Bill Moyers examines the domestic problems of recession, unemployment, drugs, violence, the AIDS epidemic and urban decay that plagued the United States at the same time that the nation was achieving victory in the Persian Gulf War.
SEAN DOVE, After-School Program TEACHER: Over the average two nights that it took us to go in and launch that land war, we probably lost more citizens of this city from murder than were lost in fighting the whole Iraqi army.
1ST NEW YORKER: Then it is a war here. People are trying to survive every day.
2ND NEW YORKER: The middle classes, they’re wiping us out, sooner or later.
BOB BUCHBINDER: If I and the wife were both thrown out of work, we might as well mail the key to this house to the bank.
3RD NEW YORKER: We’re talking, what, 80,000 homeless people in the City of New York?
4TH NEW YORKER: I have never seen the threats to social services as I see right now in 1991.
TEENAGE BOY: Every day, you hear gun shots all over the place. You never know where they come from.
HOSPITAL WORKER: We are probably seeing more trauma here as a result of violence than they were seeing in Saudi Arabia.
FRIEDA TOBACK, Audiologist: I can’t make plans. Don’t know what’s going to happen. The next series of layoffs is due in June. Well, I guess I’m out.
5TH NEW YORKER: The fight goes on.
6th NEW YORKER: When that war is over, this war will still be going on right here.
UNEMPLOYED WOMAN: I mean, I don’t know whether to cry you know, to cry for them or to cry for myself.
7th NEW YORKER: Afterwards it was, like-it was just another war.
BILL MOYERS: Walking to work every morning during the Gulf war and following its progress like millions of other Americans, it was impossible to miss the paradox. While from thousands of miles away came reports of impressive military success, all around us were reminders of the battles we are losing at home. I’m Bill Moyers in Columbus Circle, where I’ve worked for 20 years. When the Persian Gulf crisis began last summer, it knocked a lot of other wars right off the front pages. Those of us who live in New York, like so many of you in troubled cities and towns across the nation, knew that nothing at home had really changed. America was battling a recession, fighting drugs, crime and poverty, struggling with budget deficits and the loss of public services. Yet suddenly all the cameras and all our eyes were focused on the Middle East. So during and just after the 100-hour ground war, producer Marc Levin and I covered some of the stories that were still happening here on the home front. We began on February 23rd, as George Bush’s noon deadline for a ground war approached.
President GEORGE BUSH: The coalition will give Saddam Hussein until noon Saturday to do what he must do, begin his immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait.
REPORTER: We do not have any details on that as yet, as the deadline has come and passed. You’re listening to continuing coverage of —
REPORTER: wait for the beginning of a ground war. Recession at home has not ended. It rolls on. Auto makers and airlines continue their cutbacks.
COUNSELOR, Worker Resource Center, Freehold, New Jersey: What I’m seeing come in this office are people that cannot afford to live in their homes anymore. We have a growing homeless group that came right out of Freehold. Freehold is loaded with homeless people. And it’s not homeless people that decided not to work. It’s people that were trying to find work, OK, and they can’t find work. They end up not being able to pay their mortgage and you just simply run out of benefits.
BILL MOYERS: Bob and Helen Buchbinder have come to the Worker Resource Center for counseling. Bob has not found work since he lost his job as a fabric salesman 10 months ago. —
HELEN BUCHBINDER: Well, we’re right now in a situation that Bob worked in New York, made a very good salary. We had a savings account. And all of a sudden, he came home one day and he only had the next day and it was his last day. So then we start looking around for a job, but in the meantime you’re paying to keep your home. You’re trying to pay the electric, the gas, all the utilities just to keep going. You try not to tell anybody. You try to keep your head up. In the meantime, the money goes down, the savings goes and every day you keep hoping and hoping and hoping.
BOB BUCHBINDER: I mean, I fought in the service. I did my thing. And what am I doing? I am down at the end of my life-here, I’m here I’m-here I’m 58, still got a lot of life in me and I feel dead. I go home at night time, I feel dead.
UNEMPLOYED MAN: I’m a disposable American. I’ve gotten older. I have all sorts of potential talents, ability to work, but nobody wants to even bother to look at me anymore. I tried to get a job as a cashier in one of the department stores last week. After a week I was let go. But it’s rather a kick in the teeth when at this stage of the game, nobody will even give you a job as a cashier.
BOB BUCHBINDER: I mean, I just want a job. I don’t care what I do. I mean, my expertise years ago-product designer, fabrics. I was this, a dresser. I did things that I liked. Now I’ll do anything, like it or, I mean, or I don’t like it. I don’t care anymore. It gets to a point I’ve got to live!
General NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: At 0400 hours local this morning, coalition forces began a major ground, naval and air offensive to eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
REPORTER:Coming up on our broadcast this Sunday, February 24th, the ground war in the Gulf, the mother of all battles, has begun.
BILL MOYERS: To try and make ends meet, Bob and Helen sell hats at a flea market in Collingswood, New Jersey.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: We’ve been doing this, not enjoying it tremendously, but we’re here because it does bring in some of the money that we need to survive. These hats, we tell everybody as we sell them, that they are U.S. — made, too. We’re proud of it.
BOB BUCHBINDER: Everything here is made in the U.S.A. I hope by Americans.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: Let go. My hands are too cold. I don’t want to take my gloves off. It’s a slow day, I think primarily, again, because it’s cold and people get up in the morning and, “Oh, who’s going to be out there? It’s so windy and cold.” And that’s what they-that’s what we have to contend with. Sunday has always been a better day for us down here, a later day because people go to church.
