Moyers & Rose on the Middle Class

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On July 8, Bill Moyers sat with Charlie Rose to talk about Bill’s Frontline project “Two American Families.” They talk about the many challenges facing America’s shrinking middle class, how our economy is biased toward the very rich and the disappearing American dream. They also discuss Bill’s professional transition from politics to journalism.

Watch the interview:

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  • Michael Hense

    a great documentary… an insightful and heart wrenching story about the struggle of two families… brought a tear to my eye…

  • Bruce Hoppe

    I can identify with the families in the Frontline Film. Though I’ve had many employers over the years, all were either small with no retirement benefits or didn’t last long enough for benefits to accrue. Now I’m 70 and get $560 a month social security after Medicare deductions. So I have to keep working. Retirement is not economically possible. In 2002 I went back to school to get a Master’s to teach college writing. However, the budget cuts in higher education by state legislatures have reduced employment at state universities to mostly part-time positions on a contract per course basis with no benefits. In my eight years of college teaching under these conditions I’ve never earned more than $12,000 per year before taxes. And, I still have the $33,000 in student loans to pay off.

  • Helen

    It seems to me that the nostalgic look-back at Moyers’ childhood, where the American Dream was supposedly a reality, was never true for people of color, particularly African Americans. When Moyers was growing up, most blacks – north and south – did not have the hope or dream of becoming middle class. As Moyers must know, blacks were shut out of jobs, unions, neighborhoods, schools, housing, decent medical care, and federal and state programs that created America’s middle class. A brief moment of fairness in the 60s and 70s began to change that, but since then, as Moyers documents so well, it all has been slipping away.

  • Anonymous

    I can blame someone for the loss of the middle class. I blame those who do not vote. Black Americans worked generations for that vote, yet so many Blacks do not vote. I say to a Black man and woman, look at your child; look at any graduating class in a Black neighborhood and tell me how many young people you see before you who may never get a decent, life sustaining job. How many want children who have lost hope and aspirations for a better future? With no job, how long do you think it will take them to become resourceful, creative, lawless to get what they need. Prisons are filling fast.
    The time to fight back is now. You are the role model. Martin Luther King, jr. dedicated his life that Black families could have the right to vote, have the right to a decent education, a home, healthy meals on the table, and a decent future. You have no right to turn your back on your obligations.
    It is not just Blacks who do not vote. I think that the only President that my mother ever voted for was JFK because there was such a movement to get out and vote for him in our town, that my father told her that they were going to go out and vote. Now retired, I have never missed a Presidential election.
    Life is not a lottery. You have the power to change the force in our nation that is destroying our democracy. Politicians are representing big corporations that buy their votes. We sent them there to represent us and all we get is their b.s.
    While some new voters will vote Rep, most should vote Dem. Because there is a greater hope that Dem’s will make a difference. Dems gave us health care, reps blocked everything else and tried to repeal health care 37 times!
    If you vote, check with your neighbors and help them register. Talk to your pastor about motivating others. There are dems out there who want to make a difference.
    I worked with a young Black girl who never voted, and you can bet I got her to vote for Obama and I doubt if she will miss another election.
    Obama should be having weekly fire side chats to let us know what is going on. He should also guest other important people in congress who are doing the most good for the people so we will know who they are. Someone should make a website that lists by state those who vote for the people and those who vote against us so we can dump the losers. We can only get the power back with numbers. We need every vote!

  • Guest

    Systemic, yes, that’s it, not the mal-condition of individual human will, as Rose contests must play into the outcomes of what Moyers describes as “the Lottery.” Remember — Individual Human Will up against a Broken-Down and Corrupted System is a profoundly herculean task indeed.

    But how did we get to Systemic? Maybe this is it:

    “The Unspeakable is not far away. It is not somewhere out there, identical with a government that became foreign to us. The emptiness of the void, the vacuum of responsibility and compassion, in in ourselves. Our citizen denial provides the ground for the government’s doctrine of ‘plausible deniability.’ John F. Kennedy’s assassination is rooted in our denial of our nation’s crimes in World War II that began the Cold War and the nuclear arms race. As a growing precedent of JFK’s assassination by his own national security state, we U.S. citizens supported our government when it destroyed whole cities (Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki), when it protected our Cold War security by world-destructive weapons, and when it carried out the covert murders of foreign leaders with ‘plausible deniability’ in a way that was obvious to critical observers. By avoiding our responsibility for the escalating crimes of state done for our security, we who failed to confront the Unspeakable opened the door to JFK’s assassination and its cover-up. The Unspeakable is not far away.” (James W. Douglass, “JFK and the Unspeakable, Why He Died and Why It Matters,” 2008, p. xvii)

  • Muldfeld

    It’s a real shame Charlie, who operates on PBS, has switched to the private Hulu. I can’t watch it from Canada. I hope you NEVER switch, Mr. Moyers. Sometimes, I like watch old installments of your various series. By the way, and I mean this platonically, I love you and am so grateful you came back to TV!

