Steven Grumbine: A Personal Story

Hi, Senexx here.  At Australian Real Progressives (ARP) we have stated we try not to share too much US-centric stuff as we are aiming at an Australian audience.  We take a human needs approach using Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs seriously.  We use the acronym of WISE to remain progressive and that takes Courage and Compassion to share one’s story.  WISE stands for Wellbeing, Inclusion and Social and Emotional Engagement.  These drive our connections with one another and our environment.  Australian Real Progressives would not be possible without assistance from our sister organisation Real Progressives in the USA.  Here is an important story from its founder Steven Grumbine.

I want to say something that may speak to more than a few of you. I nearly lost everything during the great recession of 2007,8,9 and have still not really recovered. I took on student debt to pay my mortgage during that time not realizing what it really meant to do this.

I was desperate.

Then, as the money vanished, my former marriage vanished as she committed adultery and then took my kids and moved in with her boyfriend who had been her daughter’s friend…

Wave after wave of destruction swept through my life.

No career, just staff aug/ contract work. Highly insecure. No guarantees. No benefits. I was left with zero savings, zero security, arrears in child support. Mounting student debt interest and penalties. Foreclosure scares. Arrears on taxes. More panic. More fear. More desperation.

Some friends explained Modern Monetary Theory to me and how the vulture of neoliberalism operates. I was honestly clueless just like any other right-winger.

Yes, I was highly educated. Yes, I had developed a series of skills that were marketable and earned a living as a Project/ Program Manager/Director. But the riptide of neoliberalism had already exacted a steep debt noose for me that I couldn’t and still cannot extract myself from.

As the lights went on with understanding the economy, I became hopeful. Very hopeful. I believed we could change the world. The problem was that I was desperate. Most in the MMT world were living a very different life. Most of them were incredibly smart, nice, wonderful, caring people. But people who were not one step away from homelessness… As I was. Living like a feral animal… Sketching and kvetching…I led a life where food lost its taste… Where fear was my motivator. Survival. Clearly a very different world than my MMT friends.

So I put my own brand of pain into the conversation. The rage that comes from wanting to wake people to save myself and my family… To watch people ignore this had me apoplectic. Full of resentment and anger. It wasn’t about people simply not understanding. Hell, clearly at one point I didn’t understand, so I … understand what it means to be living in the fantasy world of neoliberalism and the false scarcity narratives that make us pit each other against each other in our own hate-filled, blame filled Calvinistic approach to “better living through bootstraps”.

I was and always will be a voracious learner. I love to learn and I love to make knowledge practicable. So when the Bernie Sanders movement began with the hiring of Stephanie Kelton, I knew I had to push this with all my heart and soul. Not just for political reasons, but mainly economic ones. The only way out of the spiral the nation was in, and more to the point, I was in, was if someone advanced these bold policies and modern money theory. And thus my involvement in the movement and the building of Real Progressives began.

I am still a contractor. I have zero economic security. I have zero paid days off and to miss a single day of work would be the difference in me paying my mortgage, electric bill or God forbid, needing to go to the Doctor. My teeth have been in horrible shape for many years. Gaping holes and rotting teeth leave you feeling constant pain and desperation. So nothing has really changed for me, except I am no longer a young man with a big future ahead of me to learn from, instead, I am now an arthritic 51-year-old man steeped in insane non-dischargeable debt and very few prospects for employment due to my activism.

I want you to think about this…

  • Associate Degree General Studies.
  • Bachelor Degree Information Systems Management
  • Undergraduate Certificate IT Project Management
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science Technology Management
  • Graduate Certificate Startegic Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM1)
  • ITILv3 certified.
  • 30 years experience.
  • 3 seminars into a PhD program
  • $128,000 student debt.

I am now the founder and CEO of 2 non-profits. Real Progressives Inc and Real Progress in Action…

I have done as much as I can to convey the extreme pain and desperation a guy such as myself feels. I am unique in that most educated people are not necessarily drowning like I am. But that is the power of the lottery of birth. The debt that first-generation college-educated people face is often daunting. Divorce is devastating. Child support is brutal. Especially when there is really no consideration for how to make everyone whole. In a nation that creates its own currency and isn’t pegged to a commodity, we could eliminate so much of the structural disasters that create these horror stories.

Sadly, my delivery isn’t as one who is merely discussing an academic subject. It is not dispassionate. It is born in desperation and fear and seeing how to solve it and being ignored. Being conspired against to shut my voice down. To be trashed and vilified. To be smeared and doxxed. To be silenced. It breeds rage. It breeds anger. It breeds more desperation.

Many privileged people come to put their minutes in. To assuage their guilt and allow themselves to say “well, at least I did some volunteer work” and the issue of actually succeeding is not the primary driver. The By Any Means Necessary mindset is absent. The desperation is absent. The tone policing is present. The judgment is present. We are seeing just enough comfortable people block the efforts of progress and it is that ratio that makes it acceptable to shit on the anger of victims of the system.

It’s with great sadness that apparently that pain and rage and fierce honesty is unappreciated by so many. It’s like a pillow over my face as I watch affable but ignorant media personalities attract people based on making them laugh. Or raging at the “bad guy”… But the enemy is “we the people” as we carry the water for neoliberalism and scowling at people on food stamps. There is no reason to hate the Poor and the struggling. Yet we do. We victim blame and shame.

We mock and ridicule those who are not economically viable.

They shoulda made better choices, right?

And in my Livestreams and in my writing I attack that mindset. I attack that follower mindset that wants to be made to laugh vs learn. That wants to be entertained and not trained. Too much back-slapping and not enough ass-kicking. Nowhere near enough introspection. I am guilty as well. But guilty of being frustrated and desperate…

As I see the COVID19 virus wreak havoc across the globe, I see us staring down yet another depression. A global one. One that will leave more dead than the virus. No job guarantee. No healthcare. No security and student debt collectors chasing you down. Bill collectors blowing up phones. Chasing down the little people. Dystopia.

I am at my wit’s end… I want to change the world… And feel my efforts are gonna fail. That powers have aligned against my survival. And I am terrified. I want us all to prosper. I need help.

If you haven’t yet, head over to Real Progressives USA YouTube Channel and their podcast Macro N Cheese and their website.  You might change a life, you might save a life.  Lean in, have that courage and compassion to forge that connection.


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