BOB BUCHBINDER: Something that we have kind of given up on Sunday because we need the money —
HELEN BUCHBINDER: Yeah, that’s another thing.
BOB BUCHBINDER: so we —
HELEN BUCHBINDER: We miss our church.
BOB BUCHBINDER: -we miss our church on Sunday morning, but one has to eat, too. I feel I can do my-I do all my praying home, I guess, now, for a while.
REPORTER: The first day has gone extremely well, according to all available information, more than 5,000 Iraqis taken prisoner, light resistance, very light casualties.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: When I come home and it’s not been a good day, as it was today, naturally you’re down. You have to remember that you have a man who was making, you know, between $50,000 and $60,000 and all of a sudden you’re out, trying to make $25. That’s quite a big difference. You have to remember, when people say “Well, you get unemployment checks,” that’s fine, but after 26 weeks, what do you do? Then they say “Go to Welfare.” Welfare doesn’t pay for your car to go down that driveway, so you have to have insurance. Doesn’t pay for the gas to be put into the car to go get a job. It doesn’t pay for your son’s education when he’s in college, so everything must stop. What do you do? You have to drop insurance. You have to make sure you only go to New York on certain days to get a job or go out on certain days, so you don’t spend a lot of money on gas and running the car. And all this runs through your mind that, “Where am I going to get all the money from?”
BILL MOYERS: That’s exactly the question governors and legislators are asking in state after state. Travel anywhere and it’s the same story: budgets cut, services slashed.
REPORTER: CNN has learned that 6,500 Iraqi soldiers have been taken prisoner by the U.S. troops. U.S. military.
WOMAN IN BAR: I’m a prisoner. I dare not go out of my house after dark. And I mean, in the winter, you’re talking about 6:00 o’clock. I dare not because I don’t know if I’ll get back. And the other changes there’s deterioration. The city, it stinks. It smells. So where-I live across the street from a park. The rats-because there is no money, they say, for-to have exterminators to service all the parks because they have to cut back so they only have one exterminator for the borough of the Bronx to exterminate all the parks. So P.S. – the rats replaced the squirrels! Oh, how’d I find out? Because I called to the Department of Parks and say, “I’ve seen rats running through the park.” And they say, “Yes, we know, but the exterminator can only get there maybe every six weeks or so” and so I walk through the park to come to work every day and there are rats. The squirrels are gone.
BILL MOYERS: Decay is eating away at infrastructure everywhere. Almost 70 percent of New York City’s 2,000 bridges are no longer able to carry the load for which they were designed and nearly half the nation’s 570,000 road bridges are deficient or obsolete.
U.S. MILITARY BRIEFER: You take those bridges out, you deprive them of supplies.
AMERICAN PILOT: It looks like what I envisioned hell would look like. I hope I never have the opportunity to see firsthand, but the country of Kuwait is burning.
BILL MOYERS: This fire in Queens happened just four days after the local fire company, nine blocks from the house, closed. Two brothers, one a Vietnam veteran, died in the blaze.
NEIGHBOR: One of the brothers was at the back door. He had made it to that point when he collapsed. He would have been out. He would have gotten out. The other one had hidden in a closet he was so frightened. I just can’t believe their lives had to end at that point. They had problems. They were mentally handicapped from 9 am. They didn’t deserve to die.
FIREMAN: The response rate for the fire department over the years has slowed down due to closings of companies. And as shown in the last three months-the last, excuse me, two months that 294 has been closed, we’ve had three deaths in our first-due fire area.
NEIGHBOR: I’ve got a son in the Air Force. Joan’s got a son in the Marines. Another neighbor has one that is in the Gulf. Our two we were expecting to go. None of us stood here and said, “No, this war is wrong.” And those are our sons. We’re not giving them up free, but we had to give up two men who did fight for their country because nobody had time to even talk to us.
FIREMAN: It hurts to see this happen to this community. It’s like oh, let’s see, how would you explain it? I guess you have two good arms. You have a ladder and an engine, one being each arm. They work together as a team. It’s like taking one arm and tying it behind your back. Now you only have half a team working for you. You can do the job, but it takes a lot longer and it hinders you. With the cutbacks in the Fire Department and the same problems with the Police Department and the New York City EMS, they’re all being cut back and it’s jeopardizing everybody’s lives through the whole of emergency services. So definitely the front line of battle here is disintegrating for the city.
REPORTER: The total number of Americans killed in action rose considerably last night, however, when an Iraqi Scud missile hit a military barracks housing American troops near Dhahran. Today officials said 27 Americans were killed
AMERICAN SOLDIER: -military compound back there, but I wasn’t sure where it hit. I did see some charred bodies and I wasn’t sure if they were alive or dead, but it looked pretty bad.
BILL MOYERS: An American soldier wounded in the Gulf was likely to receive faster treatment than an accident victim rushed to one of New York City’s public hospitals. The only health care many poor people ever receive is an emergency room like this one in New York’s Lincoln Hospital, where a hiring freeze is in place and supplies have been cut by half a million dollars.
1st HOSPITAL WORKER: They have to remain in the ER for extended period of times because there are no beds in the hospital or sometimes in the whole city, really, to admit these patients. So they remain in the ER, oh, sometimes for days.
2nd HOSPITAL WORKER: We’re seeing a lot of gun shots and penetrating trauma that should not be seen in the civilian population. When my brother, Dr. John Halperin, who is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, trained here in emergency medicine, after he completed his training here, he began his active service in the Navy. And for the last six months, he’s been stationed in Saudi Arabia. All through the time that the war broke out and the active fighting began, we were probably seeing more trauma here as a result of violence than they were seeing in Saudi Arabia.
