Everyone remembers the announcement by Bank of America more than two years ago that it would be adding a $5 debit card usage fee. And we also remember the massive backlash that announcement caused; so much so, that millions abandoned their banks in search of credit unions that had lower fees, better service and less focus on CEO pay. Enter the Occupy Movement.
Soon, these movements were springing up around the nation, complete with protests and demands to be heard. Every day consumers who’d simply had enough. And a powerful bunch of consumers they were – Bank of America, within weeks, abandoned its new debit card fee. By then, though, the movement had powerful roots. Now, the Occupy Movement is at it again.
Wiping Out Consumer Debt
The public parks hijackings, the hurricane relief drives that made the federal government look like a group of paupers, the unity of intellectuals were more stubborn than a billy goat tied to a fence post. It’s paid off because now, they’ve undertaken a second effort to wipe out consumer debt. It’s fresh, smart and frankly, so simple that there was nothing for it to do but succeed.
They have found a way to make a powerful contribution to the economy by focusing on individual consumers’ needs – specifically, the overwhelming debt many are locked into. They are buying consumer debt in all forms – credit card debt, medical bills, student loans – and they’re paying it off. Just like that. They are wiping the slate clean for millions.
Can’t Cure it All
It’s a massive order to fill and not even the Occupiers can pay off the collective American unsecured debt load. After all, between the three sectors – medical debt, student loans and credit card debt – we’re looking at a massive – and not to mention record – $2.74 trillion. Millions fell behind on their financial possibilities, not because of any irresponsibility, but a combination of political factors that trickled down and into the wallets of everyday folks. When they fall behind on their debt payments and it goes into delinquency, the banks, credit card companies, hospitals and others will sell it to third party debt collectors.
They don’t recover the total amount unpaid, but they are able to collect pennies on the dollar while also getting it off their books. Once it leaves their hands, they care little about what these collection agencies do to get you to pay up – even if it’s illegal, abusive or unethical. Just as the debt belongs to the collection agencies and they’re able to do with it as they wish, the Occupiers are doing the same thing. The difference is, the collectors will harass, humiliate and embarrass consumers. Occupiers buy the debt and then forgive it – all in one fell swoop.
Thomas Gokey, a professor at Syracuse University, has been playing a role in debt resistance for more than a year. In fact, last spring, he was able to $14,000 in delinquent credit card debt for less than $500. Then, the debts vanished – it showed on consumer credit reports as paid in full and in fact, many had (and still don’t) no idea where their gift came from.
Your Debt No Longer Exists
This past week, there were 1,000 randomly selected patients in Kentucky and Indiana who discovered, via letters in the mail that their emergency room debt was forgiven. The donations collected in recent months lifts those burdens from the shoulders of moms, dads, grandmas and anyone else with a need. You may recall the Occupy movement is vehemently opposed to the way the healthcare industry, or at least the financial aspect of it, operates. This is its solution to the problem. Already, it’s wiped out more than $1 million in medical debt alone.
Typically speaking, the patients who benefited from this generous act owed around $900 for a trip to the emergency room. The Occupiers were able to buy all of it for a small fraction. So why would they opt for this? It’s simple. They want to shine a light onto the predatory nature of the system.
People are made to suffer twice, first from injury or illness and then financial extortion,
the Rolling Jubilee team stated.
Strike Debt Group
Now that this campaign is rolling, a new arm of the Occupiers have formed, the Strike Debt Group and it’s hoping to do the same with unsecured loans, such as credit cards. They want to prevent “loan sharks” from earning any kind of profit. It’s been referred to as the people’s bailout and ideally, it can raise $50,000 in the coming weeks and days and once they met this goal, they will then purchase more than $1 million in consumer debt.
Here’s the interesting part – it all began with just $500. When they realized they could use that $500 to buy close to $15,000 in delinquent loans, they saw an idea blossom.
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,
David Rees, one of the campaign’s organizers, explained on his blog.
We’re playing a different game.
There’s no way to know the specifics of any account until after the sale has concluded. As one organizer said, “It’s a crapshoot”. Still, it’s proven to be just what’s needed to restore the faith of families around the country. It’s entirely possible, say organizers, that every consumer could be touched by these efforts if the fundraisers continue to be successful. It’s all about leveling the playing field and changing the rules associated with big companies that stack the odds with the consumers having few outs. Changing those dynamics frees families budgets so that they can move forward in their own efforts of rebuilding.
And, too, if those consumers find a bit of financial education along the way, then all the better. And just imagine – this all began with a single announcement that one of the nation’s biggest banks would be fleecing its traditional customer: the one who carefully budgets every week just to make ends meet.
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