in case you were wondering, after reading my post on #strikedebt, whether this is just “another insular #occupy liberal fantasy/fetish among trust-fund hippies who don’t understand how the economy works”, here are links to media commentary about the #strikedebt initiative:
It has taken Occupy Wall Street long enough to manage to come up with an idea that I think we can all get behind. But they have managed it: even to the point of convincing me, a neoliberal who believes very strongly in capitalism red in tooth and claw. What they’re suggesting is that if we wish to alleviate the debt burden on people we should purchase that distressed debt and then forgive it. Sounds like an excellent plan to me.
one of the finest examples, so far, of individual capitalism at work
Business Insider: Occupy Wall Street Has An Ambitious Plan To Buy Distressed Consumer Debt And Forgive It: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-rolling-jubilee-works-2012-11
Digital Journal 11/13/12:
So far the Rolling Jubilee has collected $137000 which will abolish around $2 million worth of American held debt. The Strike Debt affiliate will take their donations and purchase the debt from the loan holders or banks and instead of collecting on it they will simply forgive it. How is this legal? You can thank the same people who made the housing bubble burst because of speculation, bad loans, and the ability to buy and sell debt.
New York Times 11/13/12: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/nyregion/occupy-offshoot-aims-to-erase-peoples-debts.html
and from across the pond:
the UK Financial Times: http://ftalphaville.ft.com/2012/10/30/1237921/haldane-occupy-and-the-path-to-reform/
There is the quiet, but unmistakable, sound of a leaf being turned.
If I am right and a new leaf is being turned, then Occupy will have played a key role in this fledgling financial reformation. You have put the arguments. You have helped win the debate. And policymakers, like me, will need your continuing support in delivering that radical change. – Bank of England’s executive director for financial stability, Andy Haldane
and, finally, a great one for skeptics: Reuters 11/13/12
Filed in politics and news, things you can do | Tagged with #occupywallstreet, #ows, #strikedebt, capitalism, economics | Comment (0)
a new movement is bubbling up that i think is interesting and important.
what is #strike debt? this project is aimed at a problem most of america is facing: debt. you know what debt is. i bet you have some. but do you know how it works and what your rights are?
RIGHT NOW, a big part of their debt resistance campaign is the Rolling Jubilee.
say you are a person or family who has suffered a medical tragedy. whether insured or not, you end up owing literally millions of dollars. literally. dollars you know you can never, ever pay back. i know one family who owes more than that for saving the life of their premature baby. it didn’t matter to them that it would cost over a million dollars. it was their child. but because we don’t have national healthcare, despite the fact that they had insurance they now owe millions of dollars for saving their child. and that will forever hang over their heads, their finances, their resources. it will always affect how they can live.
so you owe a $1,000,000 medical bill for saving your baby. the insurance company knows you’ll never pay. they have the numbers. they’ve run the odds. they know there’s no chance of getting anything out of you. even though you owe them money they know you are not an asset to them. so what does the insurance company do? they bundle up your debt with a bunch of other never-going-to-be-repaid debts (also known as Asset Backed Securities) and sell them off to debt collector (in fact, banks and lenders are *required* by law to write off nonperforming debts after just 90 days.) but the debt collector doesn’t buy it for $1,000,000. the debt collector buys it for $50,000. pennies on the dollar.
and then they start calling you. constantly. in the middle of the night. sending harrassing letters. threatening your bank accounts, threatening your life. this is not an exaggeration. but they aren’t asking you for the $50,000 that they paid for your debt. they are asking for the million. they are looking to make $950,000 of you*. and they are relentless.
that $950k doesn’t even exist anymore. it was written off the books. but they are hellbent on collecting it. and you stay awake, you stress, you ruin your life trying to deal with this. this illegitimate debt.
this is a reality for way too much of america. (62% of bankruptcies are from medical debt. Also of note: In 10 years of RomneyCare in MA (which is basically exactly the same as ObamaCare), bankruptcies due to medical debt have not decreased at all. Insurance is a for-profit industry. it does not help when people really need help.)
so what is STRIKEDEBT? strike debt steps in and acts as that debt collector. they buy your $1,000,000 debt for $50,000 just like the other collector would. it’s for sale on the market. but instead of harassing you with phone calls and threatening your life, they just get rid of it. they erase it. and in a little while – out of the BLUE – a notice arrives that says “congratulations. your debt has been erased”. and your credit report shows this. it’s a real thing.
“OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)”
it seems like magic but it’s just math within the system. it’s using the system to beat the system.
STRIKEDEBT cannot buy a specific person’s debt. you cannot send money to directly help your Uncle Bob pay off the debts that his family incurred while he was overseas serving in the armed forces. but you can send money so that someone, somewhere, wakes up one day and gets a phone call or a letter that says “hey, that million dollars you spent to save your baby? guess what. you don’t owe that anymore.”
so then WHY strike debt?
after last week’s hurricane Sandy, the feeble lack of government response was powerfully overshadowed by the response of people helping people. in fact, 2 days ago when the snowstorm was coming through NYC just after Sandy, FEMA CLOSED THEIR OFFICES.
the banks got bailed out 4 years ago because of their risky and unethical business practices, which they did not to save lives but to turn profit, and in the process ruined a whole lot of american homes and dreams. they got bailed out with your tax dollars.
the government isn’t going to bail us out. we have to bail eachother out. “normal” wasn’t working. the america we want is an america we have to build.
if you want to donate to help alleviate the burden of illegitimate debt all over the united states, by the people, for the people, please, click here. $10 erases $200, $25 erases $500 in debt…. for someone, somewhere, struggling in america.
see here: one person talks about their thoughts on the functions of debt in our system and his moving personal experience at a strikedebt meeting: http://occupiedstories.com/i-take-your-stuff.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=i-take-your-stuff
[Strike Debt is an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. Strike Debt is the group / movement, Rolling Jubilee is the debt-buying project. Strike Debt has many initiatives. RJ is one, another is the Debt Resistors Operations Manual, and also informational/sharing/communal assemblies. learn more about debt resistance @ http://strikedebt.org/]
*the amount the debt collectors actually try to collect may vary depending on how much they calculate/expect they can get out of you.
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i am hesitant to post too much (though i’ve shared a lot on gReader) about this because, as i said, i am self-conscious about not knowing much about fiscal policy and economics. i only know what i read and what my friends out there in it tell me. and true: i read from the left and my friends are left. so it is most definitely biased. so while a huge amount of my personal bandwidth has been taken up by this, i haven’t said much or gotten too involved, even though #occupyoakland is getting big. like all bandwagons, i am hesitant to jump on this one and tie myself to it.
but a few days ago a friend of mine posted one of the photo-memes criticizing the assembly as idiotic hypocrites (or hypocritical idiots?) to facebook, and i responded that hey: if nothing else, people are talking. why stop them?
”People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
– George Bernard Shaw
a few days later, he sent an email to say he had “come around” and that my saying something had influenced him. and that felt good.
i am not hugely into protests myself. i never go to them, even if i’m firmly 100% behind the message, as i just don’t like the yahoos and disorganized crowds.
but in contrary to the accusation of it being a bunch of trust-fund hippies and social-welfare parasites and continual-protesters just “hanging out”, my friends in NYC and BOS report that a large percentage of people there are retirees who are in the immediately-getting-screwed NOW, not in the future, demographic. it’s people with jobs and home and families and educations who still can’t make it work.
the most productive thing that is happening here is that people are learning. the camps include mini-lectures and discussions about everything from tax reform to constitutionality to national health care to the defense budget to educational reform. the people who are really there (not just hanging out) are teaching eachother a lot of things. so if nothing else happens, a lot of people are going to walk away smarter. and that i’m all for.
