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BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company… Two American families struggling to find their place in the new economy.

BARBARA MINER: This deindustrialization, the growing disparity didn't happen as some sort of natural event, like the rain falling from the sky. But it really is the result of policy decisions.

BARBARA GARSON: Not only have we abandoned Americans as workers, we are now abandoning them as consumers.

ANNOUNCER: Funding is provided by:

Carnegie Corporation of New York, celebrating 100 years of philanthropy, and committed to doing real and permanent good in the world.

The Kohlberg Foundation.

Independent Production Fund, with support from The Partridge Foundation, a John and Polly Guth Charitable Fund.

The Clements Foundation.

Park Foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues.

The Herb Alpert Foundation, supporting organizations whose mission is to promote compassion and creativity in our society.

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation.

The John D. And Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. More information at Macfound.Org.

Anne Gumowitz.

The Betsy And Jesse Fink Foundation.

The HKH Foundation.

Barbara G. Fleischman.

And by our sole corporate sponsor, Mutual of America, designing customized individual and group retirement products. That’s why we’re your retirement company.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Twenty-two years ago, we began to document the story of two working families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, families whose breadwinners had lost good-paying factory jobs.

Little did we know when we began in 1991 that this would become the defining story of our times. There was hardly anything more American than the belief that if you work hard, you will be able to make a living and build a better life for yourself and your children. But these two families, the Stanleys and the Neumanns, like millions of others who thought they were pursuing the American Dream, discovered that something had gone terribly wrong. Even as they found other jobs, went through re-training, worked any time and overtime, they were on a downward slope, working harder and longer than ever for less pay and fewer benefits.

Yet, they fought courageously to hold on to their homes, school their kids, and keep from sliding into poverty. Over the years, we have followed their struggle and told their stories in a series of documentaries. Beginning Tuesday, July 9th, on air and online, you can see the newest chapter, a report for the PBS series FRONTLINE titled “Two American Families.”

Right now, in this broadcast, I want to introduce you to the Neumann and Stanley families as we first met them. Then we’ll talk with the authors of two important books about how the changing American economy is affecting everyday people. First, here’s the excerpt from the last installment of the story, as told in the year 2000.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Tony and I have known each other since we were probably about two years old. His mother and my mother went to school together at Pulaski High School and our grandparents, when our parents were younger, you know, they played cards, so they were pretty good friends.

I don't know, we just started seeing each other, you know, spending a lot of time at each other's houses and he just asked me out, so I said okay.

We were crazy about each other. We had to spend a lot of time together.

You know, and I could just picture myself spending the rest of my life with him.

And our expectations were, I thought, you know, you find the man that you like and get married and have a family, and get a house, a little white picket fence, you know, all those little fairy tale type things. Some of it came true, but some of it as far as the bumpy roads, I didn’t expect either, you know, I knew they weren’t going to be all peaches and cream but, you don’t think of all the bad things when you’re younger.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: In the summer of 1991, we came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to examine wrenching changes in the American economy.

RADIO ANNOUNCER in Surviving the Good Times: …the blue-collars have to adjust to the global economy that is now facing us all.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: The old line industrial jobs, with their salaries, benefits, and pension plans, were disappearing.

We reported on two families who were living through these changes.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Adam, you going to take a turn?

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: The Neumanns were trying to make ends meet after Tony, the father, lost his good paying manufacturing job.

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Oh heavenly father, Lord we ask we ask you to bless this food that we have prepared…

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: The Stanleys were also living on the edge after both parents lost their factory jobs.

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: I cannot spend what I don't have coming in. I have learned that. I'm spending more and it’s not coming in, and it hurts.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: We began in 1991 with portraits of each family.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

KLAUDALE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Uh, I probably want to be a man of the law.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: And then, over the next 10 years, we returned to document the fortunes of the Stanleys and Neumanns.

RADIO ANNOUNCER in Surviving the Good Times: The nation's unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent in February, the highest in four years.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: As the country went from recession to recovery…

RADIO ANNOUNCER in Surviving the Good Times: On Wall Street, the Dow stood at 10,006--

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: To economic boom, both families would struggle to find their place in the new economy.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Then you need a business card to call mommy up.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Fax it to me.

TV ANNOUNCER in Surviving the Good Times: Years ago, if you wanted a small engine, you got a Briggs and Stratton.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Manufacturing firms like Briggs and Stratton made Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of the great industrial cities of the heartland. For years, its assembly lines provided an abundance of jobs.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Depending on which line you're on, by the time the motor gets to you, it's going to be heavy. You pull the gun and press down and you give it all you got, twist it back, hook it and send it on. And if you're seconds, seconds late, you hear somebody down the line yelling, "Motors, motors, what's wrong with you down there."

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Blue collar jobs like these made a good life possible for workers and their families. But factory jobs were melting away. By 1991, Briggs and Stratton alone had eliminated some four thousand in Milwaukee. Among the newly unemployed were Tony Neumann and Jackie Stanley.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: When the doors at Briggs closed on us, and they hand us our pink slips, I knew that I’m out here. It’s sink or swim.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Jackie’s husband Claude had worked for another large manufacturer, AO Smith. His job disappeared too. He found another one waterproofing basements for less than seven dollars an hour.

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: You got to look at it on the real side. I cannot live like I was making $20 an hour. Okay that money is not there. So you might as well get it in your mind, it's not there no more. So okay, bring yourself down.

NICOLE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: I was young, about fourteen.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Did it scare you?

The Stanleys have five kids: Nicole, about to enter college when we met her, the oldest son, Keith, the twins Klaudale and Claude Jr., and Omega.

How'd your children take it when you came home and said you'd lost the job over at AO Smith? Or did you tell them?

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Well, I told them. I told them. And they was in private school then.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: They were?

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Yeah. I had to pull them out of private school.

KEITH STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: I think the hardest time is when you have to worry about coming home, like I say, always coming home and then there's a bill on the door saying the water's cut off. Or there's a, the guy just called saying he's going to cut off the phone. Or the electricity's off. And you have to wait for a couple of days until mom and dad can, get enough money to put it back on.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I was working factory, he was working factory when we were dating. When we got married, we had started a family right away, so he still worked factory and I stayed home. And he made pretty good money when we were first married, you know, for a young couple with one little one on the way.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Grab a couple and crack them in the pan.

I don't know, we had a good time with one child so we had another one and there was Adam, you know. And then I got pregnant with Karissa in '86 and he had lost his job. Then, he got hired at Briggs and then we thought okay, this is a very stable job, you know, we can start saving and we bought the house.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: How much is your mortgage a month?

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I believe it's eight--

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Eight hundred and nineteen.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Yeah, eight twenty or something like that.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Have you been able to make all the payments?

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: No, and we're behind. And today, the mortgage company called me again.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Again?

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Yes.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: What did they say?

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I didn't answer them right now because I wanted to talk to Tony. And he wasn't home. So, I wanted to talk to him.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: You must dread it when the phone rings.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I do. I cringe.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Are you going to call him back?

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Am I going to call them back? Yeah, I'm going to have to call him back.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Well you talked to him before.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Yeah, I know.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: And I talked to them before and I didn't care for it and you know what happened.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Yeah.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: And I told them, I don't care, if they want to foreclose, they can foreclose on, if we don't have the money, we don't have the money. You can't give them money we don't have.

I would prefer you to call them other than me.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Here we go.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Mr. Carl is the same guy who I talked to before.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Really?

I did send a thousand dollar check in probably a few weeks back but the check was sent back to me with a letter stating, "We will not accept a partial payment." I don't really think of that as a partial payment. I think of that as a basic payment and a good gesture on trying to get, caught up.

Right now we're going through a hard time. My husband's out of work. He went to school and he's looking for a job. And I'm basically just trying to buy a little time so we can get on our feet again. You know, so we can get caught up. I would think that this is just going to be a temporary thing, not a permanent thing, and I really don't want to lose my house.

Are you just trying to tell me that you have to foreclose on the house, if I don't have that full amount?

You would recommend it.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Is he putting this on paper? I want to know. Is he putting this on paper? Dear? Dear?

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Would you like to talk to him?

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: The Neumann's oldest son, Daniel, was just about to start third grade when we met him.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Daniel was doing very well before Tony was laid off, but with the tensions around the house, he kind of withdrew a little bit.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I'm not going to drop it off in no box, and I want a receipt for it.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Children do notice the tension. They do notice these things. They're not stupid. They can hear mom and dad getting upset. It upsets them.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Oh.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: They've made comments like, "Mom, let's sell the bookshelf."

ADAM NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times:He don’t have no house.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Are you sure he didn't come out of one of them houses and hop over that way?

Here and here.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: They've got little baseball cards, "Mom, I'll sell these," and that hurts. Because they're willing to sell their baseball cards to help their parents out.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Yup, see them raggedy edges? You want them towards the inside so that nobody can see them.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: So, what're you going to do?

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Keep on trying.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Yeah.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: You can't stop trying.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: The country was in recession in the summer of '91. A lot of people were on the street, looking for jobs. Unemployment was the highest it had been in years. The political leaders in Washington promised better days ahead.

PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH in Surviving the Good Times: We will get this recession behind us and return to growth soon.

We will get on our way to a new record of expansion and achieve the competitive strength that will carry us into the next American century.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: The president was right about the economy turning around, but there was a hitch. Many of the new jobs were either part-time, or simply didn't pay a living wage.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I've applied over at grocery stores, hardware stores, there's--

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: McDonald's--

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Hardees--

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Kohls,

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Super America, Pizza Hut, Walmart, Sams. Most of them will not pay six dollars an hour. They're less than six dollars an hour. Little do they know that I need to live also.

Thank you, have a nice day.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: After her layoff, Jackie Stanley began selling real estate on commission.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: While I was on the motor line at Briggs, I began to study my real estate. I went ten times for my real estate license. The tenth time, I passed. And I promised that, as soon as Briggs did close the door, I was going to go on and do real estate. And that's exactly what I did.

Hi Joe. This is Jacqueline Stanley from Homestead.

It's just like anything else. It's really unsure.

Okay, I just got in and it says "ASAP."

You only get excited when you're sitting at the closing and have the check in your hand. You never get over exuberant. And I'm learning that every day.

NICOLE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Mom's real estate is tough on her. I've seen her try to wheel and deal deals. They seemed so good and at the last minute they fall apart.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: The listing is for September. It's already -

NICOLE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: And that falling apart is our mortgage, that falling apart is the car notes. And to someone else it might not seem important, that they decide not to buy the house. But for us, it's a matter of not life and death, but it's a matter of light and gas. And that's scary.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Workers were told they needed to retrain in order to get good paying jobs. So Tony took courses in pneumatics and hydraulics and passed with perfect scores. But his new skills didn’t yield a new job.

He had to pick up work where he could.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: It's real frustrating not being able to support my family the way I used to. It's really frustrating. I have a lot of decent qualities that I could use as skills in the labor force but nobody's really willing to give me a chance. And if they are, they're not willing to pay a decent wage for it.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Are you working?

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: No, well, I'm doing NuSkin selling.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: What?

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: NuSkin.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Oh, the door to door--

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: It's called NuSkin International for Personal Care Products.

Make it a pretty fan now.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: With thirteen hundred dollars borrowed from a relative, Terry purchased beauty products that she tried to resell door to door.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Then you need a business card to call Mommy up.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: For someone with no sales experience, it was risky. But for Terry it made more sense than taking a full-time job.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: You can't afford to work, you know, getting six dollars an hour and expect to pay for child care, you know, a dollar fifty an hour per child. I have three children. So, I says I'm going to have to find something else that I can do. And then when someone introduced me to this business, I decided to say, “Hey, you know, that's worth my while. I can make it,” you know.

KEITH STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: You talk to your friends, they always say, "Well I'm going doing this this summer. Well how about you?" And you're like, "Well, I'm doing, working." That's all you can say right now is "I'm working."

