“Strike Debt” a promising Occupy offshoot


by David Safier

This is a mind-bogglingly simple, creative idea. When debts look uncollectable, the lender will often sell them for pennies on the dollar. Usually they're bought up by companies that hound the debtors, hoping to get enough money back to make a profit. Instead, why not put together money to buy up, then forgive the debts?

That's what a group calling itself Strike Debt is doing, based on an idea tossed around in Occupy camps. So far it's raised $129,000, which it says can buy $2.5 million in defaulted loans. Once they're bought, Strike Debt can simply tear up the papers or, more accurately, send a certified letter to the people who owe the money telling them they're free and clear.

Forbes has published a long, mainly positive article about the movement. It could catch on, getting contributions from a wide variety of people and organizations. I know one of the reasons I like giving to the local Food Bank is that every dollar I give translates into $7-8 worth of food. Such a chartitable-giving deal! Strike Debt can pay off at 20-to-1.

Another term being used for the movement is Rolling Jubilee after the biblical Jubilee that was supposed to come every 49 — make it 50 — years.

"This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. " — Leviticus 25:10

Church groups could get behind that.

The wonderful thing is how transportable the idea is, and how flexible in terms of the amount of money raised. How to determine who gets the debt forgiveness is problematic, but it can be worked out.

BIBLICAL NOTE: The Jubilee number was 49 years, because 7 is a biblically favored number, and 49 is 7 times 7. Fifty years, so far as I know, is a rounding up.