GIVE ME CRED is a project begun by Cassie Thornton, supported by the Feminist Economics Department (the FED).
Since 2013, Cassie Thornton has produced many alternative credit reports from a wide diversity of “bad debtors,” including teachers, organizations, artists, waiters, job seekers, activists, migrants, students, parents and parolees. Each of these people or groups were disallowed access to a basic necessity, such as housing, employment, auto-insurance, a medical loan, or a utility contract because of a number assigned to them by a mysterious algorithm with no legal oversight– a credit score. Most people feel as though their story is erased by the purely numeric scores of conventional credit reports.
The alternative credit reports given by Cassie allow participants to explain the ways their bad credit was the result of factors beyond their control: medical debts incurred by an illness, the loss of a loved one, the birth of a child or predatory loans of all kinds caused people to lose their jobs, stop paying bills, and eventually lose their homes. After a 60 minute meeting with Cassie, the reports are written by her and co-edited alongside the participant, and the final report is stapled atop the traditional credit report and handed to a potential employer, landlord or lender in an application process. The vast majority of participants reported that the alternative credit reports Thornton prepared helped them find jobs or apartments immediately. The high level of success found by participants was in no small part because of the therapeutic value of telling their righteous story to an interested and supportive listener who could see them as amazing survivors of the predatory racist, able-ist, age-ist, and classist political and social conditions that put them in this position in the first place. The credit reporting interview is at least 50% magic.
This project has been integral to Thornton’s practice of stripping financial debt of its legitimacy by questioning its basic foundations and institutions.