And they always ask me "Why do you work? Why don't you go out and have fun like the rest of the kids do?" You say, you can't, because you just can't do it. You have to go out there and help your Mom and Dad.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: Keith Stanley, and his twin brothers, Claude Jr. and Klaudale, started a business in '91. They called it the Three Sons Lawn Care Service.

KEITH STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: On a good week, we can bring in $200. That's big money to us. It's hard work but if you look in the refrigerator and you don't see nothing and you know you got five dollars in your pocket, you might want to go out and get some milk or some eggs or something.

KLAUDALE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: I’ve seen my mom on the phone talking to the bill collectors asking them when they would take, the mortgage company when they were about to take our house, she was pleading with the mortgage company. She asked the bill collectors to keep the light and sometimes the gas on and that makes me want to do more, a lot more.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: The Stanley's mostly African-American neighborhood had been traditionally supported by factory jobs. But with those jobs gone, housing values fell and so did real estate commissions.

Jackie wanted to sell in other neighborhoods, but ran into resistance.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: It was on the market for a year and didn't sell.

BILL BERLAND in Surviving the Good Times: It's because they didn't have somebody as good as you.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Okay.

BILL BERLAND in Surviving the Good Times: People of color really have a much more difficult time in our business making a living than white people. It may be a situation where she may call for a showing and not get the courtesy of a call back. Maybe her client that she takes in to a mortgage lender has a much more difficult time, even if they're credit is good, getting the mortgage.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: All right, fax it to me.

I can't sell suburbs. I can't sell the most affluent areas here. And that hurts. But they'll call me for central city.

WOMAN AT FOOD PANTRY in Surviving the Good Times: You get the peanut butter and the honey. And this is the flour and I'm giving you one pound of butter...

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I don't like having to go and ask and say I have no food in the house, can you help me out. Makes me feel very uncomfortable. I'd rather be on the giving side than the receiving.

WOMAN AT FOOD PANTRY in Surviving the Good Times: I don't know if you're going to be using all of these or not, Terry. They have peanut butter, flour. You can take what you like or--

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: We do a lot of baking and the kids eat a lot of peanut butter.

WOMAN AT FOOD PANTRY in Surviving the Good Times: Then we have some pork here. I understand that if you put it over noodles or rice and maybe add a little onion that it's quite palatable.

NEUMANN FAMILY in Surviving the Good Times: Bless us, oh Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive through thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: A little bit or a lot?

KARISSA NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: A little bit.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Normally I make good meals, the meat and the vegetables and salads and all the fixings. You know it's not a large amount but they're good well-balanced meals. And now that I can't make well-balanced meals, I mean that's, it gets to the point where you sit there and think, "oh God what am I going to make for dinner tonight?" You know, and it's just emotionally exhausting.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I've been getting very angry lately, I've been losing my temper quite a bit.

I've tried doing things, I, ah, work in the garage on woodworking things when I get angry and that helps once in a while. I just, I'm having a hard time dealing with this.

ADAM NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Dad.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: What? Pardon? Ten inches, that sounds almost right, but I think it should be about eleven.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: A couple times Tony'd get upset and just leave the house and Adam's crying. I mean, he's, he sat there and cried, "How comes my Dad's upset and why did he leave the house?" And I said, "Adam," I said, "Daddy's just having a very hard time right now. He's not working. We'll be OK. We'll find something. We'll find something. We'll work this out." You know, we'll be OK.

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Thank you, hallelujah. Yes lord, we thank you this morning. Lord, we thank you how you provide for us. How you make ways out of no way. Lord, we thank you this morning

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: On Sundays Claude Stanley served his church as a lay minister.

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: We thank you Lord for your goodness and we thank you for your kindness, Lord.

BILL MOYERS in Surviving the Good Times: The rest of the week he was still on his hands and knees waterproofing basements. By 1993, he had been promoted to foreman, head of the work crew.

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: This job your money's cut in half. Factory job you're making 14 dollars an hour, this job you're cutting that in half, you're only making about 7. You might get some bonuses here and there, but incentives ain't that great.

Now I'm putting the longer hours in. You're getting money but it's not that much, but you're getting longer hours. But you know, you get home you're tired.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Yeah.

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Yeah, we tired. And you say, "What the use?"

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Why keep struggling?

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: Why keep going? But you got to say I'm going to make it, I'm going to, I'm going to make it. That door got to open up somewhere. It's got to open up somewhere.

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I’m not signing none of this.

BILL MOYERS: We kept up with our two families throughout the decade.

KARISSA NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: More coffee for daddy!

BILL MOYERS: Tony Neumann found a job in a non-union shop making ten dollars an hour working from three in the afternoon until eleven at night. Still behind on the mortgage, he worked exhausting overtime hours and rarely saw the family.

Terry had gone to work for an armored car company, working up to ten hours a day for $9.05 an hour.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: It has very good insurance benefits, which my husband doesn't have. He gets more money and less benefits. And I've got less money and better benefits. So, hopefully between the two of us--

TONY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: It kind of works out.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: Tony kept working lots of overtime until he collapsed with pneumonia. He missed ten days and pay and the insurance wouldn’t cover all the bills.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: Just with the mortgage we got, well, three months behind. And it will take us two years to get to pay that back because they tack on interest and penalty charges and whatever else. You know, so that three months takes two years. That's a long time.

So whatever extra money we have, we send it, because we want to make sure that in the next year we have it paid off so they don't take the house.

BILL MOYERS: Claude Stanley got sick, too, and the medical cost put them $30,000 further in debt.

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: It will be rough, you know. It’ll hit us financially but all we do is just, you know, we depend on the Lord to make the way for us, but we ain’t going to stop living, you know. We got to keep moving, keep going.

BILL MOYERS: But going where? The Neumanns and the Stanleys, and thousands like them, were caught in the powerful undertow of a merciless economy and a changing city. Once an industrial power where workers made enough to support their families, Milwaukee now epitomized America’s great divergence, the ever-widening gap between the superrich and everyone else. Poverty and crime filled the space left by disappearing jobs. No one was immune.

TERRY NEUMANN in Surviving the Good Times: I’m taking Adam over to his friend’s house because some kids have been causing some problems and threatening their lives. So I don’t want them walking alone because the minute they get them alone they got a group of kids driving around in vehicles that are stalking them that have threatened to kill them, beat them up, hurt them bad.

BILL MOYERS: And the Stanleys would never forget the urgent call that came one day from Klaudale’s school.

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: They had called me that Klaudale was going on life support because a child choked my son until he stopped breathing.

KLAUDALE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: He came from behind me and started choking me, and had me in some wrestling hold. And so I couldn't breathe. And so I dropped to the ground. And last thing I remember was teachers coming in and praying and...

JACKIE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: By the time I had gotten there, they had his chest exposed. And they were telling me that Dale was now, had stopped breathing. That's all they could tell me. They said they can't revive Klaudale. And when I got there, I saw the teacher on her knees praying “hail Mary full of grace,” over my son. All I could say was, “Dale, remember Jesus.”

CLAUDE STANLEY in Surviving the Good Times: You know, you hear about violence and you don't think it's going to hit your kids, you know, then you find out your kids getting choked in school and near death, you know, and you're on your job and you get a phone call saying, "Come quick, your kid is on his way to the hospital." You know, it's like right on your front doorstep now.

BILL MOYERS: We will leave the story of the Stanleys and the Neumanns there for now. You can see what has happened since then in the FRONTLINE report, Two American Families. It begins Tuesday, July 9th, on air and on line.

Milwaukee, sadly, has become a national symbol of joblessness, decline, and racial disparity. Believe it or not, it is the most segregated metropolitan region in the country. In 1970, 85 percent of the African-American males there were employed. Now fewer than half are. And the city’s public schools have been forsaken by the power-brokers in favor of vouchers for private and religious education.

Barbara Miner has been following the decline of her home town for nearly forty years. Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin presented her its lifetime achievement award for, quote, “her tireless fight in support of public schools.” Her newest book, Lessons from the Heartland, received the Studs and Ida Terkel Award from the publisher, “New Press.”

Playwright and author Barbara Garson has published a series of books about the changing lives of working Americans and the human price of inequality. Her latest, just published, is this one, Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession.

Welcome to you both.

BARBARA MINER: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: What struck me as we were reporting over almost 20 years, is that the two families in that film did play by the book. The American dream storybook. And yet, it hasn't worked for them. What does their experience say about the American reality today?

BARBARA MINER: Well, I think part of what their experience shows is a fundamental lack of collective responsibility. Because everything was put on these individuals to get ahead. And we've sort of lost that sense of we're all in this together. I mean, in Milwaukee, Milwaukee the city is devastated in many ways. But the metropolitan region is not.

The amount of federal funding and state funding has just consistently, year after year after year, decreased in terms of any sort of, you know, state or federal aid to the city. And yet, it remains these sort of cultural life blood. You know, you have people driving in from the suburbs, you know, to go to the opera, to go to the ballet, to go to the symphony.

But they come in on the expressway, and then they leave and go back to their homes. We have the city of Milwaukee that has some of the highest poverty in the country. And counties just to the west of Milwaukee that have some of the most affluent in the country. So what you see in Milwaukee is that microcosm of just heartbreaking disparity.

BILL MOYERS: That's what I've found about the country in your book, “Down the Up Escalator.” That their capitalism today has enabled the people at the top to get fabulously wealthy. But the vast majority of the 99 percent are just still struggling. Is Milwaukee a microcosm of the country?

BARBARA GARSON: Yes. But particularly, Milwaukee has lost so much industry, but it's a microcosm in the sense that what we thought was an industrial problem. Remember, we were told in the '80s, if you prepare for a data-manipulating future--

BILL MOYERS: Right.

BARBARA GARSON: You know, "Oh, well, there's a few of these dinosaur working-class people, we may not be able to replace them, we may have to just give them charity. But the rest of us are going to move ahead in a post-industrial society." But everything that you showed in Milwaukee is happening to white collar and even professional jobs. I've talked to people, remember my little pink slip club for New Yorkers who found out through their church that they were all unemployed. An insurance adjuster, someone who did graphics for textbooks, an editor on a trade journal. And what was interesting to me, I followed them for about a year and a half, they're all still unemployed except for small, part-time jobs. But not only won't they get the jobs back again, but the jobs won’t be the same. Namely, the person who worked full time for the publishing company that was putting out the textbooks, his replacements will be entrepreneurs, if you like.

In other words, people like him and maybe including him, that the company calls in and gives a few hours work here and a few hours work here for just the moments that they're needed with no benefits. So it's white collared and professional jobs are being downgraded just the way the blue-collar jobs were in Milwaukee. And that means not only lower pay, of course, but the same insecurity.

BARBARA MINER: And in Milwaukee sometimes it's almost like a perfect storm of problems. You have the deindustrialization.

BILL MOYERS: Which means the jobs are being shipped abroad?

BARBARA MINER: The jobs are gone. Right. Family-sustaining jobs, that in the '50s made Milwaukee the machine shop of the world, you know, it's now, what, this creaking cog in the rust belt. So we have deindustrialization, which tore out the economic heart. When I look at Milwaukee, there's this, always sort of, a confluence of issues. And at a certain era, certain issues may dominate.

For example, in the 1960s, our most sustained civil rights protest were around open housing and opposing housing discrimination. But there's also jobs. Or what I considered jobs, housing, and schools, as the three essential issues in Milwaukee that at one point or another they all worked together to either sort of lessen inequality or sort of bolster that inequality.

BILL MOYERS: Your book introduces us to people you've been following in your own work. Tell my viewers briefly about Chuck and Michael, father--

BARBARA GARSON: Oh yes.

BILL MOYERS: --and son in Evansville, Indiana.

BARBARA GARSON: Well they represent what's happened to work over the last 40 years. The son looks at the father and he's lived with him all these years, and he says, "My dad is such a right-on guy." He always describes him as Republican and religious and right on. He looks at his father and he says, "I'm not going to work that way, the way my father did." And he describes that his father is now five years from retirement, and the company has put him on the night shift. And he's working ten hours, 12 hours, 14 hours, because as a manager, he doesn't get extra pay. Now, he knows they're not being good to him.

