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Occupy Finds a Niche and a Moral Dilemma

By       Message Bayard Waterbury     Permalink
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Those of us in the 99% who understand the plutocratic war games understand and relate to the movement that started in Zuccotti Park a couple of years ago, and, when it was a "hot" story, attracted both media attention/scrutiny, and the attention of the sensitive elites on Wall Street.   This sensitivity was certainly reflected in the attitudes of the elite nationally, and in the actions of the police who protect them from the great unwashed 99%.   After about three months of "out there" protests and marches, occupancies and arrests, the blush came off the protest rose for the major media, and now we hear only occasionally about the actions of Occupy, and then only in the most progressive of mainstream media.

We know about actions like Occupy the SEC, established to keep the rule making robust as a regulatory outgrowth of the ridiculously mild reforms embodied in the Dodd-Frank legislation, which reforms were an essential failure as may be seen in the massively strong growth of our largest banks in the wake of this reform effort.   But that's a topic for another day.   Occupy continues to flex its muscle, but atrophy is embodied in this movement which can't seem to get much attention for whatever it has been doing since its earliest days, until now.

Now Occupy has hit a real seam of gold in them thar plutocratic hills.   In the last 10 days, it has announced a program to buy up debt from creditors.   This is what is done in the business world, with companies established to buy and collect from the ne'er-do-well among the 99% who can't pay their bills and get forced into bankruptcy, foreclosure, and who become the latest casualties of the assault on the middle class.   The seam of gold is a new program called the Rolling Jubilee, designed after an Abrahamic Old Testament paradigm for "forgiveness of debt" mentioned prominently in the Lord's Prayer.   The idea, an ingenious one, behind the new attack on the elite is really quite simple.   Occupy has started an organization which will ask for contributions to a fund, and, according to most, this fund is now well in excess of a quarter of a million dollars in only about 10 days.

It is running telethons to collect as much as they can, and then will begin their "strike debt" program.   The way in which the program works is that the fund purchases, buys up, blocks of debt from large creditors.   Because this is a business standard followed by companies established strictly to collect debt, these blocks can be defined by zip code.   Because of this, Occupy plans to buy up debt in the country's most economically distressed areas. They intend to purchase blocks of debt for an estimated five cents on the dollar and comprised of hundreds of small to large sums due creditors from credit cards, medical expenses, student loans, etc., which debtors have been unable or unwilling to pay.   After they buy this debt for literally pennies on the dollar, they will simply tear up the debt, forgive it, and contact the debtors to let them know that the debt is no longer owed, and that further efforts will not be made to collect it.   In an age when those who become unemployed for lengthy periods, literally millions, and who have scant or no resources to pay back those who have granted them credit while they were employed or who don't have health insurance and have major medical expenses, this will be something of a modern miracle.   The math of this is such that millions in debt can be bought and forgiven for thousands.

This is, however, where the moral issue arises.   The moral issue is simple.   Since the program does not identify specific individuals, but only determines their identities, once the debt is purchased, to be forgiven, there arises an issue.   This is an aside to the massive good which is done, but, by experience, we know that many (some unknown percentage) of these debtors are in trouble, not because of medical or employment exigencies, but rather because of various vices, from drug use, to alcoholism, to addiction to credit, to gambling addiction, etc.   The program will sweep up everyone, from the truly responsible who have, through no fault of their own, fallen on hard times, to those who have serious personal and psychological failings and who need to be taken to task and recover from their addiction and make good on what they have accumulated from their ill advised wonts.   Sadly, these folks deserve a "bailout" of this kind about as much as we feel that the largest scum, the Too Big To Fail Wall Street banks deserved from TARP and the FED.

I am not arguing, as a part of this piece that Occupy shouldn't do it, but the result ends up being the same as with the bank bailouts, and that is that, for the amoral transgressor, it is likely that their irresponsible and sometimes criminal behavior will continue unabated, and they will just view this as a nice windfall and may, in some cases, enable not only continued immorality, but could actually make it worse, now that they have a clean slate.

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On the positive side, this action will have a real positive effect on the nation's economy if it becomes very successful, to the extent that the amoral actions of creditors and their collectors to take their victims to the poor house, in many cases unscrupulously, will fail, and many will be given a chance to rebuild their lives without permanent damage to their credit and future prospects.   It will also free their meager resources to be put to constructive and useful economic activities.   It will, in the long run, also have a detrimental effect on mammoth creditors who get many of us involved in the use of credit which should never have happened, as in the Alt-A and adjustable mortgage debacle where the borrowers were not properly qualified, borrowed and then watched as their lives were destroyed by their victimization.

One can only imagine that someone like Elizabeth Warren, newly elected Senator and crusader for the victims of abusive credit practices, will be thrilled by this new meme, and totally endorse it.

As a final note, my view is, objections aside, that in the long run this program will have a positive effect on the population in general, and won't prove to be detrimental except to some minor extent involving people who can't seem to control their lives and debts.   I believe that we all should stand 100% behind this effort.

I have contributed to this cause, and would strongly advocate, even I you can afford only a few dollars, that you also contribute, since only five dollars can purchase $100 dollars in debt!

The website is http://rollingjubilee.org/ .   Go to the site, check the resources there, and sign up to help in any way you can, large or small.   Just by plugging "rolling jubilee" into Google News turns up 8400 "hits" to reflect the power of the idea.

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Bayard Waterbury is a retired legal professional. He is an expert in the area of commercial real estate transactions. He is a respected lecturer and writer in his area of expertise. He is a former Governor of the American Land Title Association. (more...)
 

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