  • Michelle W

    I found it amusing that a Cadillac commercial was the intro to this program. Is that ironic or what?!

  • Michelle W

    As has been said, this has been engineered, and the outcome was determined decades ago. The $64,000 question is “Why?”

    What does the 1% actually get by being the 1%? Control of the herd of brainwashed Americans (your people who have “learned helplessness”) who are more and more dependent upon the government for food and shelter, for their very survival? Is this really just a power trip? That doesn’t make sense.

    There is something bigger and deeper happening here that has nothing to do with America being great.

  • Debi

    In my opinion, we need people running for office that will help us… not the corporations and wealthy. Therefore, I believe we need to take money out of politics before we’re ever going to get those worth voting for. I have not missed an election since I turned 18, but it seems to me that there hasn’t been anyone really worth voting for. They are all running for office thanks to contributions from those that can afford to give, which in turn gets their agendas passed leaving the majority of us behind.

  • Taramathea

    You are delusional if you think your vote is worth ANYTHING. It’s like Moyers said, each political party is owned by individual interests that pay them off to implement policies that serve their corporate profits. To think that we are a Democratic Republic anymore is simply evidence of American denial. We so desperately want to believe in the ideals that founded this country, that we cannot see past the truth that is right in front of us every time we go to the grocery store. You are a slave! Anyone who is not a multimillionaire is a SLAVE!!!

  • Steve Cross

    I think that the answer is “greed.” Those who already get, say, $5,000,000/year want to get $20,000,000. It’s not because they can live better but just to have more “points” than so many others. As a society, I think that we’ve underestimated the power of simple greed.

  • bucadonebuvi

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    However, the budget cuts in higher education by state legislatures have
    reduced employment at state universities to mostly part-time positions
    on a contract per course basis with no benefits. In my eight years of
    college teaching under these conditions I’ve never earned more than
    $12,000 per year before taxes. And, I still have the $33,000 in student
    loans to pay off.

  • Gail Lloyd

    Journalistic Heroes…

  • Anonymous

    Is this video working for anyone? It won’t go on for me. The screen is just black with no button to push to make it go on. Disappointed!!!

  • Robin Levin

    I am old enough to remember a time when one wage earner could support of a family of several children, buy a house, send those children to college and save enough for retirement. This was routine for the middle class in the 1950s and 1960s. In those days the marginal tax rate on higher earnings was far higher than it is today and taxes were progressive rather than regressive. You did not have a billionaire’s secretary paying a higher tax rate than her boss. I think that this is the crux of the problem. The drive to lower taxes for the wealthy, promoted by the Republicans and agreed to by the Democrats has starved the public sector. A healthy public sector and a healthy private sector go hand in hand. Starvation of the public sector has had a detrimental influence on education, health care, infrastructure, and public services such as police and fire protection. If we want to solve the problem of the declining middle class, the first thing we should do is restore progressive taxation. We have tried “trickle down” and it doesn’t work.

  • Anonymous

    You are delusional, blaming the victim. The problem isn’t that we don’t vote. The problem is that we the people vote, but the rich control the agenda of those we elect. With very wealthy people and very powerful corporations controlling the agenda of those we elect, it doesn’t matter who is put into office. At the end of the day the lobbyists and powerful money they represent decide the agenda of our politicians. They buy judges (like Clarence Thomas of SOTA who was a Monsanto lawyer), they buy politicians (like Obama, who hasn’t managed to do a thing for the middle class, but insurance companies, Goldman Sachs, and the Carlyle group are all happy with him).

    Our political process has been hijacked. There is no hope for change as long as corporations are considered people, and lobbyists outnumber our elected politicians.

  • carol

    I cannot get this video either. Just a black screen. Can this be resent? Would love to see this interview/discussion.

  • The Knew Normal

    Each party controls who they allow to run by granting or withholding funding. That funding comes predominently from corporations and social orgs and PACs. So the funding drives the focus of the parties and if the party wants its funding to continue it better act on those corporate and social org/PACs wishes. So here you are, the best government money can buy.

  • Deena

    Bill Moyers has hit the nail on the head! He is exactly correct on what is happening to this country and on what needs to be done in order to salvage what’s left of the “American Dream”. Why can’t we have someone like Mr. Moyers running this country? He cleary understands what this country needs!

