can’t pay won’t pay
(2020) by debt collective (via strike debt)
I hear socialists like free stuff.
If so, go grab yourself a free ebook of @StrikeDebt’s new manifesto CAN’T PAY, WON’T PAY from @haymarketbooks.
@KeeangaYamahtta says it “lays out concrete strategies and a powerful vision for radical change.”
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/astradisastra/status/1308094555590451200
Pick up the free ebook version of “Can’t Pay Won’t Pay” through Oct. 5 here: https://t.co/Ont3yfrPrR
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/StrikeDebt/status/1308873484597166082
‘this book explains why we are overdue for a debt revolution and more importantly, how to do it. to abolish debt is to begin to rebuild society. we need to start doing so now’ – david graeber
debt et al
forward (astra taylor)
when i got involved in occupy (few years after financial woes) i realized my situation was hardly unique.. most people drawn to the encampments were also i the red.. to talk to fellow protesters during the first few weeks of occupy was to talk about student loans, med bills, houses that had been foreclosed… millions were homeless..jobless.. perhaps organizing around indebtedness, some of us thought, would be worthwhile
that’s what those of us who are wrote this book have been working to do ever since.. what follows is a jointly authored record of insights and ideas developed over years w various collaborators too numerous to name individually..
our efforts kicked off in april 2012 when the occupy student debt campaign (osdc) org’d a protest marking ‘1T day’.. the day outstanding student debt hit one trillion dollars – and demanding full debt cancellation and ffee public college..
over coming months.. osdc merged forces w strike debt, a decentralize initiative focused primarily on public ed..
a little over a year after occupy began we launched the rolling jubilee.. a crowd funded project that erased more than $30 million of med, tuition, payday loan and criminal punishment debt belonging to 1000s of strangers.. we acted just like debt collectors, buying portfolios of debt on shadowy secondary debt markets for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting on them w we erased them.. sending people letters notifying them that their obligations were gone, no strings attached..
in 2014.. we formally launched the debt collective, a union for debtors
debt bridges the individual snd the structural the personal and political, binding each of us to a broader set of financial and political circumstance – that have emerged over centuries of racist, colonialist, and capitalist exploitation and wealth accumulation..
our goal has been to devis new creative ways to organize..
where labor unions focus on sites of production, debtors’ unions focus on circulation, or how money and capital flow and to whom..
labor org targets the employer, demanding higher wages, benefits.. debtor org.. targets the creditor.. which is often the state.. debtor org fights against predatory fin contracts and fro the universal provision of public goods.. including health, ed, housing, and retirement.. so that people don’t have to go into debt to access them..
structure in a way tha tremedy long standing and ongoing social ineq’s
begs a means to undo our hierarchical listening
debt collective believes .. not enough for public goods and social services to be universal, they must be reparative too
over last 5 yrs debt collective members succeeded in forcing the govt to cancel more than billion dollars’ worth of student loans and put student debt at the center of the 2020 presidential primary cycle..
person al debt has reached 14 trillion
we need an org’d militant debtors’ movement now more than ever.. given the way capitalism isolates/divides us.. we have long needed to find way to org across physical distance and social difference, and debtors’ union offer one promising approach..
racial capitalism isa centuries long pandemic.. we can’t afford not to rebel
to truly cure ourselves and survive this crisis we are going to need way more than a vaccine.. we will also need more than debt write downs or even debt abolition to heal wha tails us, though that would be a welcome start.. we need to completely transform our econ and society so that millions of people don’t have to live in perpetual fin and physical peril..
ie: cure ios city
we offer our thinking, research, and proposals as a resource for everyone struggling to build a better world. – astra jun 2020
intro – we own the bank
(on strike debt helping free student loan debts to for profit colleges) everyone had attended a criminal, for profit college that had systematically defrauded its students, burying them in unpayable loans while funneling money to shareholders..s the corinthian strikers argued that their debts were illegit and should be canceled.. for profit colleges, they insisted, should b shut down and public ed made free for all..
the weight of our debt pulls us all down though the chains of compound interest tug more heavily on some than others ie: black grads have about 7400 more debt than white counterparts.. 4 yrs after leaving college.. gap increased to 25 000.. a combo of predatory interest rates and discriminatory low wages.. so end up paying more for same ed as wealthier white counterparts
all told.. more than one million student debts default every year. but what if, instead of drowning alone people engaged in collective refusal..
