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Old 07-14-2013, 11:46 AM   #161
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Everyone with less money than me was just too lazy to work hard like I did. Everyone with more money than me probably stole it or inherited it.
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Old 07-14-2013, 11:50 AM   #162
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Perhaps, but there is a big difference between farming in the Dust Bowl and living in Milwaukee
Of course there are differences. But the Burns documentary helped me put the Moyer documentary in perspective.

I don't deny that the Stanleys and Neumanns have shown some employment flexibility. But if their vision in life is reaching and maintaining middle class by holding unskilled or semi-skilled blue collar jobs, they are likely going to need to be open to a move. Geographic flexibility would hardly guarantee doing better, but I don't think it could hurt.
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Old 07-14-2013, 11:54 AM   #163
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Everyone with less money than me was just too lazy to work hard like I did. Everyone with more money than me probably stole it or inherited it.
'cept me.
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Old 07-14-2013, 12:01 PM   #164
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I too found the show very revealing-and well done.

I think that there are many more Neumans and Stanleys-more than we would like to acknowledge. There has been a definite decrease in the middle class and the chasm is growing deeper. For some, the American dream is not within reach.

Unfortunately the income and credit statistics over the past ten years are revealing a trend that some people do not want to acknowledge because it detracts from our view of the 'American' way of life.

Our economy has been in flux for a number of years. It has been changing for the past 15 years. Unfortunately, IMHO, we have been stuck in react mode instead of being proactive. And we will be paying the price for this in the years to come.
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Old 07-14-2013, 01:22 PM   #165
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I found it sad, and it left with a feeling of personal gratitude for my career and the benefits that it provided. I was lucky -- no doubt about it. Just hard work is not always the answer -- all these people appeared to be hard workers.

Also, no family in the U.S. should be one medical emergency from foreclosure or bankruptcy. My humble opinion.
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Old 07-14-2013, 01:37 PM   #166
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Perhaps, but there is a big difference between farming in the Dust Bowl and living in Milwaukee, ...
Of course there is a difference. But I'd bet big money that those people in the dust bowl would have JUMPED at the chance to trade places. Do you doubt that?






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Old 07-14-2013, 01:39 PM   #167
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First of all, I would like to thank the OP to start this thread - I probably would have missed this particular episode.

I watched the show yesterday and it made me very sad, especially for the Neumann's family. I personbally know people like them - who have no education/wits but are willing to work many hours day and night to get the food on the table. I didn't feel so bad for the other family (Stanley). They had their first son graduating from high school which evidently was the first person ever to graduate from high school within their families and relatives. Going out of state for college probably wasn't a good move, but I can see their pride and joy of one of their children finishing a 4 year college. Though not much money, the family was cohesive and they still had a lot of vigor for life. The Neumann's father on the other hand looked defeated and quite depressed (who wouldn't with so little sleep?) They did everything they could think of doing, but the odds were stacked agaist them. Maybe in the old days, what people had to do was get a job and work hard and got taken care of somehow? I don't know.

After the show, I wondered how things could have been different for them - as you all have been discussing here. Yes, a move might have been a good idea. There are only certain jobs available for people with no education/wits - manufacturing, mining, construction, etc. They are there, but you need some luck with these too. (I know a family who got out of a similar situation only because they had a relative living in a town where there were many jobs available for unskilled workers and the husband moved in with his relative to find a job (which he did) while his family stayed behind.)

Here is what I think. In this country (and probably many others), people of similar socio/educational/economic background mingle with each other but not much cross over happens. If there were more cross over socializations/interactions, maybe Neumanns' families have been exposed to more ideas?? I know a teacher who moved from a big city in CA to a very small town out of state in a rural area and taught high school. She was very surprised to find that the seniors (girls) aspiration was to find a husband, or become a professional like a hair dresser. She had nothing against them wanting to become a hair dresser or find a husband, but her point was they were not exposed to much more around them so that's all they could hope for. (most didn't consider college or think more than a couple of years ahead of them), Of course, there are exceptions, but they are well, exceptions. The neumann's family seems like that - not much aspiration beyond the small town they lived in.