  • rene

    Thoughtful and insightful. I wonder if we really can accomplish something simple like raising the minimum wage-for Pete’ s sake! I know the business owners and wealthy will fight that idea tooth and nail; but there is no other solution long term.

  • django

    Won’t play? Go to charlierose.com

  • Anonymous

    Bill Moyers has always been acutely aware of this dichotomy. Many years ago (1983) he produced the Emmy-winning documentary “Marshall Texas/Marshall Texas”, about his childhood in a small east Texas town. He realized early in life that there were indeed two separate and distinct versions of life in his town, depending on something as arbitrary as the color of a person’s skin.

  • Linda Vazquez

    Make this video available in the browser’s of mobile devices. If you have an expensive IPad you should be able to see this and have PBS repeat it on demand too.

  • Anonymous

    God bless you Bill Moyers! I am so happy you came back from
    retirement stronger and more fired up to reveal the truth than ever! You
    rule!

    What is up with Charlie Rose? He is so … oh I don’t know – he is not an intellectual as much as a fact collector. He was respectful but he always holds back from really expressing himself. He just does not seem to connect the dots. I used to like watching his show – now he gets on my nerves because he seems like an old bourgeoisie wimp.

    This was a sad story of the two families and I know from my own experiences that it
    rings true for millions of us out here in reality land while the
    corporate pirates rape our country’s democratic soul. They have no
    allegiance or patriotism or sense of healthy community. They only care
    about money and power.

    We must have civil disobedience soon – will you lead us Bill?
    There seems to be a shortage of brave, intelligent leaders willing to
    take on the system – from the outside, which historically is the only
    way things change.

  • Anonymous

    True. Resources are supposed to follow priorities. Unfortunately priorities are being dictated by lobbyists.

  • tatateeta

    I never watch Charlie Rose. I find him boring probably b/c I think he can’t see the forest for the trees. He seems to be perpetually dazzled by wealth and power. He is not fit to touch the sole of Mr. Moyers’ shoe. It’s like seeing a beautiful non-GMO rose in a vase beside a plastic made-in-China rose and Charlie is definitely the made-in-China Rose.

  • tatateeta

    Having watched the whole interview, I feel it was churlish of me to be so critical of Mr. Rose. He did a good job of interviewing Bill Moyers.

  • Renee

    What a wonderful opportunity to hear Bill Moyers speak in depth and at length about his view of our country’s current situation and how we got there. He has been part of so much of our country’s history and has used his experience to search for Truth rather than fame, power, or wealth. He has brought to his audience things they would not have known otherwise and asked questions they would not have thought to ask. What a rare treat to have this discussion between Bill Moyers and Charlie Rose. I will watch it again and suggest it to anyone who cares to listen. Thank you.

  • Cary

    I am currently living in Europe and cannot view hulu from here. Could you perhaps repost this interview using your websites programing? Thankfully, I am able to view Moyer’s & Company from my computer here.

  • Rick Theile

    We have become a society who does not ask important questions, who does not think about many of our issues as a community, a society and as people of the world. We keep in our own little bubble with our own little thoughts and ideas, not allowing ourselves to expand beyond these limitations. Bill Moyers created for me, new ways of looking at things through his book, “The World of Ideas.” I began seeing the world in a different way, a new way and began asking important questions not just in my life, but the impact I have to all life in this world. Bill Moyers continues helping millions break out of limited beliefs that we have created and our society has created for us.

  • JonThomas

    Due to your linking of ‘something deeper’ and the association with ‘America being great’(or not,) I’m, and I suppose ‘we are safe in assuming that your question of “why?” is largely rhetorical.

    For many years now I have had difficulty understanding the patriotic connection when regarding the 1%(to regrettably use that now common, and as Bill said…”cliched,” with lack of a better, expression.)

    When you have the ability to to eat breakfast in the U.S., hop on a plane, and eat dinner in Europe, hop back on your plane, and be in China for breakfast the next day(and any other combination of this formula)…repeatedly, it is difficult to constrain one’s perceptions to some contrived conception of patriotic adherence.

    It becomes quite obvious that personal interests are not confined to borders.

    Just to keep my remarks brief, focusing only on this one point(and at the risk of ostracism,) I will say that it is a huge mistake to look at these issues through any lens that includes ‘patriotic’ perspectives.

    Yes, this documentary is about families living in this country, but those who are ‘engineering’ systems (whether on a grand scale, or simply – one self-interested legislation at a time) do not make loyalty decisions based on patriotic border concepts.

    In a world of Multi-National Corporations for example, what form does loyalty and patriotism take? What do they mean?