that’s what happened during the debt strike.. people who didn’t know each other banded together and realize that their debts don’t have to be a shameful burden.. they can become a form of leverage.. the fact that pam – along w 10s of 1000s of other people – got her student loans canceled proves as much
student loan debt: 1960-$0; 2000-$200b; 2012-$1t; 2020-%1.7t
just as the virus ravages those w underlying conditions, this book aims ot provide an analysis of econ condition that made millions of people so financially vulnerable when the outbreak happened..
for decades, taking on debt has been the only solution to the impossible bind of low wages and a lack of social services.. from a welfare state to a debtfare state
more than 3/4 of americans are now in hock
today more than 40% of indebted households use credit cards to cover basic living costs, including rent, food, utilities.. some 62% of personal bankruptcies in the us are linked to illness and healthcare costs..
in 2019 us student graduated form college w an avg of $32 000 in debt,
you are not a loan
mass debt cancellation – what has long been called a jubilee – would be a significant victory, but only if coupled w a deep durable shift int he distribution of political and econ power.. if debtors are strategic enough, we can help rewrite the social contract so it centers what we call ‘reparative public good’ public goods that ensure our collective well being by centering the repair and redress of intergenerational theft of land and livelihood from native, black and brown communities.. by prioritizing redress and repair, we can win free and universal ed, housing, and healthcare.. no one should have to go into debt to meet their basic needs
and.. we need a means to realize what are legit basic needs are.. ie: not public ed, health.. if we are legit alive..
transforming out world’ econ system is a big ambition, but that’s what we need to do
we can do/go better/deeper than civil disobedience.. ie: code money (any form of measuring/accounting) as the planned obsolescence w/ubi as temp placebo.. needs met w/o money..till people forget about measuring
1 – you are not a loan: recognizing our power in the age of debt
most people are not in debt because they live beyond their means; they are in debt because they have been denied the means to live
the fact that employers refuse to provide living wags enables creditors to loan more money, w interest, to desperate workers.. bosses and lenders collude to rob us twice; first by underpaying, then by charging interest
but the employers and lenders are caught in the same poison.. we need to go way deeper than evening the monetary (even resource) playing field
ie: equity – everyone getting a go.. everyday
advice of experts who preach financial ‘literacy’ and ‘responsibility’ .. so insidious.. to personal finance gurus, whose existence is dependent on not criticizing the rules of the game.. being a good person means working multiple jobs, takin on debt to fill the gaps, an never questioning the arrangement..
our econ is built on lies. we are told that debt offers an opp to get ahead when, in reality, most people spend their entire lives stuck on the debt treadmill.. debt is present as a crucial rung on ladder to better life
yeah.. what we need is a legit diff econ.. ie: oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space
still in awe that we had no debt.. no credit cards.. and had to get one before could purchase house
3/4 of people take their debts to the grave.. on avg american die holding $62 000 of debt
in 2019 th us army actulaly admitted that they exceed their recruting goals by rargetin sdent sin debt.. frank muth: ‘one of the national crises right now is tudent loans, so $31 000 us abouot the avg.. you can get out (of the army) after 4 yrs, 100% paid for state college anywhere in the us’.. to be indebted makes us vulnerabl to predators ofa ll kinds..
in myria ways, debt erodes our freedom and forces unbearable choices on us: should i pay my mortgage or pay for chemo? should i take out loans to pay for college or enlist? should i put groceries on a credit card or be late w rent? should i go to a payday lender or sleep in my car? we internalize the narrative that we have taken on debt freely and the burden is ours alone to bear when nothing could be further from the truth
the burden itself is the thing that’s far from truth.. we don’t need better ways to deal with it.. (distraction, bikeshedding) .. when today we have the means to let go of it.. and live a nother way ie: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake
to be indebted is sypically a shameful experience
it’s dehumanizing that’s for sure.. it’s not natural.. it makes us not us..
