John the Nazarite
In July 2011, NPR’s Marilyn Geewax reported that “… poorer people are feeling more squeezed so they can’t afford to pay off their [credit card] balances in full. Wage increases have been virtually nonexistent in 2011, and more than 14 million people are still looking for jobs. So for a lot of households, credit card balances are rising because the families can only afford minimum payments each month, which is allowing interest costs to pile up.”
California residents have the dubious distinction with the most combined debt followed by: Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut, Colorado and Nevada. Millions of Americans are using credit cards with oppressive interest to live day to day. Even more Americans are becoming permanent revenue sources for the banks.
The Book of Jubilees called for the return of land, freedom for slaves, and debt forgiveness in the forty-ninth year (Leviticus 25:1-55). Americans need Congress to pass an Act of Jubilees. Making bankruptcy, significantly restricted by Congress due to heavy lobbing by banks, more accessible along with scaling back credit card interest rates will bring a much needed modern economic Jubilee.
Ultimately, families and individuals that provide financial institutions steady revenue through minimum card payments become the “personal servants” of banks instead of God (Leviticus 25:39-55). Jubilation returns to God that which always belonged to the Creator. It corrects an imbalance. Christians should think about Jubilee in the context of consumer debt that will otherwise oppress for a lifetime.
Bankers, large investors, currency traders, Wall Street moguls, career and ambitious minded politicians, and U.S. bond holders in China and the Middle East are among those happy that America will not default. A Faustian inspired deal has been agreed to in Washington. Average Americans, however, were overlooked. A biblical Jubilee is needed for the poor and middle class.
U.S. Representative Hansen Clarke wrote in a recent editorial that with “over a quarter of all American homeowners ‘underwater’ — owing more on their homes than their homes are worth — and total student loans slated to exceed $1 trillionthis year …” He further observed that “it is household debt, not government debt, that is constraining spending, undermining confidence, and precluding sustainable long-term growth.” Credit card debt also oppresses families and individuals at $793 billion often with usurious interest rates.
Occupy Wall Street: Student Debt Jubilee by Ellen Brown
October 21, 2011 (EC)–Among the demands of the Wall Street protesters is student debt forgiveness—a debt “jubilee.” Occupy Philly has a “Student Loan Jubilee Working Group,” and other groups are studying the issue. Commentators say debt forgiveness is impossible. Who would foot the bill? But there is one deep pocket that could pull it off—the Federal Reserve. In its first quantitative easing program (QE1), the Fed removed $1.3 trillion in toxic assets from the books of Wall Street banks. For QE4, it could remove $1 trillion in toxic debt from the backs of millions of students.
The Prophets were particularly concerned about financial exploitation. Amos, first of the Israelite prophets, warned Yahweh’s people that one of their offenses involved debt. They “sold the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the poor into the dust of the earth” (Amos 2:6-7). Amos is likely to have been referring to situations where children were sold into slavery to pay debts (2 Kings 4:1-7) and the taking of clothes as pledge from the poor to secure loans (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 24:12-13, 17). Justice is no more (Amos 6:12). Greed, hubris, and indifference have taken hold by those in positions to end the injustice (Amos 5:14; 5:18-20).
Isaiah carries a similar message warning of the greed that inflicts God’s people. Woe to those “who join house to house, who add field to field, to take something from their neighbor” (Isaiah 5:8). Is there a just interest rate for the poor and middle class that is not unjust gain, but equitable to all parties? Those who have taken unjustly will be “fed as bulls” (Isaiah 5:17). Micah criticizes the religious leaders of his day for their greed (Micah 3:5-7). Collective Christian leadership has been absent in agitating for economic reform and equality.