But he doesn't think like the kid. "They've done this to me and they're doing this to everybody." He says about his home that's underwater, "Well, you know, some people buy a house and sell it and make money. That wasn't us." The son, looking at his father, describing his life, gave me the title for my book, “Down the Up Escalator.” He described the struggle to stay in the same place. The son lives like a hippie. He is--

BILL MOYERS: The new hippies, you call them the new hippies.

BARBARA GARSON: Right.

BILL MOYERS: They're just not investing in the work the way his father did.

BARBARA GARSON: Oh, he's not going to struggle that way for a nonexistent job, for a company that will not take care of him in his old age. And they're a little different than us as hippies, though. We dropped out consciously. And we could drop back in very easily. If we gave up all together, we could always get a little job anywhere for a little money that we needed to travel to another city or something. These kids, for those what we called nothing kind of jobs, they actually have to put in tens-- they were talking with each other, "How many applications you put in for a pizza parlor job?" "Well, 50, 100." You put them in, you don't get an answer unless they need you, they don't tell you the job is filled. So those little jobs that we could always take if we needed, they are the real jobs that they would have to struggle for. And they're not going to struggle.

BILL MOYERS: Your book, Barbara Garson, nails down the facts. Since the 1970s, real hourly wages have stagnated. Yet between 1971 and 2007, productivity increased by 99 percent while hourly wages rose by only four percent. Four percent over 36 years. In other words, workers were producing more, their productivity actually rose, you say, 25 times more than their pay. And now, over half of every new dollar, 58 cents of every new dollar, income generated, went to the top one percent. What does that tell us about the direction of the country?

BARBARA GARSON: Well, actually those are the statistics that caused this recession. I mean, if people are producing 100 percent more and they're getting paid the same amount, they don't have the money to buy back what they've produced. And this is what we call a consumer economy. It doesn't mean-- it's not castigating us for what we buy or don't buy. It just means we sell 70 percent of what we produce to each other. Now if productivity is up and wages are the same, the owners of the companies are making more and more money.

It's not just that they have money to spend, they put the money in the bank, in the brokerage accounts and expect to invest them. Meanwhile, this 99 percent hasn’t got money to spend on all that it's produced. So it's as if their employers turned around and said to them, "Well, instead of paying you more, I'll lend you the money to buy what you produce." Now that is a pretty silly idea. Actually, bankers are not stupider than the rest of us.

They may not be smarter, but they're not stupider. But they had this money accumulating, accumulating till it's an enormous pressure. A bank can't keep its money in the bank. It had to lend it. So it started lending to people who can't pay back. I mean, if you don't have $10 this year, how you going to pay back $15 next year with interest if your wages aren't going up?

Still they lent the money to buy cars, they lent the money to buy houses. But you can't keep lending people money if they don't have a raising income or any way of paying it back. And that's going on again.

BILL MOYERS: It's going on in Milwaukee as you saw from the two families, they take on a lot of debt. They work two jobs. Their children are alone at home. Does that resonate with you, what you know about the people you see out there?

BARBARA MINER: Well, actually, one of the things that struck me about the documentary, particularly with the African American family is by Milwaukee standards, they are doing so amazingly well.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean by Milwaukee standards? Be a little more specific for us.

BARBARA MINER: Okay. One in eight African American men of working age in Wisconsin, which is basically Milwaukee, is in jail. Fifty percent of African American men of working age do not have a job. The statistics about high school dropouts, the statistics about violence, crime, incarceration, those-- the Stanleys, they had a stable family, they were able to get their kids through schools, their kids did not end up in jail. As tragic as the story of that family, it's almost like it was a sort of a proud moment of a success story.

BILL MOYERS: So what does it mean to a community when half of the black men who are of the right age have no work? What does it mean practically?

BARBARA MINER: Well, first of all, you can look at some of the reasons why they don't have jobs. Part of the thing is, the job creation, by and large, is not in the city of Milwaukee right now. It's in the suburban areas. So if you don't have a car and there's a significant portion of people in Milwaukee who don't have a valid driver's license or don't have a car, there's no way to get to those jobs.

And you have a public education system that is being abandoned. And education is a way forward. You have incarceration, you have a declining investment in public infrastructure. So you have, again, this perfect storm where it's like, you're in the city of Milwaukee, you're an African American man, and it's almost like you see the jobs of the promised land in the suburbs, but you can't get there.

BILL MOYERS: You noticed that Keith Stanley got a job with the city.

BARBARA MINER: Exactly. And that what was so heartbreaking about the attack on the public sector by the Republican governor and legislature in Wisconsin--

BILL MOYERS: Governor Scott Walker.

BARBARA MINER: Governor Scott Walker, yeah, we'll put a name to it, Governor Scott Walker. Because, you know, after the industrialization, the public sector was one of the avenues for a middle-class life, for the African American community in Milwaukee. I mean, and you look at the percentages of African Americans employed in the city, the county, the schools.

And it wasn't just, you know, wages and stability, but they had health insurance. And so when the attack came down on the public sector, it was like, "What else are you going to take away from us? You know, we've got so little left.”

BILL MOYERS: As you make clear in “Down the Up Escalator” and in much else that you've done, much of this inequality was engineered, politically engineered. It came about because the power of money to write the laws and purchase the policies that the wealthy want.

BARBARA GARSON: The first book I wrote was-- I had a chapter at the Lordstown assembly line plant.

BILL MOYERS: Where?

BARBARA GARSON: In Southern Ohio. And at that plant, they had brought young people in because they had created the most fast assembly line in the world, 101 cars an hour.

BILL MOYERS: Right.

BARBARA GARSON: And they thought they could get young people to work faster than they could get older people to work, and also not complain the way UAW members of an older vintage would. But these young people actually went on strike about the speed of the line. And when I went down there, auto workers were talking about humanizing the job. Some said, "We ought to work even faster and have it more automated because then we can have more leisure."

They knew that productivity was increasing and they-- we thought it was ours to decide what we're going to do with all this wealth we were creating. But sometime in the '70s, someone else looked in and said, "Enough of this. We're going to do something about it." And they started by moving a lot of the jobs overseas, And it seems like bringing down wages has been so systematic over the last 40 years, and that's why I sort of sometimes ask, "Where were we when this happened?"

BARBARA MINER: This deindustrialization, the growing disparity didn't happen as some sort of natural event, like the rain falling from the sky. But it really is the result of policy decisions. So we have this, sort of, well just make the right choices. Just go start your own business. Just, you know, you know, use your, you know, boot straps and bring yourself up." That has not been proven to work.

BILL MOYERS: What are some of the possible solutions to this great inequality? To this growing joblessness? To the fact that, you know, the poorest 47 percent of America, almost half, have no wealth?

BARBARA GARSON: We have to raise wages.

BARBARA MINER: Yes.

BARBARA GARSON: Now, to say it is not to do it. Because 40 years of concentrated efforts have gone on to lowering wages, whether it was breaking unions or creating laws that allowed you to make more money overseas than you might have otherwise. Pay no taxes, et cetera.

So we just have to raise wages. Not only for the sake of the people who are getting the low wages, but as I tried to indicate, if we don't raise wages, we're well on our way to the next debt crisis. But as Barbara says, to do that, we obviously have to do it collectively. I mean, if I knew--

BILL MOYERS: You mean politically? When you say--

BARBARA GARSON: Well, yes, yes--

BILL MOYERS: --collectively, you're talking about—

BARBARA MINER: Democratically, politically, collectively.

BARBARA GARSON: The money is too concentrated. We've got to take it back. And divide it out again differently.

BARBARA MINER: Well, it's interesting because in Wisconsin, we see sort of two futures. And I think at the one hand, improve wages, and very specifically raise the minimum wage. I mean, we can't tell a private industry, you know, "You can't pass a law that says, 'Private industry must pay blah, blah, blah.'" But you can say, "The minimum wage should be raised to X." And within the city of Milwaukee, we've had different movements over the years for city contracts that would have family-sustaining wages, which would be higher than the minimum wage.

So there are different political collective decisions in terms of wages. But I also think it's really important, and one of the lessons from Wisconsin is to defend what we have. Because sometimes in Milwaukee, it's sort of like, "Well, it's so bad, it can't get worse." And you go, "Well, yeah, actually it could get worse."

And so when I see public education being abandoned, I mean, public education is a fundamental democratic public institution. I mean, it is written into the Wisconsin State Constitution, that children have the right to a free, public education. I mean, I wish there were democratic-- there were constitutional right to jobs and healthcare and all-- there's not. But there is a constitutional right to public education in Wisconsin. And that institution is being abandoned.

BILL MOYERS: What brought that about?

BARBARA MINER: Part of it was -- it is complicated -- part of it was we're the home of the Bradley Foundation, and that foundation put a lot of money into making Wisconsin sort of a guinea pig, for lack of a better term, for both welfare reform and vouchers, which are basically public tax dollars going to private schools. That's one reason. You know, another reason is when institutions are allowed to deteriorate, public support drops. And so there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the public schools. And this was seen as, "Well, the public schools are pretty bad, it can't get worse, so let's give it a try." Even though some of the people behind that movement had a much broader agenda.

So there's no easy explanation for the political dynamics, although it was at a time again, when the Republicans were in control of the state legislature. So it's very much a Republican, fundamentally, a Republican-initiative that's part of a broader agenda, I believe, of lack of support for the common good.

BILL MOYERS: Is Governor Scott Walker--

BARBARA GARSON: Common good, oh, that's such wonderful word to hear--

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean by it?

BARBARA GARSON: Talking about the whole country in some way. You know what's very strange to me now? I mean, we would-- if we were fighting for wages, we would be also fighting to restore the whole country to economic health. And it's very odd to me in the '60s, it used to seem that the left wing were the people who said, "Ah, imperialism is doomed." And they were anti-American, you know, because being named anti-war. And now it seems as though wealthy people do know that Keynesianism works, that you do have to redistribute money from time to time.

BILL MOYERS: To stimulate the economy.

BARBARA GARSON: Right. But I didn't think I'd have to teach that. I'm a socialist, not a Keynesian, you know? But they do know it. But they seem as if they've come to a point of saying, "Take the money and run. This economy isn't going to recover. This country is second rate. Let's us take our money, put it overseas."

Not only have we abandoned Americans as workers, we are now abandoning them as consumers. "They can't re-stimulate a consumerist economy, we'll sell in China." And, you know, if you're not a worker, and you're not a consumer, and you don't have an income from investments, if your capitalist class can't use you in some way you're not a worker, you're not a consumer, you're kind of a nothing. And most of us are struggling just not to fall into that completely nothing condition.

BILL MOYERS: Like the Neumann and the Stanleys.

BARBARA GARSON: Right.

BILL MOYERS: But a recent survey by the Pew Research Center finds that the majority of Americans are increasingly worried about inequality between, you know, the gap between the rich and the poor. But they're hesitant for the government to do anything about it.

BARBARA GARSON: Well, I mean, we've watched the government over 40 years do something about it, namely increase the inequality. Why we don't think our government is our government, that's what it reflects.

BARBARA MINER: This is an area where racial politics are essential to bring into the discussion. You know, there is no easy answers. But I mean, I think Reagan was clearly the master of using race and the Chicago welfare queen to really divide people who otherwise would be united, should be united.

And so it's become easy to appeal to sort of white workers to say, "Well, you're not getting ahead because the blacks are getting all those-- you know, those freeloading poor people are getting all these benefits." Or now in Wisconsin, "Well, you know, these public sector workers are taking all your money and, you know, earning, you know, living high on the hog."

So I think understanding and, as uncomfortable as it often is, forthrightly looking at the racial dynamics of these, you know, these complicated questions is really important. Because race is used to divide and to blame and to scapegoat.

