Strike Debt: Occupy Wall Street Group Does Not Want You to Be Ashamed of Your Debt

Thursday night, Strike Debt raised $250,000 dollars at their event, the People’s Bailout. That money will be used to buy and forgive $5 million worth of debt.

Strike Debt, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, believes that debt, often brought about by predatory lending, is keeping Americans down while banks profit. And they’re determined to change that.

In addition to the practical, clever, and so far successful Rolling Jubilee project, through which they raise money to buy unpaid debts from banks for pennies on the dollar (acting as a collection agency, but then forgiving the debt rather than collecting it), Strike Debt is working to change national attitudes toward debt holders.

Yes, some people are in debt because they’ve lived beyond their means, maxed out credit cards, and bought flashy cars they didn’t need. But millions of others are in debt because of outlandish medical bills and a lack of insurance, or because they invested tens of thousands of dollars in an education they believed would lead to a career right before the economy tanked. And yet, regardless of how they got there, people deep in debt are often treated like immoral slackers.

Strike Debt is encouraging people to share stories about their debt on their website to motivate action and to remove the guilt and stigma associated with owing money. They compared talking openly about your debt to coming out of the closet, saying on Twitter “if you tell people about your debt, if you ‘come out,’ you take away the shame.”

“The other [reason] is that your friends and family will realize they too have a reason to support a political movement,” the Twitter feed continued. “Just as in questions of gay rights, where simply knowing someone who is out can dramatically change one’s opinion.”

Americans need to learn to borrow as a last resort and to watch out for predatory lending practices to hopefully avoid getting deep in holes of debt to begin with, but they also need to learn not to look down on people who owe money without stopping to wonder how they got there. And rather than pointing figures and recommending that people change their spending habits (because I’m sure that most people who owe thousands in medical bills wouldn’t have taken on those bills if it were up to them) people should point fingers at the broken health care system, the ever-rising tuition costs and student loan interest rates, and banks who lend money to people they know will never be able to pay it back.