Over the last year a group of Occupy Wall Street activists raised $400,000 to buy out almost $15m of Americans’ personal debt as part of its Rolling Jubilee (RJ) project to help people pay off outstanding credit. Occupy’s Strike Debt group set up Rolling Jubilee following the street protests that swept the country in 2011. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before “abolishing” it, freeing individuals from their bills. They managed to free people of $14,734,570, including $13.5m of medical debt owed by 2,693 people across 45 states and Puerto Rico.
“We thought that the ratio would be about 20 to 1,” said Andrew Ross, a Strike Debt member and NYU professor of social and cultural analysis. “In fact we’ve been able to buy debt a lot more cheaply than that.” The RJ project was conceived as a “public education project”, Ross said. “Our purpose in doing this, aside from helping some people along the way…was to spread information about the workings of this secondary debt market,” Rolling Jubilee said in a press release. “No one should have to go into debt or bankruptcy because they get sick,” said Laura Hanna, an RJ organizer. Hanna said 62% of all personal bankruptcies have medical debt as a contributing factor.
Adam Gabbatt, “Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15m of Americans’ personal debt,” The Guardian, November 12, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/12/occupy-wall-street-activists-15m-personal-debt.
Student Researcher: Katie Barretta (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)