BARBARA GARSON: I just thought of another thing that made that documentary really work, because it showed the wear and tear not so much of lack of wealth, but insecurity. The problems of coping all the time. Because that's what I noticed. The poor Americans that I wanted to show didn't look like Walker Evans photographs. They were sitting in front of the television--

BILL MOYERS: The famous Depression photograph--

BARBARA GARSON: Yeah. They were sitting in front of the television—they're eating. There is a kind of wealth, I'm not saying no one is starving, unfortunately that's the next step, or that's on the increase. But there is a kind of wealth. But when I saw in your documentary the actual worry over whether it was $100 or $1,000, "How am I going to pay the next week and who am I going to not pay?"

And I noticed something else, which was when the family has no extra money, when they can only-- when there's no disposable income, when they're not trying to decide, "Should we buy a boat, should we buy a car, should we go buy a vacation?" But it's only, "Who should I put off paying and who should I pay," it always falls back on the women.

BILL MOYERS: You prompt me to ask you about a recent story from “ThinkProgress.” Four in ten mothers are either the sole or primary source of income for their families, according to Pew Research. And yet the trend is not necessarily due to women making more than their husbands. Nearly two-thirds of this group of women workers are single mothers and just 37 percent are married and have a higher income than their spouses. What does it mean that increasingly families are depending upon the income of a single mother for their support?

BARBARA MINER: You know, that is one of the disturbing things about the attack on some of the public sectors in Wisconsin because a lot of it's teachers. And as everyone knows, teachers are primarily women. So some of the sort of gender and racial implications of the public sector and, you know, teachers are now sort of, I guess teachers are to blame for-- they're the new scapegoat for everything that's wrong with education. And you're really talking about women, by and large.

BARBARA GARSON: When the recession started, the first, at the very beginning, the unemployed were primarily men. I mean, well, at least statistically, somewhat more men. But then as it went on, it began to bem with the attack on education, and even when there wasn't an attack, these states just not having enough money to hire people. It begun to be women.

And as I often saw when you go to very poor countries overseas, you also see it. That when you're basically reduced to the level of scrounging, then it becomes a women's job. So for instance, when I was in Evansville, I was looking for a particular individual, a man who had stayed in a welfare center with his two little girls.

And I was going to these different homeless shelters run by churches. And they said, "Well, our base population is the same." But they said, "Now lots and lots of women are coming in with their children to use our Laundromats and to get a meal." So it said to me that when things really hit rock bottom, it was a women who had to scrounge around and figure out how to live in a very minimal situation.

BARBARA MINER: And then when-- the story you note there that, you know, women are increasingly, you know, raising the families, being the primary breadwinners, I think it also raises the issue, you know, all the reasons why are complicated. But it underscores the absolute importance of insuring that women's wages are on par with men's wages.

And that certain professions that are, you know, that women, you know, whether it's nursing or teaching, that they're not seen as somehow substandard professions, that are not worthy of decent pay.

BILL MOYERS: We'll leave it there for now. Barbara Miner, Lessons from the Heartland. Barbara Garson, Down the Up Escalator. Thank you both for being with me.

BARBARA MINER: Thank you, Bill.

BARBARA GARSON: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: One more reminder: you can see the FRONTLINE report, Two American Families on air and on line, beginning Tuesday, July 9th. At our website, BillMoyers.com, on July 10th, you’ll have a chance to talk with the filmmakers Tom Casciato and Kathleen Hughes in a live web chat.

That’s at BillMoyers.com. I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

Full Show: Surviving the New American Economy

July 5, 2013

Twenty-two years ago, Bill Moyers started documenting the story of two ordinary families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — families whose breadwinners had lost well-paying factory jobs. Relying on the belief that hard work is the key to a good living and better life, the Stanleys and the Neumanns, like millions of others, went about pursuing the American dream. But as they found other jobs, got re-trained, and worked any time and overtime, they still found themselves on a downward slope, working harder and longer for less pay and fewer benefits, facing devastating challenges and difficult choices.

Bill Moyers revisits his reports on the Stanleys and Neumanns — whose stories Bill updates on the July 9 Frontline report “Two American Families.” He also talks with the authors of two important books about how the changing nature of the economy is affecting everyone: Barbara Miner, a public education advocate who’s been following the decline of her own Milwaukee hometown for nearly 40 years and just published Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City; and author, activist and playwright Barbara Garson, who’s published a number of books about the changing lives of working Americans. Her most recent is Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession.

“The growing [economic] disparity didn’t happen as some sort of natural event, like the rain falling from the sky… it really is the result of policy decisions,” Miner tells Bill.

“Forty years of concentrated efforts have gone to lowering wages, whether it was breaking unions or creating laws that allowed you to make more money overseas than you might have otherwise,” says Garson. “We just have to raise wages — not only for the sake of people getting the low wages, but if we don’t raise wages, we’re well on our way to the next debt crisis.”

The Stanleys and Neumanns were first featured in Minimum Wages: The New Economy in 1990. They were revisited in 1995 in Living on the Edge, and again in the 2000 documentary Surviving the Good Times. The latest update aired on Frontline on July 9, 2013.

Producer: Gina Kim. Editor: Sikay Tang. Associate Producer: Reniqua Allen.
Intro Producer: Robert Booth. Intro Editor: Robert Kuhns.

Surviving the Good Times
Producer/Directors: Kathleen Hughes & Tom Casciato. Editors: Andrew Fredericks & Donna Marino. Associate Producers: William Brangham & Gregory Henry. Production Coordinator: Candace White.

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  • Anonymous

    Five steps backward, a half step forward, how does the amercian worker win, if the corporation gets all the benefits. How does a educated dedicated worker, compete with Bangledesh, and zero workers rights. A large subsection of the population may have no other recourse but to find a vocation that pampers the rich, as no other group has any disposable income. They have decimated the middle class, and the purchases of luxury goods are at a all time high.

  • Anonymous

    The 99% rise of productivity while ordinary worker wage increases were at 4% perhaps is the most damning statistic of the disparity of wealth and who is enjoying America’s prosperity right now.

    I find it particularly offensive when I hear the often repeated right-wing/Repub talking point that the American poor and even Middle class are “Takers” – that all they’re looking for is a “Free Lunch” and then they point to Food Stamps and other governmental programs as their spurious misleading proof.

    Ordinary Americans would not have a need for “Food Stamps” in the millions if it weren’t for the callous exploitation now taking place by corporations and the unspeakably wealthy who own the corporations – paying Americans nearly the same identical wage in real terms that was made in the 1970s, even while some of the most basic costs for ordinary Americans – such as Health Care, Housing and increasingly Food – have become absurdly expensive.

    Many Americans fail to connect the dots of rising gas prices, rising health costs and even rising rents – to the Financial Industry that has become a literal pariah upon our economic system – rigging the price of gas and price of housing and health cares – to benefit the ever increasing speculation and unearned income on Wall Street – much of which has so little rationale oversight that the activities are criminal by any other name.

    I really am not sure what can be done other than that if there isn’t some strong pushback soon – by ordinary Americans, a movement similar in the style of civil rights movements in the 60s or the Occupy Wallstreet movement that has sputtered out – I’m not sure what can be done in the short term. They just came out with another report that more jobs are being created – yet the report doesn’t really go into what kind of jobs are replacing the old jobs – as if the pay and benefits of jobs doesn’t matter – only the number of jobs available. It all has become almost a corrupt farce propped up by obvious political corruption in Washington.

    Call me jaded, but I am thinking now we’re in for a lot more suffering and I will not be seeing much positive change in my own boomer lifetime. More hunger and desperate poverty I expect is coming up for millions more of Americans. The American dream is dead.

  • Ira J

    I had no idea of how bad things were during the late 70′s, 80′s and early 90′s because I was serving in the military. Once I got out in the early 1990′s I got a slap in the face. With my years of military service, janitors jobs, security guard and other menial jobs were a dime a dozen and all that I could get. I worked for Apple Computers and I received another slap in the face when Apple closed down our production line and moved to Mexico for cheaper labor, we were only making about 7.50 an hour in Colorado and I was trying to support a wife and 3 children. My wife had to work to help support the family and I worked 2 jobs for a time. The term “Latch key Kids” was corned during the 80′s and 90′s because both parents had to work and the kids were coming home from school to empty homes. Our nation and our society has paid a huge price some of which are problem kids, abuse, pregnancies, violence and more. What the Corporate Elites, their bought politicians and federal judges have done to America and the American Family in my summation is “Criminal”. This group will never be satisfied and it doesn’t matter how much money or luxury goods they own. They and their enablers have become “Addicted to Money” and it is past the time for an American “Intervention”. The Gas, Oil and Coal Companies are poisoning our water and land, Monsanto and Dow Chemicals are poisoning our land and food. The American People are faced with chronic obesity, diseases, cancers, early childhood puberty, homelessness, hunger and a host of crisis which the current political class is unable to solve because they are profiting from the “Status Quo”. How do we solve these crimes and injustices? Take note from what is happening in Egypt, Brazil, Portugal and other nations that have their people fighting back because they are fed up with inequality and lack of opportunities for themselves and their young people. It going to take a “Unified Uprising which include police officers and federal workers” because the rich and corporate elites are bribing police officers and many are hiring private security guards for their own protection because they know what they are doing will not last forever. The “Robber Barons” earlier in American History behaved the same way and they too were destroyed.

  • Citizen

    Things are awful in this country. Fascism prevails.

  • Mike

    Our culture of looking to (eternal) growth is the SOURCE of most of our problems, NOT the solution. The USA doubles its GDP every 40 years and doubles its population every 60 years. Growth overwhelms all else we try to do to help the environment and our society. Population is the great multipler!

    “Anyone who believes in unlimited growth is either a madman or an economist”. -Herman Daly

    See http://www.growthbusters.org/;
    sign onto CASSE at http://steadystate.org/.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Bill, for going back to these two families. How well I remember the 2000 program, when you were asking if Americans could survive the boom. That question really brought my anger to the surface, an anger that had been simmering since neoliberalism, the offspring of Reagan and Thatcher’s love affair was unleashed on a largely unsuspecting world.

    America, like the rest of what was once called the First World, is undergoing a tectonic shift from democracy to corporate imperialism featuring a capitalism that is darwinian, orwellian, red in tooth and claw. The Barbaras are quite correct: Once you have robbed people of their economic roles as both producers and consumers, there is no longer a reason for the wealthy to hang around, as they have successfully redistributed upwards every possible nickel. So they will move to the Caymens to keep their money company while they look around for others sucker countries to drain of their wealth. After all, as Thatcher said, There Is No Alternative (TINA).

  • Mark Duwe

    Here’s an idea. GOPers want to get rid of SNAP, (food stamps), OK, meet us halfway. For every 10% we raise the minimum wage, you can cut food stamps 5%. Based on inflation the MW should be somewhere between $15.00 and $21.00 an hour. The later would currently be unsustainable because of world labor markets, but $15.00 is easily attainable.

    2014: $7.98
    2015: $8.77
    2016: $9.65
    2017: $10.61
    2018: $11.68
    2019: $12.84
    2020: $14.13
    2021: $15.54

    Even 7 years from now we still wouldn’t be where we need to be, but it would be better. Taxes for food stamps would be less because more people would be working. There would be some inflation, but not as much as you think. A $2.00 cheeseburger might cost $2.65.

    Education would help some, but for most it wouldn’t make any difference. If I could wave a magic wand and giver everyone who has a family and is working for less than a moderate living wage would Wal Mart start paying cashiers $60k a year to start?

    Nope, all those low paying jobs would still be there, (about 30-40 million), and there aren’t enough 17 year olds to fill them all.

    It’s hard to compete with factories that pay 50 cents to a dollar-sixty or so. For US companies to stay in business they had to move some or all of their manufacturing to other parts of the world.

    Until world labor markets stabilize this is going to be a problem. What we need is a worldwide union and a worldwide minimum living wage.