a loan is a weapon for making us feel powerless.. ie: mortgages.. so completely dependent on income
not just powerless.. enslaved
earn a living ness
today.. privatized healthcare serves a similar function.. even if less explicit.. tethered to jobs for the healthcare.. esp if pre existing condition
never forget: our debt is someone else’s asset
yet we are still sold the lie that debt is a moral relationship between a single creditor and a singe debtor.. in reality , when a bill collector calls and harasses you, they are probably working for a company that bought your debt for pennies on the dollar from a debt broker.. the vast majority of collectors lack the basic paperwork they need to collect legally, yet they issue threats, take people to court, and sometimes land debtors in jail..
debtors are not just in the red, we’re in the dark. this is one important problem that debtors’ unions can address.. creditors don’t want us to understand our debts.. which is why we’re always told that finance is too complex for regular people to understand.. the powerful don’t want their schemes to be exposed
another way we’re in the dark.. debtors are isolated and kept aprat.. need to find each other.. so we can fight back together insted of being picked off one by one..
historically, credit means trust – th eact of letting someon borrow resoruces w good failth they’ll pay back later when circumstance have improved.. but today.. creidit is about extraction..
it is hard to overstate just how fundamental trust is to being human..
yeah but not like we practice/perceive it.. has to be unconditional.. or it isn’t trust
even the financial terminaology hints at this.. a financial ‘trust’ is, underneath it all, about real trust
to be clear, relationships of credit and debt are not essentially veil. in *fact, debt and credit can band should expand the possibilities of the present, allowing households and communities to access the goods/services they need to thrive
we don’t need credit/debt for that (thriving) .. in fact.. they are evil/poisonous to human being/thriving
[what a bummer you’re saying this.. esp as *fact.. perpetuating a myth that reinforces dead human being ness]
imagine a city/state borrowing from public banks, not wall street, to build *infra, such as high speed trains or schools, so residents can live better in the long term
schools are part of the poison.. and we don’t need banks for trains/transport
let’s try a humane *infra
too often though, debt limits our prospects, binding us in chains of compound interest.. we mortgage our individual lives for the chance of *making it thru the day instead of enriching our collective future..
focus on the day is good.. prepping for future is killer
debt is the tie that binds the 99%, but we almost must recognize that it binds some more harshly than others.. debt is not an equalizer; rather it is an intensifier of pre existing inequalities..
co’s and the individuals thy have made rich walk away from debts all the time, thanks to bankruptcy laws and govt bailouts..
when the rich make bad business decisions and their gambles don’t pay off, they shirk their financial obligations while the rest of us pay for it. it’s just good business..
rest of us held to diff standard. being even a few days late on monthly payment will ding credit scores and might even cause us to lose our homes..
while regular people waited for paltry $1200 checks.. wall street speculators and billionaires like richard branson lined up at the govt trough demanding a handout.. leaving rest of us w tab for their recklessness..
we need to redirect public wealth to the reparative common good.. we must stop paying illegit debts imposed on us from above and honor the real debts we owe.. one of first steps is to realize .. our debts to creditor are illegit.. second step is to id our legit debts to one another..
we have a moral obligation to obey just laws or to cooper w people who impose them
? i don’t know .. what are just laws?
but we also have an equal moral obligation to disobey unjust laws and to refuse to coop w the system that produces them
i think we need that for all current (any?) laws..
we should make the same distinction between just and unjust debts
yeah.. like laws.. i don’t think debts are legit to begin with
an unjust debt is one tha tpeople are forced into in order to meet a basic need..
any debt is inhumane.. de humanized us
we all need healthy food, clean water/air.. a stable ecosystem.. we all need a safe place to live.. we all need health care.. access to ed to fully develop our mind san d characters and to think for ourselves
a just debt is one that increases the power/wealth/freedom of those entering into it
debt ness will never increase freedom (i’m seeing power and wealth as non legit.. as part of the de humanizing ness)
ie: debt to indigenous/african-descendants.. reparations are long overdue
moten abolition law – reparations are impossible.. what all of us need (has to be all of us to work).. is to get to legit freedom.. back/to the dance of us
debt collective is not advocating debt ‘forgiveness’ which implies a benevolent creditor taking pity on a blameworthy debtor – but rather debt abolition and the creation of a new econ paradigm in which our individual well being and shared liberation is a socially financed project
2 – how did we get here? financialization from haiti to the household
neolib capitalism: well being synonymous w entrepreneurialism.. ‘free’ market best way to org an econ.. and state should exist only to protect private property
in contrast to he regular or ‘real’ econ which manufactures the goods and provides the services we need to live.. the financial sector is all about finding ways to generate revenue w/o creating anything tangible or useful..
