One successful campaign that has emerged from the Occupy Wall Street movement has been Strike Debt, a group focused on debt education and debt refusal.
Strike Debt recently published and provided free copies of the Debt Resisters’ Manual, focused on housing, student loan, credit card and medical tent, as well as demonstrating that even those individuals not in personal debt are still affected by a financial system based on debt – whether that means paying increasingly large amounts for public transit, schools or other public services that are being paid for with debt. One way around this would be to tax the population and pay for public services directly, instead of borrowing the money from private financial entities, and then paying that debt (plus interest) back to those financial entities with taxes on the population.
Strike Debt explains that our debt manifests where public spending fails. We could have free education, but instead we have student debt. We could have universal healthcare, but instead we have medical debt. We could have jobs that pay living wages, but instead we have credit card debt. This type of financial system is a boon to those who make money from providing short-term funds to those without them in exchange for long-term debt and interest – what used to be known as “usury.”
Perhaps the most important part of the attack on debt is to question the legitimacy of it. While the huge financial institutions that we are indebted to have walked away from trillions of dollars in debt, individuals are expected to work as indentured servants for a lifetime to repay debt that was taken on to provide basic needs. Is it moral to collect interest on someone’s medical debt? Or student debt? Strike Debt takes the stance that not only is usury immoral; but that debtors are morally obligated to refuse to pay their debt – not only as a means of individual liberation, but as a means of creating democracy where currently there is none.