  • Anonymous

    Fight the power. Become active in your local organization of what Occupy! has become, Popular Resistance: http://www.popularresistance.org/.

  • Anonymous

    Can a woman be happy having just one child? Three kids in one family and 5 kids in the other family..no wonder the world’s population has more than trippled since the mid fifties (my lifetime). This story shows that even without global warming climate change, we need to manage population better. I propose a one child rule until the world’s population goes down to less than 2 billion.
    Also we need to end exclusionary zoning so the housing market is free. The one family had an $820/mo mortgage. My property taxes are $718/yr because I live in a singlewide mobile home and was allowed to place it on a quarter acre lot and pay property taxes like everyone else. I lived in a mobile home park for 18 yrs in Farmington Hills, MI (near Detroit) and was paying $3,720/yr in lot rent. Over that 18 yr period I paid over $55K in lot rent and could’ve saved $45K if I just would’ve been allowed to place my singlewide on a lot and pay property taxes. But Farmington Hills said your home has to be 24 ft wide and conform to existing housing. After I lost my job in Oct 2008 I moved my singlewide 300 miles south. If I wanted to stay in MI then I would’ve had to move 167 miles further north. Between 2000 and 2010 we had 240,000 people leave Detroit. Detroit has 10,000 acres of empty lots. Detroit also still has exclusionary zoning. Cleveland tore down 20,000 homes. Ohio’s attorney general financed the demolition of 100,000 homes. End exclusionary zoning and you’ll be able to buy a home as easily and as cheaply as you can buy a car. I bought my singlewide for $22,500 in 1991 and paid it off in less than 2 years. So I didn’t flush a lot of money down the 30 yr mortgage toilet. You can get a new sinlgewide at expohomes.com for $17,900. It’s about 345 sq ft. Nobody had to tear down my home because I took it with me.
    Local governments and homeowner’s associations use exclusionary zoning devices to raise the cost of housing in order to exclude lower income groups deemed undesirable. As this program demonstrates many many more are becoming lower income. So we need to end exclusionary zoning and the population arms race. Once you realize that we all have value and are worthy of dignity then it’s easier to evaluate one person at a time based on behavior only. We need to stop the prejudging. We’re all in this together.

  • unemployed in America

    Dear Mr. Bill Moyers,
    Get a mitt and get in the game. You sit there and ask questions like you’ve been in a coma for the last 20 years. WTF? I Have a B.S. in electrical engineering, a MBA from a top program as well as union credentials in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
    union. I have 5 children that like to eat everyday, I have been unemployed for over 14 months – I do not even get a response from 99% of the applications that I fill out. I have had numerous short-time ‘opportunities’ since I lost my last good job in 1999. There is a deep simmering of resentment about to boil over into the streets…Your superficial coverage of the job problem is really a sin to put on the airwaves.

  • SwordofPerseus

    Join the Occupy movement in your area…Become active politically at the local level. People have the power to take back their rights. We will prevail if we unite.

  • Anonymous

    I’m voting with my feet, as soon as I have enough savings I’m hightailing it to south america. Our civil liberties are gone, we are a prison police state. The local police and militias are flush with military hardware, and hollow point bullets. There are dozens of FEMA camps set up all around america. We are trillions of dollars in debt. You cant rebuild until it all collapses, every world empire collapsed the same way, they refuse to curtail their military might. We are trillions in debt, Not 16 trillion as they advertise, but tens of trillions more in financial obligations to our military pensions, and other obligations. Read about the weimar republic in Germany after WWI, and Stasi Germany during the cold war of the Eastern Bloc. We are right behind them. We are using their same play book to hoodwink the masses. Every president since eisenhower has been in corporate americas back pocket. He tried to warn us against it. Kennedy was killed because he wouldnt play by their rules. You cant print funny money forever without anything to back it up. History always repeats itself. Real change will never come about unless you have total collapse. The existing system is rotten to the core. They already have the means to lock us up in internment camps, they have the weapons, camps, all set to go. Be very afraid of your government, a dying animal will do anything to survive.

  • John

    Another excellent presentation by Bill Moyers & Company. What it evoked in me: It’s like boiling frogs, and we’re the frogs.

  • davidp

    These stories are told over and over again across the country in many, many lives.

  • chantal coryell

    I’m so excited about this new update on the 2 middle class families! I really enjoyed the previous episodes about them and have been hoping to “visit” them again. Thanks for keeping up with them!

  • Anonymous

    Well, I’m not surviving the new American economy. I’m unemployed, depressed, and wondering what, if anything lies ahead. Bill, any jobs open at Moyers and Company? I’m happy to do research, writing and love to discuss politics.

  • Jim Mast

    Please investigate the Human Services profession in all the areas of Social Service, Mental Health and Medical positions. The profession is in huge trouble with stagnant wages and high burnout and turn over rates. They are turning into the working poor.

  • Lance

    wishful thinking. There are no solutions and there is no hope for Americans. We are finished.

  • Lance

    You bought something for $20K? You sound rich to me.

  • Anonymous

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvUGGIzSxXo
    Here is some historical eye opener for you, why it is now difficult to protest in the USA street. The government learned from hitler,stalin and mussolini how to crack down on dissent

  • Aquifer

    Testing 123

  • David Hofmann

    unemployed, I understand your anger but can’t help but feel you’re venting it at the wrong person. When was the last time you heard the topic even mentioned on any other major news outlet? Their failure is the real sin.

  • Kimber Lanning

    I would love to see the conversation include the shift to a National Chain Store economy, a model which eliminates secondary and tertiary jobs like accountants, graphic designers, web developers, etc and also often passes the burden of healthcare off onto the taxpayers. a Supreme Court Judge said ‘We can’t take a nation of shopkeepers and turn it into a nation of clerks, and not expect that enormous social, economic, and social sacrifices will be made.’

  • Enough

    I agree with both of you. What amazes me is how there are so many influential people who can be heard on some networks and on the Internet yet how rarely any of these people actually are in actual protests together. Action is needed by all people. I don’t blame people like Bil Moyers but I do think that all these voices who are constantly at the microphone could do more. America needs a mega-protest to make a statement. It is possible but first these ‘leaders’ need to get together and then get the rest of the disgruntled looked-over part of the nation together.

  • Lawler Kirk

    When the 99% come together we can change the world! For me it is like math and the common denominator at this point we should be able to see
    that suffering is suffering it’s not black, white, male or female, gay or straight.

    My prayer is that we all evolve together as one humane family. And that is possible because we all came from the same seed.

    Thank you. Bill Moyers!

  • Fed Up

    I think the guests got it right when they cited a ” lack of collective responsibility.” People in Egypt, Turkey, etc. take to the streets when their governments betray them. We, supposely the greatest democracy in the world, just turn the other cheek and say hit me again !
    Who’s really third world here ?

  • loosi4

    We don’t need to take to the streets, we’ve got Jesus.

  • Givemeabreak

    This show was WEAK. Unabashed Socialists decrying the death of the urban economy. You guys have been in charge of city politics in every large city for decades. Nice job.

  • Anonymous

    I’m one of those who are affected by the student loan crisis and it’s continuing to financial suicide as my disability check is not enough to cover any bills, credit card companies have refused to lower interest rates, and it breaks my heart to know this is happening everywhere in the U.S.A. to families who are taxpayers being driven into bankruptcy by corporations who are obtaining funds at below 1% and charging over 10% adding fees, service charges, and the forbearance deferment capitalize interest, plus add more interest. This increases the loan way past its original balance…, and the inability to pay the original loan due to disability, unemployment, medical hardship emergencies, death of loan holder … does not stop these lenders from going beyond the graveyard for the debt.

  • Anonymous

    “Shared responsibility” is a term I’ve heard Norman Goldman apply effectively on his radio program. I assert it’s a wonderful slap in the face to the shibboleth of “personal responsibility” that gives sociopaths permission to plunder and pillage as though that is acceptable.

    I’m a serial entrepreneur, but there is no question that every startup I’ve cofounded has depended upon shared responsibility. Everyone on the team gets ownership. The shares may be unequal as the contributions vary, but everyone recognizes that we succeed or fail together.

    During the 30+ years I’ve been in Silicon Valley I’ve seen what can only be described as a radical transformation in executive suites. To be sure, we have boom and bust technology waves, I’ve been fortunate to know and work with several of the pivotal players. But the Bill & Dave (Hewlett & Packard) “HP Way” of shared success has given way to laying off highly skilled tech workers over 40 and replacing them with quasi indentured H1B visa holders at 1/3rd the pay so the sociopathic CEO can be a billionaire with his personal Gulfstream 650 instead of a mere centimillionaire with fractional jet ownership.

    The press is paid to celebrate billionaires and their elaborate consumption habits. The consolidation of media by a handful of other billionaires has resulted in a self-reinforcing disinformation campaign. Therefore, the only way we can get a message across requires highly visible public action.

    My solution: We have seen 1 million people in Washington DC on a cold day in January. I say it is time we send a message to congress and have 2 million Americans descend on Washington, DC on a warm day in September peacefully demanding action on jobs and inequality. If you can’t appear for your own interest, do it on behalf of your children and grandchildren. The time for apathy is over.

  • Bonita Turner

    please list one or two books regarding the current assult on womens health issues or a link I can go to for information on how a pro choice person can “fight” back. Thank you. Bonita Turner

  • Anonymous

    It’s like the Mafioso loan sharks – your life is ruined the moment you find yourself unable to pay back your loan. Everything is tied into your credit too – finding a job, finding decent housing, even paying a parking ticket and getting a driver’s license now is tied into your credit.

    The banks screw over the country – get bailed out – and then continue with their criminal raping of the country.

  • GeosUser

    I’m left wondering why these two families don’t or didn’t relocate to other places where there is more economic and employment opportunity?

  • FranG

    As I stood on the sidewalk with my handful of cohorts fighting for economic justice,I kept wondering why the whole darn town wasn’t OCcupying with us. The unemployed are too humiliated; the employed are either complacent or terrified and the Wall X
    Street bankers are too stupid to get that this is their country, too.

  • Anonymous

    Jesus is not going to help you when your pulling food out of dumpsters, because monsanto and walmart controls the food supply and your government with its billions of hollow point bullets, and trillions in military hardware decides its going to put a bullet in your head for not towing the line. Your better off protesting as they do in other unjust countries around the world…

  • Anonymous

    You’re using the label of sociopath is good as you do or are beginning to understand the mind and ideologies of what are really psychopaths and then you should understand that sociopath and psychopath are the same. It might be well to find some literature that explains the intentions of these people. There are basically without a conscience and greed and power are their motivations not to mention their thrill of stabbing people in the back for the sheer fun of seeing their handy work produce a bigger and bigger downtrodden and oppressed people.

    Sadder even still is that they have infiltrated and infected the very heart of our government and being remorseless use our government our taxpayers money for their benefit which in a functioning society would be a punishable crime if those same psychopaths where held accountable by a functional law enforcement and judiciary.

    It basically is boiling down to the point, and this is also intentional, that at some point the oppressed people’s boiling point is going to break and the those people will be faced with the psychopath’s enforcement and judiciary enforcement.

    Just remember the psychopaths as managed to get themselves into positions of power to control in deleterious was the people which are just cattle to them. Also remember that a psychopath is an accomplished liar, actor and sells person.

    The main thing to remember is that

  • DJango cfMC FEROX

    God Bless Bill Moyers

  • the treagle

    I encountered a problem with “temporary” or “contract” work going back to the early 90′s! I was employed as a contract …or “adjunct” professor at two local universities for a decade, during which time I was never able to get health insurance or any other usual compensation, not to mention any job security. Later I found out that over HALF of the employed work force at one university was adjunct. Now, it seems, everyone else has caught on to this idea – even Walmart. It’s dishonest and one of the major factors that is killing our workforce and the middle class. It’s just as bad as outsourcing to India or going off-shore is to the manufacturing sector!

  • Irene Nowocien Grant

    All I can say is we need a French Revolution!