REPORTER: Saudi Arabia came under Iraqi missile attack again just a short while ago. Two Patriots were fired to intercept and one apparently exploded a Scud missile’s warhead.
3rd HOSPITAL WORKER: The South Bronx, this district, is the poorest Congressional district in the entire country. We’re dealing on a crisis from day to day. For example, we have the highest births in all of New York City and unfortunately, many of the births are high-risk births, which means that you have a mother coming into our emergency room, has never seen a physician, may be HIV-positive, may be an IV-drug user, is now delivering a baby. So in a sense, we are rationing health care, not in a planned way, not in a deliberate way, but it’s nevertheless rationed health care.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: I think without question this has been the largest logistics build-up in the shortest amount of time in the history of any armed forces anywhere.
BILL MOYERS: In many ways, the oldest social service we have in this country is our libraries. For the first time in 50 years, the Brooklyn Public Library, one of America’s oldest and largest, has been forced to close one day a week. In February, the library laid off 77 people.
1st LIBRARY WORKER: As things got worse and as we went to war, things got really bad here. It seemed to happen, like — it co existed. And we found out that people were losing their jobs, that we would have to close on Mondays, that — I mean, a slew of hours would be cut. And then as things got better in the war, things did not get better here. We knew that the city was going through a lot of financial crisis and reading the paper every day found out that they found more of a deficit every day. There was, like, another million dollars that they found. Basically, it came down to the wire and, in the middle of January, I found out that I would be losing my job along with, in this building, about five other librarians.
BILL MOYERS: Reduced hours have severely curtailed the library’s liter acy program, making it more difficult for working people and their children to pursue their self-education.
LITERACY PROGRAM PARTICIPANT: It take me out of the lonely world I was in, not to be able to read properly, afraid to ask a friend because people, some people laugh at you. They say they don’t understand. They don’t understand that somebody will go through school and so on and say they can’t read properly.
2nd LIBRARY WORKER: Literacy is so important. There are 1.5 million who can’t read in the city alone and that impacts on everything. It impacts on them getting jobs and being able to work and keep jobs, on being productive citizens of the city and contributing to it. And if you take away the opportunities they have to read and write, then you take away their chance to do anything.
LITERACY PROGRAM PARTICIPANT: Since I’m in the program, I progress a lot. I can write a letter back home. I can afford to read certain parts of the Bible right now. If a person cannot read, where you go? You go nowhere, you know? You really go nowhere. So I always wonder and ask my tutor where do they get so much money to support the war every day and the country is so deep in troubles?
1st LIBRARY WORKER: It makes me really angry and it makes me frustrated and it makes me sad because, I mean, I came into this profession to really help people and to kind of, like, work with them, to learn from people and so I’m really sad because I can’t do that.
BILL MOYERS: New York is not alone. The President’s new budget calls for a 75 percent cut off federal funds to all public libraries.
1ST REPORTER: If initial reports are to be believed, many dreaded obstacles have already been overcome and an unexpectedly low
2nd REPORTER: Most analysts said two or three weeks or ground combat. Looks like it could be something like two or three days.
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR: Isn’t it ironic? Laser bombs, infrared sighting, missiles that you can’t even see that hit the target directly, all a product of what American technology and science has been able to do in the past. Here Ira Wolfe, a super teacher who is able to get kids to learn in the sciences, to learn in the mathematics, Ira is at risk and we have youngsters who are not getting the background that would enable them to maintain this lead, the lead of our country.
BILL MOYERS: Cardozo High is one of the nation’s top public schools, ranking sixth in the number of Westinghouse Science Award winners.
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR: In this school we have a Da Vinci Science Math Research Institute. Research classes will be severely cut back. Advanced placement classes in biology, in chemistry, in physics, in calculus will be severely cut back.
TEACHER: Something might work for infinitely many numbers. It might turn out that it works every time n is even, but it doesn’t work when n is odd. Anybody have any other thoughts about this? What brought me to Cardozo High School here was the opportunity to really work with some very bright students and have an opportunity to teach them very advanced classes and it gave me an opportunity to — to really teach — really, I’m very fortunate. I teach the cream of the crop. This is only my second year at Cardozo, so I am sort of low man on the totem pole. Right now, the situation is, is that the fiscal crisis that the city is in actually threatens my job. In fact, it has threatened it since I’ve been here.
[to class] I want to know this. I have a question for you. If I tap this one right over here, what’s going to happen?
STUDENTS: It’ll fall off.
TEACHER: You’re sure? OK. Now all we hear in the newspapers every day we pick up, our math students don’t do as well as the Japanese. They don’t do as well as the Germans. They don’t do as well as the Russians. They don’t do this and that and they get out of school and they don’t know, and so here we find many of our top math courses with the best students being eliminated. This year, for example, I had 15 to 20 students who, as juniors or even sophomores, sophomores and juniors, had completed an advanced placement calculus course in their sophomore and junior year, last year, and should have now been taking a second-year calculus course. And because of budget cuts we weren’t able to offer it and now these are our top math students not taking any mathematics in their senior year of high school.
GEORGE BUSH SR: The liberation of Kuwait is on course and on schedule. We must guard against euphoria —
BILL MOYERS: As the war progressed, nearly four million Americans were lining up for unemployment insurance benefits. Several states were running low on funds to help them.
