Debt Forgiveness Campaign Started by Occupy Wall Street

Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement have started a fundraising campaign called ‘The People’s Bailout,’ which aims to forgive consumer debt by buying it up. The kick-off event, named ‘Rolling Jubilee,’ is a debt forgiveness campaign organized by Strike Debt and has already proven the concept, previously buying up $14,000 of debt with only $500 in funds.

Rolling Jubilee is a telethon fundraiser and variety show. Proceeds from the show will go towards purchasing and forgiving distressed debt. Random individuals in bankruptcy or who have defaulted on loans are the prime targets of ‘The People’s Bailout.’ As of November 13, Rolling Jubilee has reported over $130,000 in funds raised, translating to over $2.5 million of debt leverage.

Co-organizer David Rees writes, “As you can see from our test run, the return on investment approaches 30:1. That’s a crazy bargain! Now, after many consultations with attorneys, the IRS, and our moles in the debt-brokerage world, we are ready to take the Rolling Jubilee program live and nationwide, buying debt in communities that have been struggling during the recession.”

The Jubilee itself is to take place at Le Poisson Rouge on November 15th, located 2 miles from the former OWS stronghold, Zucotti Park, and will be broadcast via live stream.

Estimates of the average American’s debt burden are around $47,000, and the consumer debt market consists of about $11.4 trillion. Some in the financial world have scoffed at the campaign, while others, like Felix Salmon of Reuters, see a silver lining,

“As a result, Strike Debt will probably, at some point, end up paying banks for debts which aren’t legitimate at all: indeed, if they’re looking for the debt which trades at the lowest levels on the pennies-per-dollar market, they’re likely to be buying the most dubious debts, on an “as is” basis.So the symbolism here is in some ways more important than the actual results, which pretty much by definition are unknown and unknowable. Still, that’s one of the reasons I like this scheme.”

Whether ‘The People’s Bailout’ is merely a well-intentioned idea that sees few tangible results, or a catalyst for comprehensive debt reform, members of the Occupy Wall Street movement have shed considerable light onto an often overlooked sore spot in the American economy.