Dear Dirty America


Canceling Debt in Times of Crisis

March 02
00:16 2012
Los Angeles
Credit: Lotus Head

Michael Hudson teaches us:

As the practice was privatized by royal collectors of user fees and rents, “divine kingship” protected agrarian debtors. Hammurabi’s laws (c. 1750 BC) cancelled their debts in times of flood or drought. All the rulers of his Babylonian dynasty began their first full year on the throne by cancelling agrarian debts so as to clear out payment arrears by proclaiming a clean slate.

The logic was clear enough. Ancient societies needed to field armies to defend their land, and this required liberating indebted citizens from bondage. Hammurabi’s laws protected charioteers and other fighters from being reduced to debt bondage, and blocked creditors from taking the crops of tenants on royal and other public lands and on communal land that owed manpower and military service to the palace.

We are a country strapped tightly in debt. If not in debt before the financial meltdown, middle class families certainly went into debt afterward to cope with a loss of a job in the family, higher energy and grocery prices, and lower wages. We are tied up in trillions of dollars of student loans, home mortgages, and, now, especially because of the crisis, credit card debt.

As the weeks tick by with this country still hampered by astronomically high levels of unemployment, Americans have run out of savings. Who do we own money to? And is it fair to be charged around 28 percent interest on that credit card debt? Is that really the way to help those buried claw their way out?

What if we started wiping debt off the books? What other recourse do we have? America, believe it or not, is a community of people. We have society, and we are a group. There is an urge toward self-preservation, but that won’t happen with millions of people struggling with debt. Our major banks and credit card providers continue to find ways to tax low wage earners, by pinching money out of their unemployment checks, or trying to charge them small monthly fees for using their debit cards.

JP Morgan, for example, was paid $50 million by Florida to administer the food stamps program. U.S. Bankcorp cashed in with $37 million by providing unemployment benefit debit cards. How is this OK? The same institutions which hold us hostage to our debt also freeload off our collective misery. They also received hundreds of millions, if not billions in taxpayer aid. Maybe it’s time to repay that generosity forward,.

It’s not even fun for the higher class of creditors, to have taken everything from the rest of the country. To have milked all the wealth, and now holding everybody hostage over that debt. As Marx states in one of his famous footnotes found in Capital Volume 1:

‘Trade is a game’ (this phrase is borrowed from John Locke) ‘and nothing can be won from beggars. If one won everything from everybody for long, it would be necessary to give back voluntarily the greater part of the profit in order to begin the game again’ (251, Penguin).

I’m afraid the game’s over for both the elite and the rest of us. As our country falls deeper into financial and emotional despair, what do we have left? Tens of millions of people will snap, spiritually, mentally, emotionally. Roving gangs of desperate, hungry, pissed off people looking for anything of value they can loot. All of the garbage will eventually end up on the front lawns of the Bloombergs of our world. You can’t build a fence big enough, or hire enough guns to ward off what’s coming.

They’ll come, smelling of shit and spite, not caring if they live or die, but still making that final cry demanding their souls, their lives, and their fair share to a little life, liberty, and happiness.

Start dissolving some of the debt, ease up on the tens of millions of enslaved Americans, and give the masses respite.

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