1st UNEMPLOYED WOMAN: Well, I think on the home front we’re confused about the war front. It’s very confusing. I mean, I don’t know whether to cry-you know, to cry for them or to cry for myself.
1st UNEMPLOYED MAN: When one is laid off, the first thing is absolute-“How could they? How could they do this to me?” I think is the first reaction. But to sift through it and then be faced with the reality of where do you start
2nd UNEMPLOYED MAN: I’m scared, you know. I have sleepless nights. You know, there are nights I’ll wake up in a cold sweat, you know, because of my problem, you know, and, you know, it’s not like you’re unemployed and the creditors say, “Fine,” you know, “you’re unemployed,” you know, “We won’t hassle you.” You know, you still get your bills on a weekly basis.
3rd UNEMPLOYED MAN: I’ve been searching for a job for six and a half months. Every problem you have, I don’t care what kind of problem it is, it’s going to all boil down to one thing and that’s money. You need money. Money is like a heart. You’ve got to keep it beating.
1st UNEMPLOYED WOMAN: I don’t feel that-I mean, any less of myself, but I feel I have no control with what’s happening. I feel poor. You know, I feel that we’re really going down.
1st UNEMPLOYED MAN: It really hurts when my daughter says to me, “Well, now we can’t go to the movies anymore,” or “We can’t go to McDonald’s.” It eats you up. It really does. It makes you almost feel impotent as a man.
GEORGE BUSH SR: But make no mistake, we will prevail. Kuwait will soon be free and America’s men and women in uniform will return home to the thanks and respect of a grateful nation.
BILL MOYERS: Every week, Bob Buchbinder comes to New York City searching for a job that would restore his livelihood. For months this has been a fruitless journey. [interviewing] Do you let yourself get your hope up when you drive-ride in in the morning?
BOB BUCHBINDER: Of course. I certainly can’t be down. I was down the first week or two and after that, I felt this is the time to be up.
BILL MOYERS: Bob often uses a friend’s office in the garment district as a base to look for leads. ~ [interviewing] Did you ever in your-when you were a young man, imagine this happening to you?
BOB BUCHBINDER: No. No. I started out like everybody else I started out. I started out, got married and raised a family and we did everything that the American couple would do. And you have children. They go to school. They go to college. They get jobs. And mama and papa are finally to a point where they’re just about ready to where they can have a last few years of working and then this-this thing happened.
REPORTER: The President says the war will go on. The Pentagon says that massive coalition forces have cut through
HELEN BUCHBINDER: We thought, “Well, we’re never going to be out the full time.” Whoever thinks they’re going to run the full time? You think tomorrow you’re going to get a job. And then the mortgage company comes in and they said, you know, ‘We want your mortgage payment.” Now, I didn’t get way behind, thank goodness, but I am behind. And so I said, ‘Well, I’ll give you $500 of his unemployment check and then when the next check comes in, I will give you the other $300.” So when they say on the TV and they say on the radio, “The bank will work with you,” maybe some banks will, but not my bank.
BOB BUCHBINDER: This is my wife, Helen.
BANK OFFICER: How are you? Very pleased to meet you.
BOB BUCHBINDER: And I just wanted to come here to get things squared away, give you some —
BANK OFFICER: All right.
BOB BUCHBINDER: -some money and pay-where we stand at this time in our —
HELEN BUCHBINDER: As you know, we’ve been having a problem.
BANK OFFICER: Well, that’s obvious. That’s obvious.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: OK. OK. So now we want to show you that we now had to go to, because of Bob still not getting a job, had to apply to Welfare.
BOB BUCHBINDER: You’ve been nice as far as you go as a person from the bank, but I’m running into more problems now and I just wanted to-I mean, well, I have a payment, which I promised you, which I got.
BANK OFFICER: All right.
BOB BUCHBINDER: And I have proof here, possibly, that within the next couple of days, we’ll be OK.
BANK OFFICER: All right. Fine.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: That’s our income tax, as you know.
BANK OFFICER: We have two separate elements that are immediate today.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: OK.
BANK OFFICER: One is the publicizing of your personal situation and —
HELEN BUCHBINDER: But we feel that there’s so many of us out there.
BANK OFFICER: You’re 100 percent-no one knows that better than I do. Believe me. .
HELEN BUCHBINDER: That’s right. And so we are trying with a program to try to help them. [crosstalk]
BANK OFFICER: -correspondence so you can see what’s on my desk.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: I thought that was my file. I thought, “Oh, my God! That’s not my file!”
BANK OFFICER: No. These are all the people that you’re referring to that might have to do it.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: All right. So we are trying to help them.
BANK OFFICER: Right.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: Because so many are committing suicide. The rate is tremendous.
BANK OFFICER: Right.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: He had a whole stack of papers, as you saw, on his desk and those are all people that are in the same predicament or even worse than us.
REPORTER: Pilots aboard the U.S. warship Ranger say that Iraqi forces fled Kuwait City bumper to bumper and were attacked on the way out by A-6 Intruders and other fighter jets.
BOB BUCHBINDER: We went to Welfare for the first time, the wife and I. It was another experience. We went in there not knowing what to do. It felt funny going in, as I don’t feel that I want to be on a handout. I mean, I wasn’t raised with my hand out.
BOB BUCHBINDER: Hello.
WELFARE WORKER: Hi. How are you?
HELEN BUCHBINDER: All right.
