Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I really like what John Oliver recently did.

They set up a debt-collection company and purchased $15M of medical debt for $60K - 0.4¢ purchases $1 of debt - less than a penny on a dollar. They then transferred the debt to RIP Medical Debt for forgiveness. I donated $100 to RIP Medical Debt - at 250x, that will forgive $25K in debt. Nice!

This struck me as close to being a jubilee! Don't know why, I love that word and concept. Every 50 years, you have

a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. In the Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year (Hebrew: יובל‎‎ yūḇāl) is mentioned to occur every fiftieth year, during which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.
Ah yes, manifest mercies. Nice! I tweet #jubilee whenever I get a chance - definitely not trending, oops.

So is the concept of jubilee part of a post-scarcity utopia (PSU)? No, it's not. It is a palliative in our current system on the financialization of the working class, as described by Paul Mason in his recent book "Postcapitalism", blogged here. Late in a business cycle capitalism is mostly extractive, as opposed to early in the business cycle, when it is mostly creative. A capitalist who might have used capital to build a factory to produce something, creating jobs, now opens a bank or, better yet, a payday loan company, and through initiation fees, late fees, all kinds of fees, and interest on their users, can get a better ROI on their $ than from the factory route. Sad!

Interesting, the Hebrew version of jubilee was originally 7 x 7 = 49 years, that got rounded up to 50?!?

Discussing jubilee with The Google recently, I came across a reference to the Rolling Jubilee that was an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. Here's an article on them. They are focusing on student loan debt.

Then my daughter Erica, who worked with Occupy, pointed me at her tweet:

Aw, sad that @LastWeekTonight didn't acknowledge @StrikeDebt's influence and help on the debt buying episode.
Strike Debt, another Occupy offshoot working on debt forgiveness (or debt resistance), apparently walked the Last Week Tonight staff through the whole process of creating the debt-collection company, etc. But at the last minute, HBO decided that it would be ... too partisan and/or dividing to give the props to Occupy? Who exactly would be offended by mentioning Occupy? This seems like a totally unnecessary and chickenshit decision by HBO.

RIP Medical Debt focused on medical debt because there would be no question of "does the person deserve the help?" You know, worrying about that question wastes so many $$$. Studies show that social programs have extremely low, 1-2%, fraud rates. But, more people would take issue with, say, forgiving gambling debts. Rolling Jubilee focusing on student loans is probably felt to be laudable by most people. But, credit card debt, other?

All these issues would be so much more easy to address if we got rid of all the moral judgements. Yes, the bible sez "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground". Like a lot of things in the bible, maybe a good idea 4000 years ago, completely inapplicable now. What was the point of all that automation otherwise?

The US is the only country in the developed world where anyone has medical debt, so with a decent healthcare system, there would be no medical debt. The same is true for student loan debt. So get rid of those 2, work on everything else. Don't worry about what kind of debt it is - don't needlessly complicate the system.

What are we talking here, total? US consumer debt is $12T. Nice, here's a great source of data! Only $455 billion is seriously delinquent. Divided by 250 = $1.8B - chump change for Bill Gates & his $B buddies.

One downside of this is that, as debt gets bought up, supply and demand will make its cost rise. Well, maybe by then, Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau will have reined in the worst of the payday loan company abuses.

So, a jubilee is a palliative. I don't care, I still love a jubilee!

No comments: