THE DEBT RESISTORS' OPERATIONS MANUAL JOI N TH E RESISTAN CE! THIS OPERATIONS MANUALâ€”WRIT- TEN BY AN ANONYMOUS COLLECTIVE OF RESISTORS, DEFAULTERS AND ALLIES FROM STRIKE DEBT AND OCCUPY WALL STREETâ€”IS FOR ALL THOSE BEING CRUSHED UNDER THE WEIGHT OF DEBT. IT AIMS TO PROVIDE SPECIFIC TACTICS FOR UNDERSTANDING AND FIGHTING AGAINST THE DEBT SYSTEM SO THAT WE CAN ALL RECLAIM OUR LIVES AND OUR COMMUNITIES. IT CONTAINS PRACTICAL INFORMATION, RESOURCES AND INSIDER TIPS FOR INDIVIDUALS DEALING WITH THE DILEMMA OF INDEBTEDNESS IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY AND ALSO INTRO- DUCES IDEAS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE MADE THE DECISION TO TAKE COLLEC- TIVE ACTION. a project of STRIKE DEBT / OCCUPY WALL STREET THE DEBT RESISTORS' OPERATIONS MANUAL THE DEBT RESISTORS' OPERATIONS MANUAL SEPTEMBER 2012 cna This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommer- cial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ PRODUCED AS A COLLABORATION BETWEEN Members of the Strike Debt assembly / strikedebt.org Occupy Wall Street / occupywallstreet.org Common Notions / commonnotions.org Antumbra Design / antumbradesign.org PREFACE This operations manualâ€”written by an anonymous collec- tive of resistors, defaulters and allies from Strike Debt and Occupy Wall Streetâ€”is for all those being crushed under the weight of debt. It aims to provide specific tactics for understanding and fighting against the debt system so that we can all reclaim our lives and our communities. It con- tains practical information, resources and insider tips for individuals dealing with the dilemma of indebtedness in the United States today and also introduces ideas for those who have made the decision to take collective action. The system of mafia capitalism has made it difficult, if not impossible, for us to meet our basic needs, whether we have debt or not, whether we pay it back or not. We recognize that it is not easy to fight this system, that it is not easy to withdraw consent from a financial world gone mad. Make no mistake: the odds are stacked against us. Laws surrounding debt lending, collection and buying are notably complex, designed to keep debtors confused and afraid. This manual is not designed to provide legal coun- sel; it is a political act of mutual aid. We are not lawyers; you may want to consult one before doing anything that you think might be illegal. Look seriously into any of the options we present before taking action. Be smart. As with any operations manual, this is a living doc- ument. We donâ€™t claim to have all or even most of the answers regarding debt. To produce this manual, we have reached out to our networks to the best of our ability. Some sections barely scratch the surface and in fact de- serve their own book-length treatment. Researching debt has uncovered many connections we didnâ€™t expect, and we know there are types of debt we havenâ€™t addressed. It is our hope that readers will have their own strategies to con- tribute to future versions of this manual. The contributors envision this first edition not simply as a document that we VI | THE DEBT RESISTORS' OPERATIONS MANUAL have made for you, but rather as the beginning of a project that we will all build togetherâ€”a collectively written manual for collective action. An online version will be updated frequently and available at strikedebt.org. Any ideas, plans, tips, corrections, resources, schemesâ€”legal or otherwiseâ€”should be sent to DROM@riseup.net; anonymity is the norm by which we operate. Because there is so much shame, frustration and fear surrounding our debt, we seldom talk about it openly with others. An initial step in building a debt resistance movement involves sharing the myriad ways debt affects us, both directly and indirectly. You are encouraged to share your experience at Debt Stories, occupiedstories.com/strikedebt. Remember, you are not a loan! CONTENTS PREFACE ii i INTRODUCTION 1 I CREDIT SCORES AND CONSUMER REPORTING AGENCIES 3 II CREDIT CARD DEBT 13 III MEDICAL DEBT 23 IV STUDENT DEBT 30 V HOUSING DEBT 38 INTERLUDE 52 VI MUNICIPAL DEBT 53 VII FRINGE FINANCE TRANSACTION PRODUCTS AND SERVICES 58 VIII FRINGE FINANCE CREDIT PRODUCTS AND SERVICES 70 IX DEBT COLLECTION 84 X BANKRUPTCY 92 XI PROSPECTS FOR CHANGE 102 APPENDIX A 108 APPENDIX B 113 APPENDIX C 119 APPENDIX D 121 INTRODUCTION: AN ODE TO THE DEBT RESISTOR Everyone is affected by debt, from recent graduates pay- ing hundreds of dollars in interest on their students loans every month, to working families bankrupted by medical bills, to elders living in â€œunderwaterâ€ homes, to those tak- ing out payday loans at 400% interest