And today’s very special guest is a young man called Aaron Smith who’s part of a group of volunteers who go by the name of Strike Debt. Strike Debt, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street is dedicated to exposing the enormous inadequacies of a systemthat forces people into debt to pay for the very basics in life such as housing, educationand medical care, debt that is owed by the 99 percent to the 1 percent. Aaron has been a participant in several initiatives of Occupy Wall Street from parkmaintenance to research on the financial system. He’s also a host of Occupy WallStreet Radio on WBAI.Strike Debt recognizes that what 99 percent of Americans have in common is debt. Butby joining together and taking collective action, there are ways to write off these debts,ways that are unavailable to the individual.Today Aaron is going to tell us about their Rolling Jubilee initiative where they buy debtfor pennies on the dollar but instead of going out and collecting the debt, they abolish it.So welcome Aaron. It’s fabulous to have you on our show. Thank you so much for beinghere.
Thanks Beryl and thanks Mel for having me. Pleasure to be here.
So you are doing incredible work, Aaron, your organization. Tell us why Occupymovement started this new offshoot Strike Debt. What was the inspiration going onthere?
Well, from the very first moment that we were in the park last fall, you could tellthat the reason a lot of people are coming own there and the reason that sort of tiedeveryone together – we call it the “tie that binds the 99 percent” – was that they were inthese crushing amounts of debt and that this debt was shaping the choices that theymade in life and it often came from not
get spending but tosort of daily basic needs.Forty percent of Americans put basic needs on their credit cards. More than 50 percentof the debt collection accounts in the country are from medical expenses. Almost two-thirds of bankruptcies are from medical expenses.