    We must do our best to not view this issue (or phrase our understandings and comments) myopically. To grasp the full import, we really MUST expand our mental view. For those of us with little power and influence, remember the old adage ‘think globally…’

    Borders are just concepts. They can be hindrances at times, and they can be tools other times. If you see this issue as national-anything, you will miss the big picture and never get an answer to your ‘why”.

  • JonThomas

    Good points. And, as someone said in another comment, to even get the approval, funding, and backing of the party machines (and thus even become a viable candidate,) you must already tow the implicit party line.

    As you point out, the ‘hijacking’ was decided upon long before individual elections.

    There really is no reason to pay off a politician on some grand scale. Only those who have ‘acceptable’ viewpoints (as defined by the people and groups which back a campaign) are presented as candidates, Choice is what is controlled. (‘Do you want to die slowly or quickly?’… ‘I don’t want to die at all’…is not even on the table.)

    Thus, systematic political ‘corruption’ (as defined by manipulation of the candidates’ positions) is really not at issue, except in individual cases.

    Lobbying simply becomes ‘nudging’ and power brokering. Loyalty to party, and thus party leaders, out-weighs loyalty to voters.

    The system of influence is now entrenched, and as you well pointed out, the interests of the voters is no longer relevant.

    Powerful agendas have become normalized, and change from within is not even a potential.

    Unfortunately we all know this, and now it’s just a matter of trying to help others (even those who have different political perspectives from our own) understand. Even a Rand-ite would understand it …as the ‘Aristocracy of Pull.’

    People all have to know how it works and get on the same page before any change can occur.

  • Anonymous

    just listening to Charlie Rose, something is missing. to hear Bill speak about the true conditions and hear Charlie question Bill’s take. like Charlie won’t admit the greed of the system is what is wrong here.

    it is so good to see Bill Moyers say in plain language what is really happening to America. to hear him say the community is shredde and that our problems started happening 30 years. ago. also know as Reagan and the “Government is the Problem” lies sold to Americans back them.

    Watching the Rich buy Congress so the Congress will pass laws to benefit the Rich. Destroyed the Common Welfare of all Americans to benefit the 1%. Watching this scam/con on Americans is what this story of these two families is all about.

    we either rise together or we fall together. that is what i think Charlie Rose wouldn’t acknowledge. Charlie seemed so clueless.

    almost made the interview impossible to watch, but listening to Bill say the “real” reasons got me through the “mindlessness” i felt coming from Charlie.

  • Neotocquevillian

    Agreed. I saw Charlie Rose interview Tom Brokaw about his most recent book some time ago. At one point they were discussing the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Neither of them could understand what the protesters were trying to achieve. I felt disgusted to see such credulity from individuals who really should know better given their profession. It is proof how out of touch the media, politicians and other elitists are as the middle-class continues to be driven into extinction. To live in a bubble is one thing. But to not even know the bubble exists is ignorance beyond clueless mindlessness and a complete acquiescence to their own hubris.

  • Anonymous

    The billionaires in socieity want us all working for unliveable wages. The Walton family alone (Walmart) controls 2/3 of the wealth of america, yet the majority of its full time and part time employees look toward federal programs of food stamps and govt housing for survival. Its a national disgrace. I have 24 years in the computer field, yet in the heart of silicon valley, I am the only non H1B, in a meeting of 40 computer professionals. In a four story building less than 10% are non H1B computer professionals. Yet all you hear is there is a shortage of H1B computer professionals. My bill rate as a computer professionals (Oracle database) is 50% of what it was 15 years ago.yet I have at least ten times more skills than I did 15 years ago. This iT shortage Its all a lie, to marginalize wages in society. There is a shortage of IT personel, only to the extent they cant find highly skilled individuals with current skills willing to work for super low wages and salaries, wiith no health benefits. I feel extremely cheated, not like the level we rape our walmart worker and mexican agricultural worker, but not far behind given what I sacrificed to get this university education and skills. We are all serfs.

  • Anonymous

    It’s interesting, though. My grandparents didn’t live that way. Both partners worked, and they had more money than their peers. It is odd to me that, in 2013, there would be a goal to get women back in the home. And that is how it tends to be framed: not that two workers could get farther than just scraping by, not really that men and women BOTH could have choice as a team, but that women should be back in the home “mothering” full time.

  • Victor

    Part of this conservative campaign, is the out-of-wedlock children born during the Baby Scoope era, when the Moms were conned out of their kids by a system that wanted a free product to sell and make billions in profit. Those kids, (non-kinship-infant-adoption) are now wanting to know who they really are.