  • Ll

    Early 90′s, widowed, 2 teenagers. Zero mother’s benefits. Thank Clinton for that, and the work program. Employers were paid to hire “needed” workers. I tried to apply, but was told it would be six weeks before they could accept more applications. Meanwhile, I got a good job. They had let two people go, and I was hired to fill in. Another person had quit.
    Guess what happened nine weeks later? I got canned, and three people were hired to take my place — with our government paying their wages for a year or so! I found that out from an employee afterwards who said I should sue. Yes, the employer abused the system.

  • steve

    Over 20 years ago we (as phycists and engineers), were given the task by our clients of developing the technologies to automate the factory floor for minimal human requirements and interaction. I suspect we were too successful.

  • Anonymous

    What is it when your state and national government “representatives” conspire against you (the voter & citizen)? I think it’s even more sad that this system of government is all we have and MOST of those who
    “represent” us are formally trained (Lawyers) in how to spin and manipulate minds and words for believability and trust. Is it a crime to be a student of the best schools in the nation, probably supported by
    taxpayers, to turn around and use that public support for this Ivy League education against the people who paid for it?
    I feel desperately for those who use God as their banner of honor, and use the tools of evil to achieve their goals.

  • http://www.yahoo.com/ Jay H. Mani

    My parents never made over $80K combined income in their lives yet were able to provide a very nice home, 2 cars, food, and good life to me and my brother in the 70-80′s. Thank goodness my brother and I moved on and have our own lives because with the way things are going my parents would not been able to do it today. Wages are stagnant, soaring fuel and food costs, gutting of organized labor, and lack of opportunity are the reasons… The systematic gutting of the American Middle Class is the greatest tragedy of the last 50 years. Shame on both Democrats and Republicans for being the culprits.

  • Reid W.

    Here! Here! You are so right! We need a “We Are The 99%”, or “Occupy Wall Street” for BOTH adults AND 20-somethings in the streets and in the Congress and media EVERYDAY until they have the political power of the conservative/Republican Far Right!! …We need a Tea Party-type model, Left-leaning Limbaugh-types on talk radio, a more blatant MSNBC, generous sponsors and small contributors alike, etc. to support and rally the 99% / the working middle-class and poor’s interests.

  • Reid W.

    I too have been feeling and watching this “divide and conquer”/weaken&dilute assault on the working middle-class since Reagan/1980′s – by the BIG/multinational corporations and the Republicans/conservatives sycophants who facilitate them on the legality of their tactics.

  • Reid W.

    AMEN!!!

  • Anonymous

    Hello, well if we’re all in this boat together why don’t we form some kind of movement not just about protesting but actually pooling our money to fight against this…Protests are good but ingenuity and the masses working together to have health insurances pools coops etc is even better. I would love to do something like this but don’t see anyone willing to create communities that actually work on common capital.

  • Barry Elias

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nominal median household income rose nearly four-fold, from roughly $12,000 to $48,000, between 1971 and 2007, not 4% as stated during the show and provided in a chart (at 36:18) This is much greater than the 99% increase in productivity that was cited. The reference to 4% may reflect real income that has been adjusted for inflation.

    Barry Elias
    http://eliaseconomics.wordpress.com/about/
    Economic Policy Analyst

  • Aquifer

    Testing 123

  • Anonymous

    If this were true, why have most of the iron & steel, tire & rubber, textiles, furniture, and consumer electronics industries along with a large part of information technology moved to foreign countries? The industries would still be in the US albeit mechanized. I submit that these industries have been lost to low wage countries that do not provide safety nets (social security, unemployment compensation, OSHA, EPA, etc.). Our government could have prevented this by imposing tariffs on foreign manufactured goods. This didn’t happen because our government representatives have been “bought” by the major corporations (that make tremendous profits from the low wages they have to pay)

  • Anonymous

    I believe Occupy Wallstreet was the kind of movement you propose. And we saw just how prepared the current power structure was to squelch it and discredit it. Although, admittedly, the idea that Occupy would be able to maintain itself without a strong organization and leadership – I never bought into.

    What’s next? Hard to know. The Republican party may soon become obsolete given it’s hardline extremism on social and economic issues. But the corporate corruption in the Democratic party is pretty deep now as well. Americans may vote the Democrats in but without financial constraints that Citizen’s United let loose, I’m not sure any real significant change will occur even under a Democrat party majority.

    Both parties have become corrupt, and the institutions themselves have become corrupt. This really leaves only a groundswell movement to change the current power structures – and it’s hard to see this happening after Occupy sputtered out.

  • Anonymous

    The median rise of middle-class income has been one of the more specious right-wing push-back talking points – against an entire mountain of data and studies that show an egregious level of wealth and income inequality that we have not seen in the US since our robber baron gilded age.

    It is disingenuous and misleading. There are holes in this talking point about as large as a CEO’s salary.

  • http://www.billmoyers.com Theresa Riley

    Dear Barry:

    The 4 percent figure came from Barbara Garson’s book, Down the Up Escalator. She footnotes the statistic as coming from Doug Henwood, editor of the Left Business Observer. One clarification is that yes, the hourly wages are adjusted for inflation and they also do not include fringe benefits. Here’s the note that Doug sent us in response to our fact check.
    ————–
    “Here you go: Between 1971 and 2007, productivity nearly doubled (up 99%). The average hourly wage, including fringe benefits, rose half as much (49%). But fringe benefits have been pushed higher by relentless medical inflation whose actual benefit to people is hard to measure. So if you look just at direct pay, excluding fringe benefits, productivity has risen more than 25 times as much as hourly pay (which was up less than 4% over those 46 years). All these figures are adjusted for inflation.”

  • zaltor

    Real wages are stagnant, while inflation on things such as health care, higher education, and food are soaring. This is a recipe for disaster. In order to move forward it would be nice if the political elites would embrace some new ideas, maybe make some much-needed investments in our infrastructure and work force, and absolutely discard outdated and unsupported supply-side theories that exacerbate inequality. The solution is not to “unleash” the power of capitalism. That’s what our leaders have done since the late 70′s. Maybe it’s time now to unleash the power of equality.

  • Anonymous

    Everybody needs to face this one fact: The age of carbon based energy is over — kaput! We can burn a little more, but not much more. To do so would put us over the “carbon budget”, with excessively dire consequences to the climate — even the 1% would suffer, and we can’t have that. All of the problems we are witnessing are attributable to this one fact — our civilization and economy was built on cheap abundant oil. Now we’re at the end of the little run. What comes next is chaos and suffering on a monumental scale.

  • Barry Elias

    I referenced median income, since the author was referring to this parameter. I was informed that her wage growth figure was not inflation adjusted While I agree with the author’s conclusion that income inequality is too high, the reason for this is not supported by the statistic she cited concerning wage vs. productivity growth. Income inequality is much too high due to poor public policy during the Reagan and Clinton administrations, and the implementation of specific policies can ameliorate these barriers and inefficiencies.

  • Barry Elias

    Dear Teresa,

    Thank you very much for the prompt and detailed reply.

    While I agree with the author’s conclusion that income inequality is too high, the reason for this is not supported by the statistic she cited concerning wage vs. productivity growth. Income inequality is severe due to poor public policy that was implemented during the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

    Implementation of specific policies can ameliorate these barriers and inefficiencies.

  • Anonymous

    Nobody owes you a job. Nobody owes you a house. Nobody owes you a meal or clothes on your back. Nobody who wasn’t lying ever promised you that if you are willing to work hard you will succeed (I get so sick of hearing Moyers say it). There is only one American Dream and you can read about it in your own Declaration of Independence. The American Dream is nothing more than FREEDOM FROM PERSECUTION BY YOUR OWN GOVERNMENT, which generally can be provided for free. Everything else is up to you. Grow up.

  • Anonymous

    “Forty years of concentrated efforts have gone to lowering wages,…”
    ….it should be illegal to create jobs that are impossible to live on….it’s an insult to have to work at being poor; having nothing should be free….it’s an insult to be forced from a good-paying job into a poverty-paying job….it’s an insult to be forced to contribute to your own personal and economic downfall in a democracy with such a flowery, questionable Constitution….
    ….an economic system that doesn’t provide all of its’ members sustainable livelihoods is a worthless economic system….why would you need a system that didn’t?

  • Anonymous

    The two Barbaras are chasing a train that has left the station. The global economy and the advance of technology, much more than government policies, have caused the plight of the 99%. This idea of working hard and dong the “right” things are rules of the LAST CENTURY. The rules have changed and no one has told the 99%. They still chase after a job that does not exist or a return to the life they knew. What the 99% need to know are the new rules. These rules are not that hard to learn BUT they require certain talents and skills that the 99% do not have (a talent cannot be taught):

    –the ability to use language at a very high level — see the problem here on literacy http://www.readfaster.com/education_stats.asp
    –because so many are illiterate or simply don’t like to read, they are not reading this blog or books which can teach skills or educational videos on youtube
    -earning a living is about delivering value. I don’t know if it every occurred to the African American dad in the broadcast but he needs to go and find the basement insulation jobs on his own and keep the profit. Delivering value in this case is the skill of selling, communicating ones value, which his eimplyere does and keeps the profit after paying the workers a low wage.
    Please, not more nonsense about waiting or hoping that the government will fix this. The 99% need the skills and way of thinking that fits THIS century and I am clueless how to deliver these to those who don;t have the necessary talent or insight to take the next step.

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t the productivity gains come from technology and not workers working harder? In other words, the technology that has delivered productivity gains is produced by educated or brilliant engineers with skills and talents that the 99% simply do not have. Is that not that crux of the issue, that the 99% don’t have the knowledge skills needed to produce value in an age when labor no longer has much value?

  • Anonymous
  • zaltor

    Whenever you hear the term Supply Side Economics, or Trickle Down Economics, or tax cuts, or lower regulations, or unleash the engine of capitalism–run in the other direction! These are the policies that the Barbara’s were talking about (and all of the other ancillary, ALEC-sponsored policies) that have increased inequality, enhanced the elements of the casino-style, winner takes all capitalism that we have in place now in the US, and decreased the opportunity-style / demand-side aspects of capitalism that create and spread wealth and increase upward mobility. Even Adam Smith predicted that capitalism left un-regulated and un-checked would funnel wealth to a small group of individuals at the top while squeezing everybody else. The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of the plutocrats, and must inevitably swing back in the other direction. So long as we can still vote, we still have a choice–but the people have to understand what is true and what is false in this discussion.

  • Nancy Volel

    I am grateful for Bill Moyers starting the conversation. I have been unemployed since 2008 and was always told that education was the key to success. I have a law degree and an MBA and really feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Things need to change and soon!

  • Nancy Volel

    Yup! Millions facing foreclosure and not ONE banker jailed! Where is the justice? I don’t get it!

  • Nancy Volel

    I hear you! Bill I need a job too!

  • Anonymous

    As you imply, not everyone is born with the talent to become an entrepreneur–nature provides society with a wide range of human talents and abilities. I believe it is incumbent upon us as a society to make use of and accomodate this range of talents. We the poeple define society not the corporation (although the SCOTUS and conservatives would have us believe otherwise). Hopefully the corporations will not force us into Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” where the corporation will determine the number of “Alpha-Pluses” and “Epsilon-Minuses” required to run their enterprises. I strongly disagree with your assertion that government policies (or lack therof) have not caused this plight. After World War !!, government limitation of corporate power produced the most powerful economy the world has ever known. Among other things, our present government has failed to control the offshoring of jobs through the imposition of tariffs on foreign made goods. This can be accomplished if we have some leadership that has the courage to do it.

  • Hopefulmom

    Yes sir, I have read what you have to say. And as a mother watching
    young people head into the work force, I simply want to cry. Yes, sir,
    the train has left the station, and you too are on it. You believe your
    brains are the answer just as the two fathers thought their brawn was
    the answer. You, sir are on the same train.