I was married to someone who had no education, and was raised in a town where nobody went to college. (I, on the other hand, was more blessed- college education was a given in my family- We all went to college after high school - I never once thought I had an option not to go.) My ex and I used to interact his buddies from high schools (and their girlfriends/wives), and I could see how everyone seemed to look only a few months ahead of themselves. Some tried to break out (using friends/connections to get ahead in a town with more job opportunities by asking to move in with them for a while, etc, but they had to rely on friends/connections to make things happen for them since they had no reserves of their own) and even that often didn't pan out for something better (taking too long to get a well paid job, etc)- going gets tough pretty fast for these people. For the ones I've interacted with, they didn't seem to have a long term plan or a long term goal in mind. They focus on day to day putting the food on the table and have some money left over for recreation. There was one family with education living on the same block (Parents were both high school teachers) and they mentored the neigborhood kids (then young adults) to some extent, but nobody seems to know anythning about finance for example. Having financial saavy people in their social network probably would have helped these friends of my ex-husband tremendously, as well as the Neumann's and Stanley's.
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Old 07-14-2013, 02:25 PM   #168
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I thought the documentary was well done. I Also found the story quite sad. When Keith was talking about papa Stanley and his work ethic it made me think of my dad. He helped me with some repairs around my house a year ago and was running circles around me at the age of 68.
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Old 07-14-2013, 02:33 PM   #169
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Perhaps some of you have already seen this, but I stumbled across this 2 month follow-up story on how both families are doing and why they chose to participate in the PBS show:

What?s Happened to the Two American Families? | Two American Families | FRONTLINE | PBS

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Old 07-14-2013, 02:54 PM   #170
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With all the discussion this show has generated, I watched it a couple of days ago to see what all the fuss was about. I'm glad that I watched it on the computer while doing other work, as I don't think it alone would have held my attention for the duration. While I don't doubt the authenticity of these 2 families' experiences, a sample size of 2 isn't enough to draw any meaningful conclusions (not that it was the intent of the producers to do that).

Rather than watch 2 families struggle and falter, an experience I didn't find entertaining or even informative, it would have been much more engaging to have watched a critical analysis that looked at the economy from a broader viewpoint and asked questions such as -


-Is the middle class permanently eroding, or are we in the midst of a cycle of creative destruction that will result in a new middle class?

-If this is a possibility, where will the new jobs be, and what skill-sets will they require? (I don't think I heard the tech industries mentioned once).

-Is it possible that we will experience great growth in the future, or do we need to prepare for much more modest growth?

-If there are industries that will experience much growth, to what extent will other industries benefit from this?


I'm far more interested in knowing how we as a society can succeed, than dwelling on how we have failed.
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Old 07-14-2013, 02:59 PM   #171
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. Having financial saavy people in their social network probably would have helped these friends of my ex-husband tremendously, as well as the Neumann's and Stanley's.
This was my point I was trying to make. So many good and hard working people out there lack the knowledge, or common sense, for a multitude of reasons. Either lacking at birth, or lack of exposure in their surroundings and pier groups. They don't posses the savvy that others have been blessed to have.

How do you think the mortgage companies made such a killing selling these horrible mortgages to people who just could not fully understand what they were getting into. In my family, I am the "Go To" person. Sometimes they don't go to me, but when I learn of a foolish mistake they are about to take, I inject myself, and have to enlighten them into what they are doing, and offer a better alternative. They have always listened, and thanked me in the end for helping them. I can't explain it, but many people just don't understand finance. I am surprised by the lack of knowledge they poses in the things that I have learned over the years.

I have also come to realize over the years, that I am in the minority, and my other relatives (again very good hard working people) are in the majority. Yet, I personally consider myself lacking and wish I knew more. But I am not comparing myself to my family members (or the Dust Bowl era) I am comparing myself to others who have done better than myself.

When you start comparing these two families plight to the Dust Bowl and the "eventual" migration away from their farms. You forget how long it took many of these families to finally move. They stayed and stayed year after year, hoping next year would bring the rains, and they would not have to leave their farm and lose their home. Many to the very end, until the bank took it away from them. Were they so smart? Should they have known better and have been able to for see how long the drought would last, and given up sooner before they lost everything? Do you really fault them for sticking it out in hopes of saving their farm?

I see no difference in the mental capacity of the people who experienced the Dust Bowl era, to the modern day situation shown on the PBS special.
In fact it is identical in mind set to the families back then.

Comparing the level of poverty from the more current days to the level then is really not the issue.
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Old 07-14-2013, 03:19 PM   #172
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With all the discussion this show has generated, I watched it a couple of days ago to see what all the fuss was about. I'm glad that I watched it on the computer while doing other work, as I don't think it alone would have held my attention for the duration. While I don't doubt the authenticity of these 2 families' experiences, a sample size of 2 isn't enough to draw any meaningful conclusions (not that it was the intent of the producers to do that).