for most of us.. financialization is experienced as indebtedness.. when we are forced to borrow to access gods/services.. such as med and higher ed.. that the govt should guarantee for all..
the idea that human beings have a monetary value, or what some call ‘human capital’ is the essence of financialtization
in the us, after abolition, similar tactics were used to target individuals recently liberated form bondage
(on oikos as econ as house management) today the intimate relationship between financilaization and the family or household routinely compels what can only be described as impossible choices
again – oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space
our household debt often stems from fact that our cities are indebted.. ie: detroit water bill crisis.. and inability of many to wash hands during pandemic et al – even though they are home of aquafina (pepsi) an dasani (coke) water co’s..; and then flint..
flint et al
across a range of debt types, similar troubling dynamics hold true
a training manual for recruiters at one such school (for profit uni like uni of phoenix) instructed employees to ‘poke the pain a bit and remind them who else is depending on them and their commitment to a better future’
another reason debtor org is so important.. creditors/co’s are invested in perpetuation of suffering..
if we act strategically our new web of interconnections can be transformed into a way to trap capitalists in their own net.. a novel way for creditors to extract profit has opened up equally novel possibilities for debtors to get org’d
playing same game better perpetuates suffering.. let go
let’s org for all of us (or it won’t work)
ie: cure ios city
3 – debt strike – cities, countries, empires
on destruction that fin policies bring to places
collective action is critical, because not even a global pandemic is capable of curbing elected officials’ commitment to stripping state/city budgets .. one thing debtors’ unions must do is demand a debt audit that looks into their city’s books to see if these statements are true.. good chance residents are being ripped off by creditors.. (then ie’s of actions finding corruptions in govt et al – greece, puerto rico et al)
distraction (graeber f & b same law) from what we could be doing.. like playing the game monopoly (and finally winning) while the house is burning down.. we don’t need more inspectors of inspectors.. we need a legit nother way to live
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people
once in a awhile the powerful admit that the econ edit they usually enforce can be broken.. makes you wonder why those rules existed in the first place
we can do so much better than getting to that place.. let’s re\set.. to no rules
in the age of financialization, popular uprising have become increasingly common.. debtors’ unions could help connect the need for an econ system that does not destroy environ et al
again.. we can (and so we can’t not) go deeper..
the goal of any debtors’ union should be to help us to see ourselves as in the same boat – and in the same struggle – as our fellow debtors across the sea
seeing our interconnectedness is huge.. but if we legit see our natural interconnectedness.. we realize if it’s not a solution (way to live) for all of us to get back/to fittingness.. we’re just spinning our wheels..
let’s try augmenting (legit) interconnectedness
imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch in 8b souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to connect/coord us.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for
4 – disrupting dystopia – algorithmic extraction and digital redlining
on zuboff’s surveillance capitalism – a system based on violation of our privacy and exploitation of our data
shoshana zuboff et al
as things stand, digitization is too often a toll fo financialization and extraction..
on eubanks and automating ineq
virginia eubanks et al
bureaucracy is often thought of as ‘faceless’ where humans are reduced to paperwork or numbers, but in the past there has always been *a person somewhere, buried under the mtn of paperwork.. tech has eliminated those jobs or forced human caseworkers to behave more like heartless robots.. there is **no human to speak to at any step of the process..no one capable of looking past the paperwork and seeing another human being w compassion
nah.. *a whale.. at best
we don’t need another **human to acknoweldge (or at least attempt to) that we’re all in sea world.. we need a means to get out
our data, their profit
wrong problem.. wasting our energy
ie: data isn’t even legit.. (it’s from whales in sea world)
our current credit scoring system is adisater thaneeds ot overhaurled
welcome to he age of digital redlining.. the term conjures the period when banks drew red lines on actual maps to guide them in discriminating against residents of particular neighborhoods.. today, invisible algos exclude on lenders’ behalf..