“This is important because I think this is what Occupy Wall Street is right now: less of a movement and more of a space. It is a space in which people who feel a similar frustration with the world as it is and as it has been, are coming together and thinking about ways to recreate this world. For some people this is the first time they have thought about how the world needs to be recreated. But some of us have been thinking about this for a while now. Does this mean that those of us who have been thinking about it for a while now should discredit this movement? No. It just means that there is a lot of learning going on down there and that there is a lot of teaching to be done. –http://www.racialicious.com/2011/10/03/so-real-it-hurts-notes-on-occupy-wall-street/
“What OWES doesn’t have—and is under some pressure, internal and external, to formulate—is a traditional agenda: a list of “demands,” a set of legislative recommendations, a five-point program. For many of its participants, this lack is an essential part of the attraction. They’re making it up on the fly. They don’t really know where it will take them, and they like it that way. Occupy Wall Street is a political project, but it is equally a cri de coeur, an exercise in constructive group dynamics, a release from isolation, resignation, and futility. –http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2011/10/17/111017taco_talk_hertzberg
the mere existence/fact of so many unemployed and/or disenchanted or whatever they are doing this COMBINED with the ability to do it is something to consider. even if you say oh, this is a bunch of people who “don’t get it” or “lazy entitled people”, if that is true then that it is only further proof that there is something wrong, and this is democracy in action.
more links and info:
Filed in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakland, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, economics | Comment (0)
you ask the rich to pay more to help feed the poor, and the reply is akin to “let them eat cake“.
“Reduced taxes on the rich leave them with more money to influence politicians and politics. Their influence wins them further tax reductions, which gives them still more money to put to political use. When the loss of tax revenue from the rich worsens already strained government budgets, the rich press politicians to cut public services and government jobs and not even debate a return to the higher taxes the rich used to pay. So it goes – from Washington, to Wisconsin to New York City.
How do the rich justify and excuse this record? They claim that they can invest the money they save from taxes and thereby create jobs etc. But do they? In fact, cutting rich people’s taxes is often very bad for the rest of us (beyond the worsening inequality and hobbled government it produces).
Several examples show this. First, a good part of the money the rich save from taxes is then lent by them to the government (in the form of buying US Treasury securities for their personal investment portfolios). It would obviously be better for the government to tax the rich to maintain its expenditures, and thereby avoid deficits and debts. Then, the government would not need to tax the rest of us to pay interest on those debts to the rich.
Second, the richest Americans take the money they save from taxes and invest big parts of it in China, India, and elsewhere. That often produces more jobs over there, fewer jobs here, and more imports of goods produced abroad. US dollars flow out to pay for those imports and so accumulate in the hands of foreign banks and foreign governments. They, in turn, lend from that wealth to the US government because it does not tax our rich, and so we get taxed to pay for the interest Washington has to give those foreign banks and governments. The largest single recipient of such interest payments today is the People’s Republic of China.
Third, the richest Americans take the money they don’t pay in taxes and invest it in hedge funds and with stockbrokers to make profitable investments. These days, that often means speculating in oil and food, which drives up their prices, undermines economic recovery for the mass of Americans and produces acute suffering around the globe. Those hedge funds and brokers likewise use part of the money rich people save from taxes to speculate in the US stock markets. That has recently driven stock prices higher: hence, the stock market recovery. And that mostly helps – you guessed it – the richest Americans who own most of the stocks.”
the article has graphs and charts and numbers and things you should check out. but the crux of the problem is not in these summaries. where i start to lose this argument with my conservative friends comes from the controversial idea embedded in the paragraph preceding these:
In simplest terms, the richest Americans have done by far the best over the last 30 years; they are more able to pay taxes today than they have been in many decades, and they are more able to pay than other Americans by a far wider margin. At a time of national economic crisis, especially, they can and should contribute far more in taxes.
is this use of the word “should” – “At a time of national economic crisis, especially, they can and should contribute far more in taxes.” CAN. yes. SHOULD? that opens up a pandora’s box of capitalism vs. morality that i never have the energy to defend.Filed in politics and news | Tagged with bourgeois, capitalism, economics | Comment (0)
once again…time for the annual rant against holiday consumption and nudge toward a smarter economy….
it’s not like i don’t buy things. i do. but i try to buy them conscientiously, knowing where things come from, who made them, and how they were made and what from. i support local fashion as much as possible, shop recycled/used clothing stores, and try to avoid “made in china/sri lanka/vietnam/indonesia” when i buy something new. when it comes to food, beauty, and cleaning products, i look for the most organic/fewest ingredients/greenest thing i can find. but this doesn’t make me anti-consumer. i certainly couldn’t go a year without buying anything. in fact, i think because i am always looking for the perfect thing, the greenest thing, the most sustainable, best choice, i probably end up shopping MORE than someone who just walks into Wal-Mart, loads up the cart and walks out. i probably go to 5x as many stores looking for the best alternative, and pay more for things too, further supporting the economy.
i say this because i don’t want people to get the wrong impression when i support things like Buy Nothing Day (no shopping the day after Thanksgiving) and Buy Nothing Christmas (a radical Christian idea!). i understand that these seem extreme, and many people think futile. does it really make a difference if you shop the weekend after Thanksgiving or a week later? and aren’t giving gifts a nice thing to do?
in my mind, it’s the mindset of these activities that bothers me most – that this ritualized consumption is now an expected part of American culture, so much that people put themselves through horrid situations at the beck and call of retailers like cattle through a gate – remember the people getting trampled last year on “black friday”? – and into financial debt they can’t afford to “participate”. and, in the end, what percentage of Christmas gifts are actually something people wanted?
go ahead, consume. i’m not going to pretend that isn’t part of all our lives. but i encourage you to do it as mindfully as you can. this saturday is the first ever widely organized Small Business Saturday, with companies like American Express giving huge promotions. so maybe instead of hitting up the Best Buy and Wal-Mart on Black Friday and filling up your cart, take some time to find some of the items on your shopping lists at small businesses in your community on saturday instead. if done right, this can turn our economy around. small family businesses will thrive, artists will make a living, communities will come together. in my mind, THAT is the American way.Filed in things you can do | Tagged with adbusters, BNC, BND, consumerism, economics, NaBloPoMo | Comment (0)
Besides drawing women into the work force, falling wages made fast food both cheap to produce and a welcome, if not indispensible, option for pinched and harried families. The picture of the food economy [Fast Food Nation author Eric] Schlosser painted resembles an upside-down version of the social compact sometimes referred to as “Fordism”: instead of paying workers well enough to allow them to buy things like cars, as Henry Ford proposed to do, companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s pay their workers so poorly that they can afford only the cheap, low-quality food these companies sell, creating a kind of nonvirtuous circle driving down both wages and the quality of food. The advent of fast food (and cheap food in general) has, in effect, subsidized the decline of family incomes in America.
a food system overhaul is ever more important to the health of america, both physically and economically. this is undeniable, and those who continue to argue for the “right” to “cheap food” have blinders on. see the link above for full articulation, and also Tom Philpott’s grist.org response for a bit of focus.Filed in food, health & vegetarianism | Tagged with economics, pollan | Comment (0)
some of you might remember that i interned at the Breakthrough Institute (http://www.thebreakthrough.org) last year for 6 months, and i really can’t speak highly enough of their work and their drive and their vision. Breakthrough Senior Fellow and NYU chair of Sociology, Dalton Conley, is speaking about his new book tomorrow in Berkeley. $10, but it is more than a book signing and should be really interesting.
“Thriving in Elsewhere USA”
“A Conversation With One of America’s Greatest Living Sociologists.”
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Time: 7:30pm – 9:30pm
Location: First Congregational Church of Berkeley
Street: 2345 Channing Way
City/Town: Berkeley, CA
For decades society has changed, but our social and economic policy hasn’t kept up. We live differently, work differently, and raise our children differently today than ever before, but our social contract with the government dates back to the 1930s and 1960s.