    With Respect,

    Hopeful Mom

  • Anonymous

    Did it ever occur to you that maybe the 99% improved themselves (better educated, self improvement, developed better work practices by themselves, etc.) I had the opportunity to be educated by the co-operative plan (work-study) and was able to observe the ingenuity of the American laborer as I worked side-by-side with them. Apparently you never had this opportunity.

  • steve

    These technologies we developed allow(ed) corporations to transport those factories anywhere in the world and do it cheaply. These technologies are extremely powerful , some are only now being realized. But as Tofler and Kurzweil conjectured, and as you point out in the above problems , they are components of the new Luddite challenge(s). Unwittingly, we have begun the process of ending work as its been known.

  • Anonymous

    What a sad commentary on our US Economy.

  • saar

    Maybe we should start looking at capitalism as a obsolete system. There is so much about capitalism that doesn’t work. The waste of planned obsolescence,the mechanization of production, the duplication of competing research,the unprofitably of needed products like new antibiotics, the unsustainable waste of natural resources, the promotion of wasteful consumption to name a few. We need to find a new system that is compatible with the finite planet we live on.

  • Barb Roth

    This show made me cry, feel selfish, and wondering how I can help or share.Surely I am not helpless.

  • guest2013

    Nobody is asking why Germany has been successful with manufacturing jobs and the US has not.

    Perhaps Germany is more socially conscious and does not have the quick buck artists that sold it’s citizens down the river.

    Perhaps Americans will wake up someday and take back their government which is being run by lobbyists and commerical interests.

  • Lynne

    ok…but what does God have to do with it? I love God, and am not anti-Middleclass in action or thought. Many are atheist that are. Any genuine God lover would love his or her neighbor as God say already (in Holy Bible) 2000 years before you or I. Get a grip…

  • Angel

    I agree but no Obama/Biden Koolaide & pretending one party is better than next this go around?

  • Angel

    yawn…MSNBC lies & FOX are both non-news station & propaganda machines. Some of the propagana points are revelant & good & others awful…on both. For that matter so are all ‘news’ networks but the latter the most extrem. I must watch FOX ‘to’ b/c no other source give me the ‘other side’. Such a state in ‘Free Press’ is a huge red flag & mark, that your society has slipped a notch overall! So, we must decipher after getting both sides to better asertain the true story being spun. Wake up folks, if you want a 3rd world nation…it’s ah coming, sooner than you might be expecting.

  • Alice

    The term ‘Lucerferian’ of Draconidians’ ring a bell?

  • Lynne

    We all came from same God…but folks make choice (i.e. ruthless psycopaths for example) to choice to rebell or not. One day it will be peace on earth & a perfect rule but never under any fallen man in charge but w/ New Heaven & Earth, and in God’s reign. In the meantime, we all should follow the Golden rule & act towards good to all mankind as much as we can through what avenues we have access to do good!

  • polkadotpup

    I don’t think voting is going to solve our problems. The plutocrats are preselecting the candidates we have to choose from, therefore the game is really over before it starts. GOD HELP US ALL.

  • Jay

    Goes on to show…American Dream is all but just that…a dream and just like erstwhile comedian George Carlin used to say “You’ve got to be asleep if you dream American Dream” How true…!!! anybody would say it is just so after you witness two fantastic families start out all starry eyed and then gradually withering out right in front of your eyes over every agonizing seconds of years of drama playing out right in front of your eyes…in a surreal abridged version…I am 63 and it was 11:35 at night when done…my folks had gone to bed while I watched it riveted to my local PBS station. I needed a drink even though I consider myself beyond a lot of drama at my age !!!
    Kudos Front Line keep up the good works…this is where we know how important and mightier the pen is than the sword !!!

  • Marshall McComb

    Perhaps you didn’t hear the part about white collar and professional jobs being made obsolete by technology, too.

    Clearly a re-redistribution of wealth is called for, and higher taxes on the wealthy appear to be the only avenue for reinvesting in America.

  • Anonymous

    The availability of cheap labor as a result of no safety nets (social security, etc.) in foreign countries has been the main driver for offshoring, not technology. Quote is form link below about offshoring of consumer electornics.

    “It’s more truthful to say that America doesn’t have 30,000 engineers and 700,000
    factory workers who are willing to work more than 60 hours a week, live in
    squalid dormitories, get pulled out of bed in the middle of the night to change
    a critical part, and earn $3,000 or less a year. And we shouldn’t have.”

    http://www.assemblymag.com/articles/90370-apple–offshoring-and-the-decline-of-the-american-middle-class

  • JOAN BARRY

    We watched the July 5th show and the Front Line show. There were gaps. Were their extended families? Where were they? Also, it was apparent that Dad #1 (Caucasian Dad) was flagging under the responsibilities, and needed support to sustain the long haul. His wife was carrying the load. I understand social research, but I wonder at compassion that saw both of these families continuing to struggle with no hope for learning from “the watchers.” The Black family had the circle of church, significant support. What families need is work on FAMILY MANAGEMENT that probably should be taught in every high school in the country, and deal with the real life issues of dollars and sense, family education, family values and underpinnings (church, family, community.) Bill Moyers continues to be one of our favorites. But, Bill, interventions might have made life much easier, successful. We, as a society, tend to nurture “the nuclear family” without much concern about the family and community extensions that can make life easier, enjoyable. And what about now? It isn’t too late to help these families find contentment and security.

    I write this as our own “nuclear family offspring” have scattered to various states, and we have resettled onto a small plot in the midWest to “do our own thing.”

  • Shackledanddrawn

    I myself am left wondering how much longer this can continue. With the recent reverted tax Im only able to pay my mortgage and gas; food and entertainment which of previous years were of no concern have vanished due to lack of disposable income, nor am I able to save. Just yesterday I had to question buying $10 worth of groceries. $10 ! Thank you Mr. Moyers for continuing to bring light on this subject.

  • JB

    Bill Moyers I never thought I will be seeing a true HERO in my life time! Thank you sir.

  • Jon Eric from NJ

    I would like to know whatever happened to the anti-trust laws in this country that was supposed to keep companies from getting too big and eliminating competitors such as Walmart.I recently read where in the Fortune 500 group of companies the aver CEO was paid 273 times the average company worker.My God thats outrageous! What we need right now in this country is another Teddy Roosevelt to break up these big companies and corporations and get the money back circulating through the economy If you look at a graph of the economy from 1900 through 2010 you will see where we are in the same place now as we were during the depression.All the money is at the top of the pyramid.
    Jon Erin from NJ

  • 3rd generation old/working por

    Bill is Prez/V.P. material, and he gets it. I watched the show and thought it sincerely attempted to get to the roots of society’s homeless middleclass poor. I have been there and I am still there. In regard to the Caucasion family, it may have served them better if in place of the dad going to school for job retraining, the mom go for real estate training, as she could have sold in the lucrative suburbs and affluent areas, where the Black family’s mom unfortunately prejudiced against, was not able to. I lived in an Illinois city in the 1990′s and the nepotism and friend networks prevented me from any job that I was physically and emotionally able to do. I had Lupus and a painful cyst bulboa in my neck, and I never got a decent wage living job’ or an ‘easy’ job. not ever. However I saw many who did. As Ms. Miner and Ms. Garsons research and observations take: stated that Black males being at a distinct disadvantage were/are not able to commute from the poor inner city to outlying suburbs for employment. Here my grandfather rode his bicycle several miles to work everyday to support 3 children. It wasn’t until he was struck and killed and my grandma had to work very hard and sustain abuse on the job from upper income Caucasion people. It was pre WWII, and S.S. for widows did not exist yet. Family, friends, nor the Catholic church did anything to assist them. In my personal life, my experience and expertise, most people don’t get it. Some try to, unless it is experienced it is beyond their realm of comprehension. I tried going to numerous churches, I was severely judged and criticized for leaving an abusive marriage and husband. Many people who attend church are well meaning, however preoccupation on what others may think or say usually get in the way. Those people usually typically have myriads of family and friends. I am Caucasion and feel abandoned for the most part.

  • Anonymou

    My issue with the piece (and I generally approve of Frontline work) is the family’s they chose to follow. Two young families, no real formal education. The black family (which very impressed me). Didn’t even have high school degrees. They were set ups for failure. My wife and I ages falls between these 2 couples and I was we’ll aware growing up that if I didn’t learn skill sets I would have a difficult time as an adult. Furthermore my brother and I having grew up on welfare also recognized not to have kids until you can afford them.

    These two simple ideas probably have more to do with the ensuing difficulty faced by these families than the economic tide we all face. This is well stated by the eldest son who not only completed a college education but doesn’t have to deal with raising kids he can’t afford.

  • Anonymous

    Household income and wages are two different things. Household income increased only because households were working more hours. That has nothing to do with the wage/productivity issue, which would hold work hours constant. Wages could fall 50%, but household income could increase if more household members went to work in the paid labor market.

  • Kim McHenry

    Since when does not having a formal education deem you unworthy in this country? NOT everyone is cut out for school. BTW, ask me how much more money I enjoy after paying my student loans on my above average paying job along with living expenses. I for one, will be in debt most of my career.
    A cashier at any huge retail chain makes a little above minimum wage, even after years of service. He/she DOES possess marketable skills ( customer service, sales, basic accounting and genuine business ethics). Are you saying these people are not worthy of having enough to feed their families or be able to take them to their doctor if they get sick? I guess not, since they aren’t in receipt of that precious piece of paper.
    I have a lot of respect for these families. They are out there and trying to make things work in a country that really doesn’t give a damn about them. The holier than thou attitude of “Well, they obviously made the wrong life choices, so that’s what they get!” just SICKENS me…

  • Kim McHenry

    BTW Anon, if you had watched the episode, both set of parents were working at manufacturing jobs when they met. One of the moms said that they were each making 20$/hr when they got married and decided to start a family. So how were they unstable?

  • Kim McHenry

    Ummm, the poster wasn’t criticizing God. They were criticizing the hypocrites who treat average folk like a contagious disease because they are part of the “Have Nots”, but at the same time try not to piss off said folks too much by professing their undying Love of God.
    There should be a special kind of hell for these type of people.

  • Anonymous

    Nobody said they are unworthy. He said they were disadvantages. They weren’t middle class. They were lower class. They didn’t even had High School Diplomas…
    Yes.. most colleges are a HUGE waste of money.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Nuemann’s the hero… not Bill Moyers

  • Anonymous

    Unemployment rate is still high. Government says up a lot of tax free zones for tech companies.

  • Anonymous

    Many systems have been tried and failed. Few with the success of capitalism. Especially when underpinned by strong morality and work ethic like the Neumann’s.

  • Anonymous

    3 Marxists 1% ers chatting around a table… Not very impressive.

  • pulyerheadout

    Waiting for another Roosevelt to come and save us isn’t going to happen. We are going to have to be our own saviors. We have to collectively join together i.e. Unions, boycotts and yes even general strikes, if we ever want a strong middle class again in this country. We have to want it. Blood was spilled for unions. The longer we wait the more blood will have to be spilled. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but that is reality. One week long general strike would do it, those bastards at the top are so greedy they would be on their knees. Think about it, we really have all the power. We do all the work.

  • anny

    –the ability to use language at a very high level — see the problem here on literacy.– Perhaps re-reading your post will enlighten you to some of your own problems with literacy.

  • Democracy Now!

    My apologies to these two families and every other family in America that is not sitting high on the hill. I for one have not been vigilant enough in keeping knowledgeable about decisions made that negatively impact our country.

    Manufacturing and hiding corporate profits off-shore, spend and tax for programs that do not have a direct cost effective positive impact on the populace, the sieve approach to medical care and the careful deconstruction of our education system make the USA one of the lowest industrialized countries in the world.

    Well, you have my attention. It is now bad enough for enough people that I can no longer afford to vote apathetically. I will not let corporate lobbyists and legislators continue to systematically destroy this country for our friends, families and progeny. I read and I vote.