BOB BUCHBINDER: The way the system is set up now, as what I gathered, the more you lie, the more you get. The more honest you are, the less you get. And it’s a very sad situation that people have to be put to this position just to get something that I feel that I have paid for through my years and I have never used it and I never thought I ever would use it. But they put it to you so badly, they make you feel so small and they give you so little out of it and they make you lie. It’s as simple as that.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: The Welfare Department tells me that the New Jersey state law is that if you have children and you’re over 55, the children are to support you. They have to take care of you. And I said, “They have to take care of me? I’m not an invalid. There’s nothing the matter with me. Why do they have to take care of me?” “Well, you’re down and out.” I said, “I’m not down and out. I just need a little assistance right now, I hope for only maybe another day or so.” So she says, “Well, that’s what it is.” And she says, “You have to have these applications filled out by your children and you have to have the income tax sent and then we have a scale and we notify them and tell them and we notify their employer and tell them how much that must be taken out of their salary to be sent to you.” I looked at Bob and Bob looked me and he said, “That’s not for me.” And I said, “No, that’s not for me, either.” I said, “We would never do this for our children.” I will not do this. I am not going to put my kids in jeopardy. Before I’ll do that, I’ll put the house in my children’s name and my husband and I will commit suicide.
REPORTER: Kuwaiti troops raised their national flag over Kuwait City today for the first time in nearly seven months.
OLIVER SACKS, Neurologist: I think there are a lot of very severe casualties and even suicides which follow loss of work and we immediately think of work as income, work as production. But I think work is first of all meaning for us, for all of us.
BILL MOYERS: For 25 years, Oliver Sacks, the noted neurologist and author of Awakenings, worked with severely disturbed patients at Bronx Psychiatric Center. This year, he became one of the 1,200 people laid off due to the cuts in the state mental health system.
[interviewing] What’s happening to our capacity to give care in this country?
OLIVER SACKS: Well, it’s being cut back drastically at every level, in inpatients, in hospitals and out-patient clinics, in special clinics like clinics for the retarded and the autistic and the epileptic. This one patient, for example, a young man who has neurological problems, has seizures as well as psychiatric problems, I’ve followed him since 1976. I know that in the past 15 years, he has had four psychotic breakdowns, each time following the departure of a therapist. I think the single most important factor in looking after a patient is continuity of relationship, of care. I think one needs to have the same doctor in in-patient and out-patient situations and this is-this is badly broken down in the state hospitals.
REPORTER: General Norman Schwarzkopf briefed the press today. Allied forces have encircled the last fighting units of Iraq’s army, cutting them off as they try to cross the Euphrates and return to Baghdad.
BILL MOYERS: Pilgrim Psychiatric Center is one of the largest mental hospitals in the world. Peggy O’Neil has been the director for 11 years.
PEGGY O’NEIL, Director, Pilgrim Psychiatric Center: Our cuts are very, very large. We’re developing our second — quote — “hit list,” and that means the number of positions that we have to eliminate. For us, it’s almost 150 positions.
FRIEDA TOBACK, Audiologist: There isn’t a soul in this hospital who feels safe. Everyone here is in jeopardy and the morale is terrible. We just look at each other, wherever I go in the different wards, and I’ll say “How are you doing today’?” And they’ll go, “Can’t make plans. Don’t know what’s going to happen. The next series of lay-offs is due in June. Well, I guess I’m out. Better find another job.” But there are no jobs.
BILL MOYERS: Frieda Toback is an audiologist who teaches language to patients who have never been able to communicate.
FRIEDA TOBACK: You fire or layoff a teacher, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, it trickles down to the patients. They get less services and then if you take a walk through some of the other wards, you’ll see patients just sit like this. They have no soul. They have no life. They are in a jail much worse than anything a judge could send you to for a crime because to be put into a place like this and not to be provided with services in preparation for a life outside, it’s worse than being in jail. Bob is a patient with whom I’ve been working for about two years. He is supposedly congenitally deaf. He spent 20 years in a hospital outside of this state, getting absolutely no services. My goal with him was to try to teach him enough signs so that he would be understood even if he were to be discharged from this facility. By May of last year, I was getting spontaneous language from him, spontaneous in that he was combining words together that I had never given him.
[to patient] Broken — good word. Good word! I’m proud of you. He’s now been in the system for 30 years and we’re first beginning to get him to the point where he can cross the street because we’ve taught him the word “stop” in case of danger. He can tell you that something is broken. He can tell you that he’s hungry. He can tell you that he loves you.
BILL MOYERS: Last year, Pilgrim requested 400 new therapy aides and nurses to treat patients like Bob. Instead, they were told to lay off another 115 people.
PEGGY O’NEIL: People say, “Don’t get emotional about this.” You know, “This is-don’t think of people. Don’t think of names. Just put a position on.” I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to put a clerical item on a list or a therapy aide or a housekeeper on a list without thinking of Ramone or Mary or Betty and a mortgage and kids and where they live.
DIANE STRONG, Community Living Skills TEACHER: The idea of being a target, and our staff will say, “Am I going to be targeted this time?” And “Am I on the list?” I mean, you hear people saying “Is my name on the list?”
BILL MOYERS: For nine years, Diane Strong taught patients community living skills to prepare them for release. Then she found out her name was on the list.
DIANE STRONG: It was devastating. I mean, I almost broke down in tears, but-this has happened to me before. I was laid off once before and I managed to come back in three months’ time. However, this time this situation is much more serious than it was back in ’83. I feel like I tried to do everything in the right way. You know, if you have a career, start your family late in your career when you’re secure. And I had a child when I was 34. Next week I’ll be 37 and I don’t have a career anymore.