Rather than watch 2 families struggle and falter, an experience I didn't find entertaining or even informative, it would have been much more engaging to have watched a critical analysis that looked at the economy from a broader viewpoint and asked questions such as -


-Is the middle class permanently eroding, or are we in the midst of a cycle of creative destruction that will result in a new middle class?

-If this is a possibility, where will the new jobs be, and what skill-sets will they require? (I don't think I heard the tech industries mentioned once).

-Is it possible that we will experience great growth in the future, or do we need to prepare for much more modest growth?

-If there are industries that will experience much growth, to what extent will other industries benefit from this?


I'm far more interested in knowing how we as a society can succeed, than dwelling on how we have failed.
Oh Tom, Tom.....this is the way I used to think, as an INTJ like you (I assume). Those are very important avenues to explore. But the power of stories is evident here. Look how much interest and debate this program has generated here!
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Old 07-14-2013, 03:53 PM   #173
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Oh Tom, Tom.....this is the way I used to think, as an INTJ like you (I assume). Those are very important avenues to explore. But the power of stories is evident here. Look how much interest and debate this program has generated here!
I also think M-Tom made some excellent points. I especially liked this:

Quote:
I'm far more interested in knowing how we as a society can succeed, than dwelling on how we have failed.
Of course, we can look at failures as something to learn from, but then you move forward.

And yes, stories are powerful. But IMO, it is much better to use stories to illustrate the facts, to bring them to life, to help us connect in ways that numbers might not.

But I get the impression that this was a presentation of stories, with the implication that facts are being represented. Or at least, with some expectation that the target audience will take it that way. They are kind of making up the facts. Like I said earlier, if one of the families succeeded, would they have been included, or edited out?

It's just like when the news reporters stick a camera in front of somebody on the street when they are looking for reactions to high gas prices, or whatever the hot-button du jour is. If you give them a 'ho-hum, gas prices have lagged inflation' answer, don't expect to be on the 10:00 news. They are looking for 'I'm a single mother and I can't afford the gas to get to my job anymore! My children will starve, and these fat cat oil execs are getting rich!'.

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Old 07-14-2013, 03:58 PM   #174
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The documentary was intended to allow us to look at the very personal lives of two struggling families. That was its intended purpose. A documentary can't be everything for everyone. I'm sure there are plenty of other opportunities to look at a more global view of the country's economy and our future for the middle class. That was simply not the intent of this piece.

For me, learning about the lives of other people who I otherwise would never get to meet was very insightful. I can read about economics any time I wish.
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Old 07-14-2013, 04:13 PM   #175
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The documentary was intended to allow us to look at the very personal lives of two struggling families. That was its intended purpose. A documentary can't be everything for everyone. I'm sure there are plenty of other opportunities to look at a more global view of the country's economy and our future for the middle class. That was simply not the intent of this piece. ...
That's fine, but then people shouldn't try to read any 'big picture' elements into it. It's just a story of two families, nothing more. We can learn from it, but we can't take a larger view either.

Personally, I think journalism could do better. How about set the stage with some broader facts/figures, and then say 'This week, we will focus on two families that are still struggling, next week, we focus on two families who worked their way up'. It's just too cheap/easy to go one-sided, esp the side that will tug at the heart-strings. It is hard for me to respect that level of 'journalism'.

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Old 07-14-2013, 04:29 PM   #176
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There was also a live chat that the producers and Keith Stanley took part in:

Is There Hope for the Middle Class? ? Live Chat Transcript | Two American Families | FRONTLINE | PBS

A few interesting things:

The producers interviewed 80 families back when it started and chose these 2.

Keith Stanley says he is still paying off college debt. He says he still has small loans left.

He was asked why he went to Alabama State and said it was inexpensive compared to local schools, he could get in easier, and it had a great business program.

The oldest Stanley daughter has an associate's degree and is a paralegal.

Tony Neumann has part-time work now and doesn't have a full time job.

Someone named Steph asked why the families stayed in Milwaukee. Keith Stanley replied "Steph, great question." The producer brought up general comments about expense, risk, families.