    Perhaps it has to become bad enough for the 99% before we take back our country. Look back and see that this country was founded by revolutionaries. Patriots fought for the rights and responsibilities necessary to support a true democracy. Perhaps that is what it will take to right the ship before it sinks irreconcilably down for the last time.

    We are all in this together.

  • Montaigne Lover

    Okay, but who will you vote for? The democrat bought and paid for by big business, or the republican bought and paid for by big business?

    I think, therefore I vote green party- the ONLY meaningful vote to cast today (besides the far more meaningful votes you cast each day with your wallet!)

  • Montaigne Lover

    College isn’t a waste of money at all- especially if you’re an English or Philosophy major!

  • Montaigne Lover

    Your strike won’t work because the corporate media will take you down. Media reform is critical if we want to have progress in this nation, and take on our corporate masters.

  • Montaigne Lover

    Nader anyone?

  • Montaigne Lover

    Mercedes Benz is an interesting company to analyze. The workers have a seat on the board of directors, and have direct input into executive compensation.

    They seem to be doing alright, don’t they?

  • Montaigne Lover

    The BEST way to help make a difference is to go into poor communities and teach critical thinking skills and history to the youth.

    Good luck. It is a VERY hard road, but it’s also critical and rewarding beyond anything any investment banker will ever know :)

  • Montaigne Lover

    How are you defining success? Is a nation that swallows anti-depressants like some swallow oxygen a “success”? I question your definition of success, which seems to be exclusively a financial definition.

  • Anonymous

    Not an expert on Mercedes… but limiting executive compensation makes a lot of sense.
    That is one thing a progressive tax system could be used to do… once you make maybe 2 million, everything belongs to the government. Adjust it for inflation.

  • Montaigne Lover

    You are wrong about the solution. The only real solution is to educate and inform our citizens.

    The ‘ism’ we choose is secondary in importance.

  • Anonymous

    I was mainly referring to America of yesteryear… we are currently are far off from our moral underpinnings.

  • Anonymous

    Move.. To Texas… North Dakota.

  • Guest

    We can “thank” Clinton for media consolidation.

  • Anonymous

    Unregulated capitalism historically has given way to greed and excessive inequality.

  • Anonymous

    which is exactly why we need to overturn Citizens United and put in place fair and functioning public campaign financing. There’s more to getting good government than just voting.

  • Barry Elias

    Did median nominal wages rise more than productivity and inflation combined during this time period?

  • Barry Elais

    my previous question should include the term hourly wages

  • Anonymous

    I hope you will not mind if I post a comment, as I am in Britain and not in the USA. We have seen similar developments over here and throughout Europe too but we do not kid ourselves that blue collar workers are middle class and we insist that our politicians continue to provide us with high quality education, social and health care services (though the situation in Greece now more closely resembles America).
    The American fantasies of being middle class and ruggedly individualistic are designed to ensure that the American people remain atomised and alienated from one another in order to ensure that effective social action will not be taken.
    Someone asked where the extended family was?
    I could add to that where is the extended social networks which these families and others like them should be joining in with to endure they all benefit?
    A major problem for America is the role of religion, which preaches that the existing social setup is divinely ordained and must not be challenged.
    You all need to dump religion and to start thinking and organising in your own working class interests. The rich and powerful operate through social networks of various kinds. Why are you not doing the same thing to benefit yourselves?
    Make what you need for yourselves and buy only from people in your own local social networks. Do not let the fat cats get their hands on your money.
    Starve them of your dollars; better still, set up labour exchange systems, which do not use money at all.

  • alicia

    Funny, in the broadcast, the only family that ‘made it through’ all those years was the family that prayed together and believed in God. Stay in UK baby. Advice like yours, we Americans don’t need nor will we use.

  • Barry Elais

    Also, keep in mind that hourly wage rates apply only to workers paid by hourly rates. This excludes salaried personnel and other workers paid using other methodologies. The excluded compensation may be at a much higher rate.

  • Barry Elias

    Dear Teresa,

    I would like to further research the data provided to you by Doug Henwood. Is it possible for you to cite the sources he used? If not, perhaps he can contact me directly at:

    http://eliaseconomics.wordpress.com/about/

  • Anonymous

    Strange to receive such a remark so soon after the legalised murder of a young man took place in Florida without any legal sanctions being applied to the murderer. This is the result of your craven worship of clerics and the gun lobby in America.

    What you appear to have failed to grasp is that none of the families have ‘made it through’ as you put it.
    This – as I explained – is because the rich and powerful have stooges like you to propagate their hegemonic propaganda on their behalf.
    The overall impression I gained was of a bunch of dumb Americans trying hard to understand what has been happening to them over the last 30 to 40 years.
    You all got bamboozled by the likes of Regan, Bush, Clinton and Bush Jr. They too filled your heads with religious claptrap and the results are now clear to see.
    The rich own almost everything and the poor saps like you almost nothing. When will you wake up?

  • Barry Elias

    Dear Theresa,

    Please provide the sources that Doug Henwood uses.

  • Barry Elias

    Keep in mind, compensation based on hourly wage rates may exclude salaried personnel and other compensation, which is typically much greater on an hourly basis

  • Sheila Short-Ritter

    This is sad, my kids are growing up like the Stanley family boys were back in 1991. Now it’s 22 years later. What’s wrong with this picture people?

  • Terri EC Mom5

    We could always bring back child labor and send six year old children into the workforce. They can forget about attending school and work like they do in third world countries. Is that the household members you want working? Everyone I know already has two working parents. Who is left to go into the “paid labor market” other than children or the elderly? As you may be able to tell, I am being sarcastic and other than this ridiculous idea, there really aren’t many other ideas I have to get “more household members” into the “paid labor market”.

  • Terri EC Mom5

    Yes. If the middle class (whose high debt load moves them closer to the working poor than they’d like to believe or admit) and the working poor combined forces there would be a HUGE number of people. That is what is needed…a HUGE movement spurred by the people who are sick and tired of working hard & putting in long hours but getting nowhere. When will people get sick and tired of being a hamster on a wheel…running fast but going nowhere? What will it take to motivate enough people to organize and demand some serious changes?

  • Terri EC Mom5

    If you want to see a real eye opener based on this idea check out the documentary called “The Corporation”. The premise is that since corporations were found by the Supreme Court to be “people”, a psychiatric diagnostic manual would be used to diagnose the “mental fitness” of the corporation as a person. It is definitely worth a view.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y888wVY5hzw

  • Terri EC Mom5

    I agree with everything you have just said but are you sure the American dream isn’t already dead?

  • Terri EC Mom5

    You may be right.

  • Vicki Trusselli

    this is sad. i do remember in 1981 i worked at Los Angeles Times in advertising beginning at $10 an hr. by 1984 i was making $13 an hour. My rent was $350 a month in beautiful downtown Burbank by Bobs Big Boys. In 2001 my rent was 700 all bills paid. I had three jobs to put food on my table and buy gas. I moved to Austin Tx 2003. Rent was from $500 to very high. The last place i lived in south austin was 525 upon move in and went up to 625 by 2012. they were going to raise the rent to 700 2013. I made close to 13 an hour working for the state. I lost my job 2011. I retired because i turned 62. I split my rent and they would not except that. I moved to the coast in south texas to a rv park. my partner and i are surviving. I am a college graduate and worked many years in the entertainment industry in Hollywood. Tried it in Austin and it was not the same as where I had moved from. Getting older i stil have my professional equipment that has traveled many miles and take nature photographs. I do not own a car. what i am saying is that in 2011 i was making 13 an hr with high rent and in year 1981 i was making 13 an hr and rent was cheap. i did not fill that i was a not okay. i was raised middle class and just kept working working working. by year 2001 min wage and three jobs and was divorced. so the rent and the price of groceries go up and everything goes up…….steaks are really high. i eat fish and chicken. our society of rich and poor need to be examined. if paul ryan and his tea party buds get in at 100 percent my social security would be gone and my obamacare coming up in oct would be gone. i paid into social security since i was 17. my last job ended sept 2011 and thank God i had my social security to fall back on. count the years lets see from 1967 to 2011 and the tea party peeps call me a slacker. i even worked full time when i was in college. thanks….for listening. this is my story and i am sticking to it.

  • http://www.billmoyers.com Theresa Riley

    Dear Barry, I’m sorry. I just saw this note. I must have missed the email alerting me to your post. I’ll ask. Thanks for your interest.

  • http://www.billmoyers.com Theresa Riley

    As I mentioned above, the figures came from guest Barbara Garsen’s book, but I think primarily the data came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Economic Policy Institute analysis: http://www.epi.org/publication/ib330-productivity-vs-compensation/

  • Lady36

    I really loved this show and have read many of the comments others have left. I grew up in this same era in a middle class black neighborhood. I was raised by a single mother who worked two and three jobs at times. I was one of those kids that left for school and came home without anyone to great them, and by the way my mother didn’t receive any child support or public assistance. She worked as a school bus driver, hair dresser and housekeeper at a cheap hotel. I graduated high school and paid my own way through college while working two jobs at times, and yes I was a full time student. I paid most of my tuition out of pocket as I went and only graduated with $9,000 in student loans which I paid off two years after graduation. I was determined to get a degree and not go into a lot of debt doing it, because I saw my mother struggle with money. And one thing I noticed between these families, is that the Neumann’s lacked the determination to work together and succeed. I noticed the “woe is me” attitude, unlike the Stanley’s who pulled together and had that “get a job, any job” attitude. And that attitude of the Stanley’s, plus getting their children involved helped mold their kids into hard working adults that appreciates what life has to offer. The Neumann’s on the other had their children carry the weight of defeat on their shoulders. My mother would have never let me drop out in the 10th grade even if I had a child, she’d probably tell me that after school I’m going to work and my grades better not drop..

  • Elizabeth

    In the case of the The Neumann’s, I blame the husband more than anything. Back in 91, he had all but given up. He left her and his family to their own devices. He gave up.

  • Barry Elias

    Thanks Theresa. I just read your post today. Unfortunately the data provided by the Economic Policy Institute in Figure A iof the link you provided,is non-conclusive, since productivity is measured for all workers while wages are inflation-adjusted (not nominal) and only cover private production and non-supervisory personnel. I agree that income inequality is a very real issue that needs to be addressed, but these data do not support the case. Since it is difficult for us to communicate in this fashion, you may contact me directly via email at: beb1b2b3@gmail.com

  • Anonymous

    Lady 36, while I applaud your success under very hard circumstances, I am somewhat stung by the very judgmental and superior tone of your narrative. I feel that your story is extremely anecdotal and here’s why: you say that your single mom worked three jobs – who was watching you and your siblings while she worked? Nowadays, daycare is extremely expensive and wages are lower adjusting for inflation that they ever were in the 1980s or whenever it was that you grew up. Nowadays, it is virtually impossible to pay for childcare on the salary of say, a Wal-mart employee, and if your mom ever left you all on your own at any point, she would have to deal with the DSS taking you away on child endangerment charges. Nowadays, it is extremely difficult to get any sort of job, let alone three, so it is not a matter of “lacking the determination” to get a job – it is because most jobs have been outsourced under NAFTA or lost through automation. I feel you are out of touch with the current economy – people can’t get a job no matter how much they want one – it is not because they are lazy or lack motivation. I feel that many folks who are fortunate (yes, fortunate) enough to be employed are unempathetic to those who have fallen through the cracks in this current recession. Thirdly, when you were growing up you probably did not have to deal with the outrageous cost of healthcare which has only exploded in the last decade, during which time virtually all part-time (and full-time) employers have discontinued carrying benefits for their employees. The prohibitive costs of just basic healthcare are a HUGE stressor for the working poor. If you have really lived the life you claim (and I personally feel you are embellishing much of it) you would be more in touch and sympathetic with the plight of the working poor.

  • Anonymous

    Corrupt lawyer A or Corrupt lawyer B… your choice.

  • Anonymous

    Which obviously the posters are not, Montaigne, if they read what they post.