this, but:

As you buy more and more debt, won't this bid up the price of defaulted debt as sellers realize people are buying it?

Won't this idea be defeated by its own popularity?

Strike_Debt10 karma

The market is too large for us to affect the market price of debt. Wouldn't it be awesome if the campaign got big enough to do that? But that's not really realistic. The market is just gigantic. They're trying to drown us in debt. It's time to stand up and fight back!

k8shots3 karma

I'm really excited about RJ, and am curious about some details...Who exactly will be purchasing/canceling the debt? How? Is it an online market (like etrade or something similar? If so, is it open to anyone? How will ppl know that their debts have been 'abolished'? Will they know that it's b/c of RJ? Finally (for now ;) when will debt purchasing/abolishing actually begin?

Strike_Debt11 karma

The debt purchasing/abolishing has already begun! Earlier this week we closed on a portfolio for over $100,000 of medical debt which only took $5,000 to do.

The Rolling Jubilee Fund, a 501(c)4 non-profit has been set up to manage the process. This fund is accountable to Strike Debt as an assembly which will decide to target different kind of debt to highlight different injustices within our debt-based economy.

We take the privacy of debtors very seriously. All debtors will be informed that their debt has been abolished though certified mail.

The debt buyer's market can be a pretty shady place. If you want to learn more about it this wikipedia article does a pretty good job of explaining it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_buyer

I highly recommend this wonky report by NEDAP/New Economy Project which shows how debt buyers have effectively privatized the court system in New York City in order to extract wealth from the poorest members of our society: http://www.nedap.org/resources/documents/DEPT_POLICY_PAPER_FINAL_WEB_REV.pdf