Jubilee debt write-offs & Occupy Wall St: on Salon.com

Photo by Maz Kessler

Joan Walsh of www.salon.com asked me some questions on Occupy Wall Street and wrote this article:

As the Occupy Wall Street movement spreads to dozens more cities and towns, it’s waking many Americans to the unrivaled control Wall Street exerts over American politics and the economy. It’s also shining a spotlight on the crushing amount of debt carried by Americans today – debt that’s at the core of our lingering economic troubles, which many experts believe can never realistically be repaid.

In 2007, American debt was 100 percent of GDP; today, after an austerity binge, it’s down to 90 percent, which is still a stunning imbalance. Almost a quarter of all home mortgages today are currently underwater, 2 million homes are in the foreclosure process – and at least 5 million homes have already lost to foreclosure since 2007. American student loan debt is over $1 trillion right now, higher than American credit card debt, with the average student leaving school with about $24,000 in loans.

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BBC Radio Scotland – Sunday morning show

Last Sunday I went on the Sunday Morning show with Ricky Ross to talk about Jubilee 2000, the fight to cancel the debt of the world’s poorest countries, and how the campaign on issues of international finance, sovereign debt and social justice continue.

I also got to play some of my favourite bits of music – Janet Baker singing the Mendelssohn Aria ‘O Rest in the Lord’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’.

Listen to the whole show here – my interview starts at 7 minutes in:


A new Icelandic 'drop the debt' campaign?

4th January, 2010

I am proud of the great Jubilee 2000 petition, which I helped draft.

Within a short time, and making revolutionary use of the internet, we had circulated the petition worldwide.  Millions were printed, signed and returned in battered packages to our small HQ in London.

As Paula Goldman noted in an article in the Financial Times (17 May 2008) “the Jubilee 2000 petition holds two world records, according to Guinness World Records: it was the largest petition ever signed (24,391,181 signatures) and the most international (with people from 166 countries signing). Sheer size was no doubt key to the Jubilee petition’s success: when talking to decision-makers, campaigners could rightly claim historic levels of public interest.

Now our example is being followed by the people of Iceland.

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Restoring Faith in Finance

Debtonation Readers: This is the full version of my latest blog for Huffington Post:15th March, 2009

Once a-ponzi time, millions worshiped at the feet of the Wizards of Finance.  These Wizards preached an economic religion that promised security and an abundance of riches from the ‘Emerald City’ — Wall St.

Investors following this religion were led to believe that they could make capital gains effortlessly and endlessly.

To make these gains, it was argued, there was no need for protection from the authorities. 401(k) plans were safe in the hands of the Wizards. There was also no need for investors to engage in hard work: to invest in research; to engage more labor; to sweat at making goods or delivering services.

There would be no need to save.  Money would be made effortlessly.

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Interest rates, Keynes and the longevity of the rentier

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, speaking on Radio 4’s flagship current affairs programme this morning, repeated something he says regularly: that ‘interest rates are low’ and that his government, through the Bank of England, kept them low. The question the BBC should have asked is this: if interest rates are low, and have been so, why on earth are people/companies/banks having such a hard time paying debts? Surely the Credit Crunch crunched, because debts – of banks in particular – became both too large, too expensive, and unpayable? Do small businessmen/women pay low rates on  investments? Mortgages? Credit Cards? Car loans? Does the PM live/work on another planet?

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