A long road of changing policies and downward mobility led Scott Andrew Hutchins to activism and eventually political candidacy for the Green Party, something no one that saw him toting Rush Limbaugh’s The Way Things Ought to Be around high school would have expected.
In 1970, James F. and Judith Paynton Hutchins of Bloomfield, New Jersey moved to Indianapolis for Jim’s job at Eli Lilly, settling in the affluent neighborhood of Nora, which had up until that year been an independent town. Jim (of old Massachusetts stock, on his maternal grandmother’s side of the family related to President Adams, William Paulet, the 1st Marquess of Winchester; Kevin Bacon, and alleged witch Rebecca Nurse, and on his father’s side descended from Thomas Hutchins of Salem, who had arrived in the 1710s) had served as a medic at Scott Air Force base in the early 1960s with the twofold purpose of becoming a pilot (his vision kept him out of that) and serving his country during peace time so as to be ineligible for future drafts. His father had been a telephone lineman and diner worker; his grandfather and 2nd great-grandfather were farmers, his great-grandfather a broom maker when he enlisted in the 37th Massachusetts regiment during the Civil War, but the G.I. Bill allowed Jim to attend college at The University of Emporia, Kansas, where he double majored in biology and chemistry, making him eligible for a biochemist position at Lilly.
Scott Andrew Hutchins was the second and last of Jim and Judy’s sons, born in 1976, named for nurse-anesthetist Scott Hummell, his father’s Air Force friend. His parents had selected Nora based on the reputation of the schools (Redbook rated North Central High School best in state at the time he attended), and Scott was reading aloud to his nursery school teachers, but was often so far ahead of his fellow students that he could be a troublemaker and had an aversion to busy work, although he was very much a nerd, very interested in learning and uninterested in athletics. His immature high school mind did not think much of those students not college-bound earning so much less than he would, little realizing that Rush Limbaugh, to whom he had gravitated based on dislike of Clinton policies and his father’s interest in Limbaugh’s program, was a dropout.
Scott had, however, ultimately more important influences, including the commitment to nonviolence in the writings of L. Frank Baum and the teachings of the Unity church, which his parents discovered in 1980, along with the Shaker values of his grandmother, Susan Brooks Hutchins, which included avoiding waste at all costs, which also merged with the collecting tendencies of his other grandmother, Eleanor Shipley Paynton.
Scott attended Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis with money from a mutual fund that Susan, “The Voice of New Jersey” for the telephone company, had set up for him, initially studying biology to please his parents, having done particularly well in that area in high school. Unfortunately, his teachers had discovered by second grade that he was no more than average at mathematics, and nothing was done to wire his developing mind to better manage that skill. At the same time, he had determined that “author” was to be his career choice. This did not please his family much, Jim having only two years earlier been diagnosed with a terminal illness, his response to his panic costing him his job at Lilly and sending him on a series of unsuccessful entrepreneurial ventures, living on creit and inheritance money to maintain a middle class lifestyle. After earning Ds and Fs in higher level biology courses that were mostly math, Scott changed to a double major in communication studies and English with a concentration in film and media, but had to take out student loans to meet additional degree requirements after his first four years (the alternative was graduating with a degree in “general studies”). His high school guidance counselor had advised him to study liberal arts rather than biology based on his SAT scores (this being the prosperous 1990s), and he ignored many mailings from small liberal arts colleges that wanted to recruit him. This had the effect of leaving him with excellent training, but little in the way of a professional network. After graduation, Scott was able to find only sporadic, temporary office work that was too unreliable to move out on his own. This strained his relationship with his family, particularly his mother, who by this time had completely forgotten his desire to please her as a biology major. At 25, he filed for bankruptcy, but that, in violation of the 14th Amendment, does not discharge student debt, but he has not used a credit card since. He did not move out of his parents’ house until he was accepted to graduate school at the age of 27.
