Mercator Perspectives

Occupy Wall Street, Debt Forgiveness, and the Bigger Idea

One might presume that as a movement, Occupy Wall Street has gone underground, leaving behind a legacy for the financial services market in the term, "the 99%", but perhaps little else. However, recently an offshoot of the group has turned its attention to the question of debt management. Specifically, how to help the 99% manage their debt and the bigger idea is to simply pay it off for them.

Working under the organizational title of Strike Debt, this new movement intends to untie the ties that bind the 99% through a fund raising effort they call the Rolling Jubilee, which for the non-Bibilical reader refers to the concept of the jubilee year where debts are forgiven and indentured servants are freed. According to its website, the group has raised over $147,000, which they calculate can be used to forgive over $2,960,000 of consumer debt.

We saw this concept of debt forgiveness play out during previous holiday seasons, where anonymous individuals would show up at a layaway department and pay off someone's purchases. This bigger idea takes that concept to a whole new level, but how they accomplish their goal is not exactly clear. From their website:

"We cannot buy specific individuals' debt—instead, we help liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal."

They also offer a handbook for managing debt, navigating bankruptcy, and protecting oneself from predatory lenders. It's these efforts that adhere closest to trends in the mainstream market relating to consumers interest and need for higher functioning debt and spending management tools. We anticipate that the market will see more products and services introduced to consumers that address this dynamic but for a lucky few, they won't need them.

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