The People's Bailout

People's Bailout event raising money to forgive debt

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Strike Debt, a coalition of groups associated with the Occupy movement, is putting on a variety show and telethon Thursday night to raise money that will be used to buy and abolish the debt of individuals who are otherwise unable to pay off bills for things such as housing and health care.

Rolling Jubilee, a Strike Debt project, will be hosting the event and livestreaming it from their website.

“We are not a loan”, the website clarifies, “We are building a movement to challenge this system”. Citing the banks that hold people hostage are the same banks who received government bailouts in the last few years.

The event itself will raise money to pay off random and anonymous accounts that are sold as bundles for pennies on the dollar. Banks typically sell this debt to buyers who plan to pursue the debtors for the full amount. These buyers are typically the ones who will call several times a day, threaten to garnish the debtor’s wages or take their property away. Rolling Jubilee hopes to acquire the debt before another buyer can, and then abolish the debt entirely.

A Tumblr post that circulated with details of the event explained their test-run:

“[W]e spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)”

For every $1 donated, Rolling Jubilee can buy and erase $20 of debt.

The live show at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge has sold out, and will feature “music, comedy, education, magic, and the unexpected.” The guest list includes actress Janeane Garofalo, artisanal pencil sharpening expert David Rees, and comedian Hari Kondabolu.

For those who aren’t interested in donating cash but still want to help out, Rolling Jubilee encourages supporters to tweet at various celebrities asking them for support.

The livestream begins at 8pm ET, and viewers will be allowed to donate online throughout the event.

Photo via David Rees/mnftiu.cc