Up | November 17, 2012
>>> we've been talking about washington's preoccupation to an irrational degree with deficits. on thursday, richard tr nurse, ca expressed frustration saying what we're facing is an obstacle course within a manufactured crisis that haasly was thrown together in response to inflated rhetoric about our federal deficit. trumka's lament says something about the debt obsession, it has obscured also another much more dire debt crisis in america, one that continues to suppress economic growth and cause mass suffering for millions of american. that's the overhang of household debt . americans remain massively overleveraged with more than $11 trillion in household debt . most of which is mortgage debt. there seems s ts to be no political will to deal with this, which is why a new plan by organizers associated with occupy wall street is so fascinating. the offshoot called strike debt is raising money to buy debt for pennies on the dollar. usually that debt is bought by third parties looking to collected on the amount owed by the borrower, but strike debt is buying the debt and canceling it. no questions asked. they're calling it a rolling jubilee. since their online telethon on thursday night, they raised nearly $300,000 to buy or forgive nearly $6 million of debt. joining me are the organizer of the jubilee, and the author of "occupy america." also sarah ludwig, and doug henwood , editor and publisher of the left business review. all right. so, i would debt? why has -- have you guys come along organizing on debt as this singular issue?
>> well, we are part of an offshoot of occupy wall street called strike debt. strike debt emerged out of the recognition that debt was sort of the way many people attracted to occupy wall street early on. they identified as debtors. so thinking back to an early day at the park, a young man was saying step right up, write down what you're worth to the 1%. people were putting down these incredible numbers. i remember a moment of hesitation in myself when i got nervous before writing down the $45,000 i owed in students loans. the girl behind me wrote down 120,000. an older woman wrote down a large $50,000 of medical debt . people were naming this and coming out. people involved in occupy from the beginning identified as debtors. this moved them to action. strike debt emerged this summer, earlier this summer partly in solidarity with international movements against austerity and in montreal students were protesting tuition hikes and wearing red squares, and pointing to bigger social problems , the privatization of all sorts of social services . so strike debt has come out of that.
>> why do you think it has the emotional resonance it does? why was that the thing? i remember in the i am the 99%, that website, right, people were writing down their story. a lot of them revolved around debt. why do you think debt has the emotional resonance it does?
>> because debt is isolating, individualizing, and we are living in a society where we are under so much burden of debt that it just -- it makes sense when you look at the 99%, and 77% of americans have debt. and those that don't have debt are effected by it. that the choices we make in our lives, for example, are based on whether we can pay back or not. and what type of jobs we'll accept, who we become what jobs we decide out of school, what we decide as mothers, fathers in terms of children. i have a friend who used to work at a law firm , he still works at a law firm , he never liked his job but he stayed in it because he didn't want his children to take out loans to go to school.
>> i was at the telethon on thursday night. i was struck by this thing that jacqueline lewis said. she talked about the biblical tradition of jubilee, and the way debt and freedom are intentioned. take a look.
>> a whole lot of our population is in shackles. absolutely overwhelmed, can't get out of it. credit card debt , paying, you know, 16% interest. something you buy for $100 ends up costing you 2,000 before you pay it off. education debt. can't get out. can't get a job. can't get free. hospital, health care debt. forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. jesus who was a rabbi, who often many of us think of as the child of god , was saying this is the way to freedom. this is the way to liberation. debt needs to be canceled. all of that cancellation is called a year of jubilee.
>> i want to talk about the way debt shapes the lives of people in the communities that you work with and the role that debt plays in american capitalism . having