Keith Stanley then added: "Steph for the Stanley's unlike the great black migration up north, the gold rush of the last century there was no place to point to that would increase your chances of success, arguably Atlanta for many African Americans, in my humble opinion but my parents could answer that question better."
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:07 PM   #177
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How do you think the mortgage companies made such a killing selling these horrible mortgages to people who just could not fully understand what they were getting into. In my family, I am the "Go To" person. Sometimes they don't go to me, but when I learn of a foolish mistake they are about to take, I inject myself, and have to enlighten them into what they are doing, and offer a better alternative. They have always listened, and thanked me in the end for helping them. I can't explain it, but many people just don't understand finance. I am surprised by the lack of knowledge they poses in the things that I have learned over the years.
Substitute "circle of friends" for "family" and that is much like me. I have been helping my best friend for the last 25 years handle a large inheritance after his remaining parent (mother) suddenly passed away last year. He is smart enough to understand the stuff I tell him, but he isn't *that* savvy financially. I did make sure, with the backing of some of you on this board, to get him to not invest his Roth IRA into some annuity he did not need. Without me, he might have been taken (or suckered) in to that ifnancial product. He is my age (50) and could ER at any time but he likes working.

With my ladyfriend of several years, she has unfortunately damaged herself financially with some bad decisions and some bad luck. I have helped her out and have been trying to minimize the damage (i.e. "stop digging the hole") and put her on the road to better financial health. She is not financially savvy but, compared to her coworkers, she is a financial genius. For example, when her small medical office got taken over by big hospital in 2011, she had to figure out what to do with the profit sharing amount in her retirement plan. With my help, she did a direct rollover into the hospital's 403b plan and into the best one of a bad set of mutual funds. This, of course, avoided any tax liability. But many of her coworkers had no clue as to what to do, and the default option was to take a lump-sum cash payout subject to all kinds of taxes and penalties. When some of them learned what she did, they thought she was a genius.
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:39 PM   #178
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I hesitate to even comment on this. I watched the show last night and it only cemented my feelings about all the families out there that can not make a living today without a college degree. This was not always the case. It is now. These people have been caught in the middle, and not for lack of trying.

Getting pregnant at a young age is the downfall of many a family, when they do not possess either a college degree or the intellect to start a business and make a success of it. Truth is, our society is comprised of all types of people with varying degrees of mental capacity. I don't know about you people, but when I look around (even in my own family circle) I see a wide variance on sheer ability and common sense. My aunt has six children. Three of them are fortunate and are rational competent people. The other three are complete ditzes. Couldn't find their way out of a paper bag. Do I think they could be any different? No, I don't. They were born with these limitations and are doomed to struggling and a life of hardship.

The one mother in the film did all she could conceivably do to send her one son to college and keep him there. It was impossible for her to do the same for the rest of the children.

As further shown in the film, at least two of her children were more intelligent and had more sense than the others. This is the way it is in real life. No matter how good a parent may be. Some offspring will be more adapt, more logical and responsible, while the others will not be quite so fortunate.

So, when I hear that talk from some members about not wanting to pay for the "slackers", I shake my head. When young families start off on the wrong foot when they are young, by getting pregnant, and they don't have the money to even pay the bills, how are they then going to "prepare for retirement". They are trying to prepare to keep a roof over their head and feed their family. There is no discretionary income in these families. No 401K's or Roths. No health insurance. They are not lazy slackers. They were kids who were young and foolish, and by the time they learned the mistakes they made, it was too late for them.
+1 - Very insightful and so true about life. It's easy to judge and assume that if we are successful by doing all the right things, others should be as well.
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:50 PM   #179
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Thanks to omni and katsmeow for posting the additional links. And thanks to everyone for this very wide-ranging and thoughtful discussion, even though we don't agree on what it all means. It's a great example of the civil discourse that unfortunately seems to be so rare on the internet (not to mention TV and radio). We can all respect the different perspectives whether or not we agree, and we might even learn from one or two. Well done, everyone!
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:59 PM   #180
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You obviously have not witnessed poverty in the third world like I have. I do mission work and been invited into the homes of the poorest of the poor in Central America and Asia. They live in cinder block, wood and metal roof shacks with no plumbing. They still cook with wood fired ovens and have an outhouse if lucky. Yet one thing is far more common than you realize. They have a power line feeding a single or two hanging light bulbs and a TV set, often a flat screen LCD. It's their window to the world and their only luxury.

They also often have 4-6 kids. Why. Because the man gets the woman of the house pregnant with 1 or more kids and when times get tough he leaves her. Another man comes to her "rescue" a few years later and the cycle repeats. Saying no is not often an option. That's how most of the non industrialized world operates.
Absolutely true of the vast majority of the world outside of Western Europe and America. The last paragraph also describes the underclass in America. It's a function of limited education, poverty and lack of opportunities which still characterizes most of the world.
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