The Rolling Jubilee, a project of StrikeDebt, has just announced that it has accumulated enough in donations to retire, rip up, forgive, burn, cause to cease to exist, negate and otherwise force to swim with the fishes $10,000,000 -- yes, ten million dollars -- in medical debt.
Initially StrikeDebt's goal was to ask for $50,000 in donations, enough to retire $1,000,000 in debt by buying the debt on a secondary 'exchange' for the going price of about $0.05 on the dollar. And then, figuratively and literally, ripping it up and setting it afire.
However, by the time their Telethon to raise the money was to be aired on November 15th, the idea had already gone viral and they had far surpassed the $50,000 they had hoped to raise. For this last month and a week the donations ticker has been rising steadily, first through $8,000,000, then $9,000,000, and now to the symbolically rich plateau of $10,000,000, enough to help some 4400 people if their first trial purchase of $100,000 was representative.
Rolling Jubilee's organizers have been careful, proceeding methodically. Just last week they completed their trial run -- buying $100,000 in medical debt back in November and ultimately cancelling it, sending out letters to forty-four individuals announcing that they were now free of this particular debt obligation.
They have announced that in the next month or so they will be doing a major purchase -- perhaps as much as $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 in medical debt.
Our primary focus over the next few months will be to deeply target the role of debt in our broken healthcare system. We will announce a substantial debt buy - made possible by your generosity - in concert with the release of in-depth report on medical debt...Of course this is great news for those who debt will be retired. Ten times as much great news as Rolling Jubiliee ever planned for. But we should not forget the intent of the organizers; not just to be able to relieve some thousands of people of a debt burden, a nasty credit report, and the merciless hounding by debt collectors, but to call attention to the issue of debt in our society -- medical debt, student debt, credit card debt, mortgage debt and municipal and other forms of government-entity debt.
'Jubilee' was originally a forgiveness of debt and sin.
In Judaism and Christianity, the concept of the Jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fiftieth year, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.But in modern times while the banks may have been bailed out the people have been left to suffer.
What public good is served by making education more and more costly, forcing students to go into massive debt? Only the private good of enslaving them to the work force to pay off their student loans.
What public good is served by evicting millions of people from their homes? Only the private good of developers being able to scoop up properties on the cheap, rent them out to previous homeowners, and ultimately sell them at great profit.
What public good is served by medical debt? What kind of society crushes those who are totally incapable of bettering themselves through no fault of their own, because a random cosmic ray triggered a mutation that made a cell go crazy?
As one of my colleagues with StrikeDebtBayArea put it, the rich used to be taxed to pay for the public good. Now, instead, they loan money out at interest to provide such services, privatizing what they cannot further squeeze.
We have become prisoners of debt to no purpose other than greed. As the most famous prisoner of them all might have said
I am not a loan. I am a free man.