1ST REPORTER: As we picked our way through the wrecked streets, we met one or two people trying to repair their broken lives, cleaning out their ruined shops, checking to see if their friends are all right. It’s hard to describe, the destruction that’s taken place here. Today it’s been reduced to a crumbling, third world town. There’s no electricity, water
2nd REPORTER: And as you move out in the city in the light of day, you see damage everywhere, cars that have been destroyed, whole businesses that have been ransacked and then-and then completely torched.
General COLIN POWELL: We want to get this over with and we want to get it over with as quickly as we possibly can and in a way that everybody’ll know who won.
TEENAGERS: [singing] All I want is you, you, you and nothing more / Your love, your sweet lovin’ is all that I live for / Your touch when you touch me-
BILL MOYERS: Morris High School in the South Bronx is the alma mater of General Colin Powell, who graduated in 1954. Today the most important test here is survival.
1st TEENAGE GIRL: In schools now there are guns. There are people that jump you. They do drugs. But it’s, like, I have a friend that just — a couple of week — they just killed him. He was just standing, you know, in a spot and the car just came by and just started shooting and he died.
1st TEENAGE BOY: Sometimes you come out and you know where to go, where not to go, because they’ll shoot this place up like night and day. We need, just as General Powell has graduated from here, we need him to come back. Maybe he can [unintelligible]. There are people looking at him now as a star. Maybe he can save something for us because there is a war here and we have to overcome it.
BILL MOYERS: On April 15th, General Powell did return to an enthusiastic reception. The next day, a student was shot in school while examining a friend’s gun.
REPORTER: Pentagon officials say that the fight for Kuwait has boiled down to a series of fierce tank battles as U.S. armored divisions close-
GEOFFREY CANADA, After-School Program TEACHER: The war front is right across the street on 170th Street and Columbus Avenue. If you go out there right now, you’ll see scores of people on the corners selling drugs. That’s the war front, you know? The people that work at Rheadlen Youth Center, we’re on the trenches of the real war because these young people — I know it’s a clichè -they are our future.
1st GIRL: I want to be a nurse when I grow up.
BILL MOYERS: Why do you want to be a nurse?
1st GIRL: I want to help people that are sick and I don’t-and that if they have viruses or illness, you could help them.
1st BOY: I want to be a scientist when I grow up. If you do all your work, you could be a scientist. You could be anything that you want to be. I’m going to — I’m going to make a machine so I could clean the streets and I could clean those sidewalks.
BILL MOYERS: In New York state, over a million children live in poverty. In the United States, over 12 million.
SEAN DOVE: Rheadlen Youth Center is facing a 54 percent cut in the services that provide our after-school personnel and activities and that is a devastating cut that we’re facing. It will eventually-it would essentially eliminate the majority of all of our after-school services. It would mean that instead of working with 200 children over the course of a day, we would only work with possibly 75.
BILL MOYERS: Geoffrey Canada and Sean Dove are Ivy League graduates who gave up lucrative careers to help run this after-school program.
GEOFFREY CANADA:I grew up in a program similar to Rheadlen Youth Center and I got a lot out of it and I always felt that I had to give that back. I thought I had a responsibility, particularly as an African American male. I would look around and I would look around at the next generation of young brothers and I saw that they were really in trouble.
2nd BOY: Well, if there was nobody here for me, you know what I mean-I’d probably be outside right now with my friends looking for trouble. Maybe not looking for trouble, but nowadays trouble might be coming at you. And right now it’s, like, guns on the streets because people get guns. Probably before I make it to 18, I’ll probably be dead.
SEAN DOVE: As I look at what’s happening in America and I see the pride, the rebirth in pride, I feel saddened that we don’t understand that in New York City over the average two nights that it took us to go in and launch that land war, we probably lost more citizens of this city from murder than were lost in fighting the whole Iraqi army.
REPORTER: By all accounts, the Iraqi army is being routed all across the war zone. Officials say that about a quarter of a million Iraqi soldiers have been rendered combat ineffective. The Republican Guard —
POLICE OFFICER: I’m bringing back the idea of a beat cop, the cop on the street, walking down the street. People know who I am, Officer Hargrove. They can come to me. They can come to me in confidence and tell me things about what’s going on.
BILL MOYERS: Parent and kids want police protection from the random violence that threatens their neighborhood. In one month, more than a dozen children throughout New York were hit by stray bullets.
2nd TEENAGE BOY: One of our best friends was killed in front of the school the other day. They just ran up there and started shooting and he tried to run and knocked on the door, told them that they was ready to shoot him. When he turned around, they shot him in the chest. He just died.
3rd TEENAGE BOY: People see that it’s getting worse and, you know, that they — they don’t make — you know, it makes them not go outside and, like, makes them not go to, like, across the street because you could get — you could be in front of your building and get shot right there, you know? You could be in your house and get shot.
POLICE OFFICER: I’m walking down the street with people carrying guns that can shoot 50 and 100 rounds at me. This precinct probably brings in about two or three guns a night. To me, that’s a lot because you figure if you’re bringing in two or three guns, there’s probably about five or six you’re missing every time you pick one gun up.
INTERVIEWER: What kind of weapons do you see there? Has it gotten more advanced?
POLICE OFFICER: More advanced-right on Rugby Road or Cotillion, couple of blocks back, they took in some weapons that we couldn’t even afford to buy, something called a Calico-100, 100 round of ammunition.
2nd TEENAGE BOY: Where I live there’s a posse. Where everybody else lives there’s different posses. So they come to, like, our place and start trouble. And you know, they have gunfights. Every day you hear gun shots all over the place. You never know where they come from.