In a groundbreaking new book that Publishers Weekly has already called “prescient” — Elsewhere, USA: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety — Breakthrough Senior Fellow and NYU Professor Dalton Conley offers a new look at how the technological, social, and economic changes that have reshaped the world are also reshaping our daily lives – and what this means for a new social contract for the 21st century….
Filed in culture and random linkage, things you can do, tv, books and movies | Tagged with economics | Comment (0)
Welcome to Elsewhere, USA, where the American individual has become extinct. Acclaimed sociologist Dalton Conley looks closely at a population of intraviduals – fractured people who struggle to juggle professional, familial, and personal pursuits. Gone are the days when professionals could count on clearly-defined work days with the same company for twenty years, and clearly defined roles within the family to come home to. Instead, today’s citizens of Elsewhere must try to satisfy their various selves simultaneously. By examining three arenas – economic, familial, and technological – Conley is able to illustrate how we have all become inhabitants of Elsewhere, where division between home and office has been all but demolished; our wireless economy encourages us to work 24/7, marketing has invaded the most intimate aspects of our lives, and leisure has become a lost art. Conley, university professor of the social sciences and chair of sociology at New York University, offers an essential understanding of how these changes have reshaped our world and our lives. Dalton Conley’s essays have appeared in numerous publications; his previous books include Being Black, Living in the Red, Honky, and The Pecking Order. Joining Conley in conversation this evening are Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, co-founders of the Breakthrough Institute, authors of Break Through and The Death of Environmentalism; both were named Time magazine’s “Heroes of the Environment 2008”. There is a cover charge of $10 per person.
please don’t get me wrong: i feel for the people who have lost their homes and jobs. except for those on top who caused the problem in the first place – i don’t feel bad that they’re out of a job.
i am not a nihilist. or an anarchist. or a communist. or a defeatist. but i agree with the assessment and sentiment that this economic downturn might be just what the doctor ordered to change the negative consumer behavior patterns in this country. like other addictions, sometimes you need to hit rock bottom and be forced to sweat it out with some DTs to get it out of your system. a fast. a cleanse. an intervention. a forced change.
oh, suddenly you can’t buy your kids a bunch of crap for christmas? i’m sorry, i don’t really feel too bad. if you’re having trouble paying the bills and eating, yes, i have sympathy. but that you didn’t get the huge flat screen TV you wanted isn’t keeping me awake at night.
the american economy has been riding on a wave of bubbles: the dot.com bubble, the housing bubble, natural resource bubbles, financial market bubbles….and now they’ve all burst.
some people have some terrific big ideas about what needs to happen, and much of them revolve around recognizing limits: natural and economic. take this interesting analogy:
The closer the economy approaches the scale of the whole Earth, the more it will have to conform to the physical behavior mode of the Earth. That behavior mode is a steady state – a system that permits qualitative development but not aggregate quantitative growth. Growth is more of the same stuff; development is the same amount of better stuff (or at least different stuff). The remaining natural world is no longer able to provide the sources and sinks for the metabolic throughput necessary to sustain the existing oversized economy – much less a growing one. Economists have focused too much on the economy’s circulatory system and have neglected to study its digestive tract. Throughput growth means pushing more of the same food through an ever larger digestive tract; development means eating better food and digesting it more thoroughly. Clearly the economy must conform to the rules of a steady state – seek qualitative development, but stop aggregate quantitative growth.
Ninety-nine percent of the things we buy end up in the landfill within six months of their purchase. — alternet
does that sound healthy? it seems a holistic diet is good for the economy as well as the body, and all the processed junk needs to go. are we post-consumerist yet?
(please watch The Story of Stuff if you haven’t already.)Filed in culture and random linkage, environment, politics and news | Tagged with economics | Comments (5)
have we reached a tipping point on this yet? or is mass hysteria and putting your life at risk now part of the attraction?
Buy Nothing Day: good for your health and safety.Filed in things you can do | Tagged with economics | Comment (1)