fuller too much law et al
it shouldn’t be that way.. that money is ours.. it comes from the earth and from everyone’s labor, digital and otherwise.. we should not only share in the proceeds but have say over ho tit is spent (on big tech co’s profiting off our data)
w/ubi as temp placebo.. needs met w/o money.. til people forget about measuring
the data being produced belongs to all of us
again.. huge myth going on here..
think about the possibilities for radically diff forms of credit reporting and scoring
think about the possibilities for radically alive people..
if credit is just a kind of trust, we need a way of determining which entities are trustworthy and which are not..
big problem isn’t tech, it’s the *underlying political econ.. the question isn’t whether robots will take our jobs, but who owns the robots and who collects the rewards
i order to change course before it’s too late.. we need to use all the tools at our disposal to build the world we want to see, includign digital tools
we need to first determine what we want a tool to do (rather than focusing on some finite set of choices of what a tool can do)
imagine tech as it could be
we need to org thru every avialable channel on the internet and off
again .. let go of some finite set of choices of what a tool can do..
let’s org for humanity.. ie: augment our natural interconnectedness
imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..
think of all the creativity currently goin gto waste..
yeah that.. all the itch-in-the-soul‘s not being heard – acted on ..
5 – the future of finance – economic disobedience and reparative public goods
too responsive/passive/same.. we need to let go of responding and start living as if we’re already free
via cure ios city
our debt is a nonviolent weapon wwe all have access to – if we can leverage it in concert
(on ie’s of revolts during pandemic .. like homeless in la taking over vacant homes) – but in order for these actions to have max impact and become key leverage points in the battle against austerity and fro reparative public goods, they need democratic org.. they need resources and strategic coord to become effective over the long term
until we win a student debt jubilee and free public higher ed for everyone.. debt strikers from schools of all kinds will need to keep ;fighting.. and we are
not deep enough.. make higher ed cost free.. is still a form of people telling people what to do
financially better off
imagine teachers, who are often buried in student debt, organizing along w their students for debt cancellation and freed ed. imagine nurses organizing alongside their indebted patients for universal health care.. et al
a world where we’re not just fighting/protesting.. esp for things irrelevant/cancerous to human being ie: ed, health care
battle to save planet is another area in which org’d blocs of debtors can contribute and socialized finance can play a role there too
tons of energy.. on bandaids..
climate change, more than anything else, urgently raises the fundamental question: who owes what to some?
wrong question (and reactive/passive.. et al)
we deserve access to ed that is not just career training but also an expansive and lifelong process of encouraging curiosity and fostering informed, critical an creative thinking..
it is time eo expand our imaginations of what’s possible, mmoviing beyond idealizaiotn of a welfare state to what we mgiht call asolidaroty state – astate tha not only redistrubures resources to ‘beneficiaries’ but also demoratized control ove rhow those resources are produced, allocated, and managed..
that’s not expanding our imagiantion.. that’s same song ness..
regular people understand better than many so called experts how they are exploited and *what it would take to be truly free.. the task is to build democratic institutions that can open space for all of us to learn and think, develop new ideas and proposal and strategize about how to implement them.. it is a process that demands shared leaderhsip and decisoin making.. .
that’s not free\dom
we have no clue what legit free people are like
what we need most is for 8b people to grok what enough is.. so that we can get our days back
the word credit, as we’ve said, originally meant trust.. trust is one form of credit that should be more widely extended.
and that’s not trust
a debt is an attempt to put a number on something that is often unquantifialb.e. how could we put a number on what we owe to our ancestors.. on the value of someone’s life.. on what the future is worth.. since our obligations o one another are infinite, putting price tags on the is an act ov vilence
indeed – let go of any form of measuring/accounting/obligation)
we need to cultivate and support popular movements that can collectively stop cooperating w those entities that by dictating terms on which we access wages, housing, healthcare, ed and more exercise increasing control over our fates
people know something is wrong; *most people want wealth redistribution, public services, and a chance to live in dignity
this means the battle ahead isn’t primarily about changing hearts and minds. it’s a struggle to change social structures..
best phrase in entire book
let’s do that (but not tweaked structures.. not improvement on existing structures)
by resisting together, we reclaim all that has been stolen..
all we need to reclaim/restore/uncover – 2 basic needs
we owe it to one another to fight back
we just need a means to wake up.. no owing/fighting (wasted/unfruitful energy)