4th TEENAGE BOY: You take one step, they say you’re out, you know? Like, there’s no way to get back. You know, there’s no way to, like, to get-you know, to move along because you’re stuck there and, you know, you’re stuck there forever.
POLICE OFFICER: You have a choice of selling crack or going honest. You can go work at McDonald’s for $3.85 an hour or you can go stand on the corner and make $200 or $300 an hour just standing on the corner being a look-out. Simple mathematics. If you look at the job I do, sometimes I consider it’s like a finger-in the-dike job. We’re running down behind things after the fact, trying to solve things, when you know that if some money were applied before, you wouldn’t have these problems. Well, I hate to say that I think it’s going to get a lot worse and, you know, we’re out here doing our job, trying to make it a lot better, but to me, just-it can only get worse. There’s not enough funding. People are not putting their effort in the right places, if you ask me.
BILL MOYERS: Two weeks after the Gulf war ended, Officer Hargrove was called up as a Marine reservist. There is still no word as to when he will be returned to his beat on the city streets.
GEORGE BUSH SR: I am pleased to announce that at midnight tonight, Eastern Standard Time, exactly 100 hours since ground operations commenced, all United States and coalition forces will suspend offensive combat operations. It is up to Iraq
1st CITIZENS’ PATROL MEMBER: OK, we have some activity going on. We’d like to know what’s going on
2nd CITIZENS’ PATROL MEMBER: [on the radio] Inside my location?
1st CITIZENS’ PATROL MEMBER: Negative-
BILL MOYERS: Umma, which means community in Arabic, is a citizen’s patrol group in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
3rd CITIZENS’ PATROL MEMBER: The war overseas might be over or it might be over soon, but here we’ll be battling for a while. We’ve got too much to accomplish here in this space to declare a victory anywhere.
BILL MOYERS: When the guns stopped at 12 midnight, Times Square was empty, but millions watched on TV, where it all seemed so quick, clean and easy, almost like the video games kids played as the news flashed the images of war over and over.
GEORGE BUSH SR: Seven months ago, America and the world drew a line in the sand. We declared that the aggression against Kuwait would not stand. And tonight America and the world have kept their word.
1ST REPORTER: This is Morning Edition. I’m Bob Edwards. Although there are reports of some continuing skirmishes, the weapons are mostly silent in the Middle East today. U.S. officials say 28 Americans have died in the ground offensive against Iraq and that the total number of Americans killed in the war now stands at 79.
2nd REPORTER: More than 30 hours after the ceasefire took place in the Persian Gulf, there are said to be scenes of chaos and confusion in some parts of Kuwait and Iraq and thousands of Iraqi soldiers roaming around the battlefield.
BILL MOYERS: How long have you been here?
1st HOMELESS MAN: I’ve been here for about a month and a half now. I’ve been in the street for about a month and a half.
2nd HOMELESS MAN: I’ve been here about three or four months.
BILL MOYERS: What got you to the street?
1st HOMELESS MAN: There’s a lot of different factors that bring people to the street. I think one of the main ones is that people can’t get employment, the type of employment where they can survive.
BILL MOYERS: What would make the most difference to you guys? What do you-what could the rest of us do that would mean the most to you?
1st HOMELESS MAN: Let me show you something. Come here. Hey, come here! No, Calvin, bring him over there. This is my house. Put your camera on that! That’s my house. Let me show you something. This is where I live. Let me show you something. I want you to bring your camera here. Bring light. You bring some light. Bring some light. Bring some light. I want you to see something.
HOMELESS WOMAN: Look at his house.
1st HOMELESS MAN: Look! Look in my house. You see this? This is my bed.
BILL MOYERS: Many of the homeless would rather live on the street than in city shelters like this one, where vandalism and violence are a constant threat. The growing army of homeless nationwide has swollen to over a million people, although no one really knows how many are lost in America.
REPORTER: American officials say many Iraqi soldiers are wandering north. Some are surrendering because they still don’t know there’s a ceasefire. Others are giving themselves up because they’re hungry.
BILL MOYERS: As an alternative to the shelters, some people find refuge in one of the eight drop-in centers throughout the city. Here at the John Heuss House in lower Manhattan, the homeless can escape the streets.
BILL MOYERS: If you weren’t here today, where would you be?
3rd HOMELESS MAN: Out in the street.
BILL MOYERS: Doing what?
3rd HOMELESS MAN: Picking up cans, anything I have to do to eat.
DROP-IN CENTER WORKER: Six months ago, a year ago, our clients were living on the streets and they would be living out on the streets today if it weren’t for John Heuss House and if it weren’t for the other drop-in centers here in New York City. The city’s Human Resources Administration has decided to cut all funding to the drop in center network as of July the 1st.
4th HOMELESS MAN: To me, this is one of the most important places there is in my life right now. I had a job as a super and the bosses ran out. An agency took over and I’m out.
BILL MOYERS: They fired you?
4th HOMELESS MAN: Yup. And fired me and no more apartment and at my age, with gray hair, can’t get a job.
BILL MOYERS: How old are you?
4th HOMELESS MAN: I’m 64 and all my life I’ve been fighting to get through life and this is the first time when, at my age, I can feel comfortable. And now to close a place like this and other places like this, I think the city’s condemning a lot of people to death.