Scott moved to New York in 2003 to earn a master’s degree in film from The College of Staten Island (CUNY), which he completed in 2005. This was paid entirely via student loans. By this time, he had written a novel and a half, three stage plays, and four screenplays, in addition to shorter works, but was not finding anyone who was willing to read them in order to publish or mount them. He had for many years been having difficulty standing for extended periods of time, but on June 15, 2005, ten days after commencement, he woke up with a pinched nerve and learned in the emergency room that he had serious scoliosis, multiple herniated discs, and sciatica. It was several years before he could stand without the aid of a cane, and to this day needs one to stand or walk (painfully) for extended periods. This put him on public assistance for the first time in his life, and he did not find a desk job (other than telemarketing jobs from which he was terminated after only a few weeks for low sales). Thanks to Clinton’s welfare reforms, however, he was forced to work for 35 hours a week at the rate of $45 per month, doing low-level office work for a charitable organization comparable to what he had been doing for $7-8 an hour in Indianapolis (when he could get it). No thanks to this program, he got a permanent office job in 2007, paying $8.50 per hour, but was terminated for putting routine dictation work aside long enough to do an assigned phone interview with a client when the latter called back after three days of phone tag, which his coworkers all thought was a rational decision, but his boss disagreed.
Shortly before Scott lost the job, Jim succumbed to his terminal illness, 26 years later than initially expected. By this point, Jim had been working as a customer service representative for Sallie Mae. His mother forbidding him from returning home as more than a visitor, Scott stayed in New York, living on life insurance money left by his father until 2011, when he became destitute in spite of thousands of job applications and a denial of disability benefits on the grounds that he can work a desk job. Soon, Scott was in housing court. He got a job in time to secure a one-shot deal, but was laid off by the time he signed for it. He then put all his belongings in storage, which, working with only one other person, left him completely unable to stand without his cane for the next few days, in order to take a job with one of his graduate school colleagues in Jacksonville, Florida, with a relocation promised after three months of probation. This job bore little resemblance to what was described to him, and the pay was so low that it covered only his immediate expenses. Three months later, knowing full well of Scott’s medical problems, his boss asked him to lug some suitcases, and was outraged by the slow speed of the back-supporting method he used, then the next day, when Scott was not assigned to work, his boss fired him for taking four hours to return a phone call.
With public transportation coming once every two hours in Jacksonville, his company vehicle returned, Scott returned to New York, reorganized his storage unit, and entered the New York City shelter system May 25, 2012, where he has lived ever since. Rather than letting it destroy him, as it does to so many, Scott turned to activism. He had watched livecasts of Occupy Wall Street while destitute in his apartment and worked with Occupy Jacksonville, but the New York Occupy encampment had been destroyed by the police by this time. Eventually, Scott found some of the surviving Occupy working groups, Occu-Evolve, Alternative Banking, and the People’s Puppets (though he felt his health kept him from contributing well to the latter), as well as Picture the Homeless, from whom he was outraged to learn that the shelter was receiving monthly from the government three and a half times per head what he had been paying for his one-bedroom apartment for the substandard living conditions and contaminated food they were providing (which also gave him gout due to the influx of red meat that he had stopped eating ten years earlier), but the government would not help him pay for his apartment unless he had job.
This convinced Scott that his homelessness was entirely the result of corporate and political will, not by any particular failure on his part, and he began using his WordPress blog to draw attention to the atrocities of the shelter system and to the governing economic system from which it leeches. This led Picture the Homeless to present Scott with an award for being a “Crusading Journalist,” and many public speaking engagements and meetings with government officials on the organization’s behalf followed. He supplemented his blog reading and reviewing works by such authors as Barbara Ehrenreich, Larry Doyle, Maureen Tkacik, Frances Fox Piven & Richard A. Cloward, Paul Lafargue, Thomas Piketty, Scott Timberg, Michael Perelman, Linda Tirado, Greg LeRoy, Edward E. Baptist, Edward Bellamy, Mary Gatta, Nicole Aschoff, Moshe Adler, Robert Kuttner, George Lakey, Michelle Alexander, and even Frederick Engels, all of whom were telling him what he had learned the hard way through experience while researching literature and film rather than history, politics, and economics: that meritocracy is simply a myth used by the ruling class to keep people in line, which won him many enemies on Twitter led by fired Republican and convicted wife-beater Todd Kincannon and Tea Party stalwart Joe M Goldner.
Most recently, Scott completed a ten-month temp assignment doing low-level office work for MTA and a freelance writing assignment for Arachne.cc. He continues to work with Occupy Wall Street Alternative Banking, Occu-Evolve, Picture the Homeless, and now the Green Party, as well as his blog and literary and musical composition, and remains an active voting member of Unity of New York. He is also a founding member of the Picture the Homeless-led coalition, The New York City Community Land Initiative, which seeks to end homelessness through removing real estate from the speculative market and placing it in a non-profit community land trust through a gradual diversion of government funds from the shelter system.
To date, he has been able to pay only $100 toward his over $65,000 student loan debt.