to cover basic living costs, to the teachers and firefighters forced to take pay cuts because their cities are broke, to countries pushed into austerity and poverty by structural adjustment programs. Everyone seems to owe something, and most of us (including our cities) are in so deep itâ€™ll be years before we have any chance of getting outâ€”if we have any chance at all. At least one in seven of us is already being pursued by debt collectors. We are told all of this is our own fault, that we got ourselves into this and that we should feel guilty or ashamed. But think about the numbers: 76% of Americans are debtors. How is it possible that three-quarters of us could all have just somehow failed to figure out how to properly manage our money, all at the same time? And why is it no one is asking, â€œWho do we all owe this money to, anyway?â€ and â€œWhere did they get the money they lent?â€ At the same time, we keep hearing about financial capitalism: the fact that most of the profits on Wall Street no longer have much to do with producing or even selling anything, but are simply the fruits of speculation. This is supposed to be very complicatedâ€”â€œSomehow they have just figured out a way to make money out of thin air; no, donâ€™t even try to understand how they do itâ€â€”and very distant from our everyday concerns. In fact, bankers are allowed to make money out of thin airâ€”but only if they lend it to someone. Thatâ€™s the real reason everyone is in debt: itâ€™s a shakedown system. The financial establishment colludes with the government to create rules designed to put everyone in debt; then the system extracts it from you. Overseas it operates through 2 | THE DEBT RESISTORS' OPERATIONS MANUAL financial scams that keep cheap goods flowing into the United States in a way that would never be possible if not for the threat of U.S. military power. Here at home it means endlessly making up new rules designed to put us all in debt, with the entire apparatus of government, police and prisons pro- viding enforcement and surveillance. Instead of taxing the rich to generate money to build and maintain things like schools and roads, our government actually borrows money from the banks and the public pays the interest on these loans. As weâ€™ve learned through scandal after scandal, this process is riddled with fraud, rigged from the start to steal money that should be going to social necessities. Financial capitalism is mafia capitalism. We gave the banks the power to create money because they promised to use it to help us live healthier and more prosperous livesâ€”not to turn us into frightened peons. They broke that promise. We are under no moral obliga- tion to keep our promises to liars and thieves. In fact, we are morally obligat- ed to find a way to stop this system rather than continuing to perpetuate it. This collective act of resistance may be the only way of salvaging democ- racy because the campaign to plunge the world into debt is a calculated attack on the very possibility of democracy. It is an assault on our homes, our fam- ilies, our communities and on the planetâ€™s fragile ecosystemsâ€”all of which are being destroyed by endless production to pay back creditors who have done nothing to earn the wealth they demand we make for them. To the financial establishment of the world, we have only one thing to say: We owe you nothing. To our friends, our families, our communities, to humanity and to the natural world that makes our lives possible, we owe you everything. Every dollar we take from a fraudulent subprime mortgage specu- lator, every dollar we withhold from the collection agency is a tiny piece of our own lives and freedom that we can give back to our communities, to those we love and we respect. These are acts of debt resistance, which come in many other forms as well: fighting for free education and healthcare, defending a foreclosed home, demanding higher wages and providing mutual aid. The fact is, most debtors dare not reveal their names nor show their faces. Those who struggle to stay afloat or who have fallen into default are told that they are failures, inadequate and abject, and so they do not speak out. There are literally millions of people who cannot pay the enormous sums that the financial elites claim they owe. They are the Invisible Army of Defaulters. Instead of a personal failure, refusing to pay under our current system is an act of profound moral courage. We see our situation as connect- ed, and we can look for ways to step out of the shadows together. The Debt Resistorsâ€™ Operations Manual is an attempt to assist this invisible army and all other debt resistors in this struggle.