By ELÍAS VILLORO,
Do you know who owns your debt? Do you know who makes money off your hustle to pay off the principal, compounding interest and fees, and that strange moral obligation to repay the debt? Is it an investment firm, a rural bank, a person, a government, a church, or a non-profit? Credit card debt, hospital debt, medical debt collections, back rent, auto loans, and educational loans, for a record 15 trillion dollars.
This short film, “Your debt is someone else’s asset,” offers brilliant watercolor illustrations of a powerful story about the history and function of debt and the power and possibility of jubilee.
“A collaboration between The Intercept; artist Molly Crabapple and her creative partners at Sharp As Knives productions; and writer Astra Taylor, this short film invites us to understand our debt in new ways. Our monthly payments are a source of profit, a form of wealth transfer from struggling borrowers to the well-to-do. These profits are a source of power; debt is never just about money. In the United States, debt has long been used as a form of social control and a tool of white supremacy. Taylor is a co-founder of the Debt Collective, the nation’s first debtors’ union. This film reflects Taylor and the Debt Collective’s conviction that debtors and their allies will need to get organized to fight for the political and economic transformations we deserve.”
From 19th and 20th century sharecropping, redlining, and predatory lending, from Ronald Reagan to Joe Biden, debt has been about power and control. Not all people in debt are treated equally. If you have corporate personhood, debt is a tax write-off.
Slave owner Thomas Jefferson was evident in his position on debt and dispassion of land, “We should be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individual can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of land.”
This video also offers a provocative argument of what happens when non-corporate debtors demand redress, from ancient Rome to the current movement to erase student debt, and how the economy would get a boost from an increase in consumer spending – and not only on other debt accounts.
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