1ST REPORTER: — estimating that the number of Iraqi soldiers killed or wounded in the Gulf war ranged between 85,000 and 100,000. The officials say most of those occurred during the weeks of
2nd REPORTER: Looking forward to the time when U.S. troops will be returning home, victory and homecoming celebrations are already being planned in cities and towns around-
JOHN ROBLES, New York City Department of Health: I was in the Marine Corps from 1968 to 1970. I served in Vietnam. I saw a lot of combat action and when I came home, you know, I was devastated. You know, I remember seeing these kids in the streets selling drugs. It reminds me of Vietnam when the young children, the girls and the boys, would go out running to the soldiers trying to sell them drugs and trying to get a carton of cigarettes so that they can survive. And the little young girls becoming prostitutes so that they can feed their family. You know, and this is exactly what’s happening in the City of New York. Young kids are in the streets selling crack, you know, going to crime at the age of 12, 13 years old and the United States doesn’t see it, does not see that as a war within itself, you know? And I can see it because I saw it. I saw it in Vietnam. I saw the young kids. I saw the scams. I saw the hustling. But they were doing it because their country was at war and they didn’t have any food and they didn’t have any jobs. They didn’t have any other resources but to survive. So why are we doing it?
BILL MOYERS: John Robles now works for the city’s Department of Health at St. John’s soup kitchen in Brooklyn. Robles runs a bridge-to-treatment program which provides HIV testing and drug counseling.
JOHN ROBLES: Basically, here, there’s about 600 to 800 people that come a day. The majority of them are homeless. Maybe 10 percent have a place to live. Most of them are on Welfare. You know, some of them are families with children. They’re coming to get something to eat because they don’t have enough at home. This program might not be here next month. This is one of the programs that might be cut. I might be laid off next month. I went into the service to do the right thing. I did the right thing, but when I came back, I couldn’t do anything about it. I needed to be counseled. I needed to be talked to. I needed to rest. I needed to relax. You know, all I knew was, I’m coming back to the New York I left. And when I left New York, that’s not what was happening. When I came back, everybody’s using drugs or people are selling drugs. I see my friends are all being arrested and at the time, you know, no one was telling us that you can’t share works, you can’t do this, you can’t do that because there’s a disease out there that’s called AIDS and it’s killing people. So, you know, I must have been in a shooting gallery or with somebody that I shared a needle with and I got it. I didn’t know I had it until, you know, 1987. And by that time, I had gone to a T.C. and I’d gotten myself together and I was trying to deal with reality and be responsible and try to get my life on the ball. So I was told- I went and I took the test and I was told that I was positive and it devastated me. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been through the home front. I’ve been on- I was a grunt and I am a grunt. You know, I’m a front-line worker. I’m just not ready to give up. And when I come in here and I help somebody, that’s a reward for me, you know? That gives me something to go on to the next day and to come back and do it again and again until my time is up. When my time is up, then that’s when I’ll give up. I’m not going to give up.
GEORGE BUSH SR: In towns and cities across this nation, our citizens have felt a sense of purpose and unity that is a welcome addition to the American spirit.
BOB BUCHBINDER: I sent out a number of resumes and so I got the mail today, hoping something was there and nothing was there. So we wait till Monday. It was nice to see the headlines in the paper. Of course, I see the headlines. Living near the Air Force base here, by McGuire, I hear the planes every night, 10, 20, 30 planes landing here. Sure, I have a fear of losing the house. I have a fear that they may come in some day and say, “Hey, Bob,” you know, “Nice guy, but this is the end of the nice guys. Either you come up with the money or we take the house.” And they could easily do it.
REPORTER:The first planeload of returning troops flew into Philadelphia International Airport this morning catching everybody, including loved ones, by surprise.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: We have a 19-year-old and, oh, he was gung-ho right away. He wanted to go and they were all ready to go. I mean, this was no question that we have raised some good kids. And it’s a shame that they feel bad to see us going through what we have to go through.
BOB BUCHBINDER: Now I’m to a point where I don’t think I know what I’m doing anymore. I’m fumbling. I’m not finding the thing that I want to find. I find myself veering off my trade. I find myself doing almost anything to get a buck and that’s about what it’s gotten to be. It’s gotten sad, really.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: It can happen to anybody. Anybody can lose their job tomorrow, whether it be the mother of the family or the father. And if they’re relying on those salaries, it’s going to hurt. And once money doesn’t come in the door, love goes out.
BOB BUCHBINDER: My wife is very helpful in this whole thing. I’m sure she was eaten up all day long with it, but I come home, “How are you doing? Anything yet?” ‘Well, maybe tomorrow” or “How about if we call here? Let’s go here. Let’s do this.” And I felt lucky that way.
HELEN BUCHBINDER: Well, we’re married 35 years and we started going together when we were 15 years old. Bob was a football player in high school and I was a cheerleader and we’d go to the games. We’d see each other. Of course, we’d go to the dances at the high school and we’d see each other. We wound up being together all these years. I worry when Bob’s not around because I don’t want him to know how I feel. I have to keep going for him. He says many times, “Don’t get up this morning. It’s early. Stay home.” We’re in it together. We’ve been married 35 years. We will do everything together. He didn’t just lose his job when he lost his job. I lost his job with him, I feel. We do it together.
REPORTER: Across the country, America’s fighting men and women are coming home to a hero’s welcome. The Pentagon says as many as 5,000 troops a day will be shuttling back home in the coming weeks. Many are seeing loved ones for the first time in seven months, looking forward to hot showers, cold beer and —
BILL MOYERS: These men were here before the war started and they are still here. So are poverty, crime and unemployment. The war didn’t create these conditions, but it didn’t solve them, either. As it ended, we wondered “When will we find the same will and resources to win the war here on the home front?” I’m Bill Moyers.
This transcript was entered on May 14, 2015.