Worried About America (02:27)
The program is based on the research of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Donald L. Barrett and James B. Steele. A mock commercial addresses fears about the economy.
Molly James (01:30)
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Donald L. Barrett and James B. Steele spent two years interviewing workers in 16 states and Mexico as well as government officials and corporate managers.
Middle Class Income (01:58)
Molly James and 500 other workers were fired from Universal Manufacturing when it was bought by Magnitech Inc. The company was moved to Mexico where wages are lower.
Laid Off with Small Severance (02:22)
Molly James worked for Universal Manufacturing for 33 years making $7.91 an hour. She often worked 40 hours of overtime in addition to her regular shift. Her pension is not enough to support her.
Searching for Employment After 50 (01:49)
Molly James has health issues and no medical coverage. She does not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.
Middle Class (02:51)
Barrett and Steele explain how tax data accurately shows the position of view of workers moving down the economic ladder in the U.S.
Transfer of Wealth (03:12)
Barrett and Steele explain how the plight of the middle class is the result of laws and regulations. Financial arrangements are rewarded while workers are displaced.
Business Restructuring and Unemployment (01:56)
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Barrett and Steele explain how new industries have historically replaced jobs in outdated industries. Middle class jobs began to decline in the 1980s.
Growing Income Disparity (02:45)
Moyers report on the gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. Two incomes are now necessary to support a family and own a home. New jobs created during the Reagan administration paid low wages.
Instant Profits (03:24)
Between the 1950s and 1980s, interest and shareholder payments went up while investment in research and development declined. A provision in the tax code allows the write off interest paid on corporate debt.
Uneducated and Laid Off (03:53)
Larry Weikel achieved a secure middle class life through his factory job. Diamond Glass Co. was sold and shut down leaving hundreds out of work.
New Economic Rules (03:39)
Diamond Glass Co. became Diamond-Bathhurst. Worker Larry Weikel talks about changes at the company before he was laid off. Employees were pressured to increase output. There was no investment in equipment.
Canceled Social Contract (04:21)
People became disposable under new economic rules in the 1980s. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary William Simon benefited from the acquisition of Diamond Glass Co. while workers lost their jobs.
Corporate Restructuring (02:12)
Interco was one of the world's highest industrial employers. The company made a financial plan to stop a hostile takeover. Plants began to close within two weeks of taking on debt. Ed Bohl was one of 640 employees who lost their jobs.
Florsheim Shoe Company Closing (03:09)
Interco opened a plant in Herman, Missouri in 1902. Ed Bohl worked at the shoe factory for 37 years. Employees received short notice of the plant closing.
Life Change After Lay Off (02:54)
After the shoe factory closed, Ed Bohl took early retirement in order to keep his medical benefits. He sacrificed 20% of his pension. He found a part time job. Investors made millions of dollars off the deal that led to the plant closure.
Alliance for Capital Access (05:09)
In 1985, Congress was pressured to do something about hostile takeovers, leverage buyouts, and corporate mergers. A lobby formed to block legislation that restricted junk bonds. New legislation did not limit interest on corporate debt.
What Went Wrong? (01:51)
Barrett explains how Congress has become a tool of special interest groups. The Food and Drug Act is an example of how regulation has historically been used for the public good. The middle class is disappearing.
Political System in Crisis (03:19)
Steele explains why the plight of the middle class will get worse. Global competition will have the same effect that corporate restructuring had in the 1980s. Income tax payments with be transferred to wealthy debt holders.
Credits: America: What Went Wrong? (Part One) (01:25)
Credits: America: What Went Wrong? (Part One)
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