This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

Need to Know, October 8, 2010: A special report on the jobs crisis

This week on Need to Know, we bring you a special hour-long focus on jobs, with an in-depth look at the unemployment crisis through the perspectives of different people struggling to find work. And in between each segment, our hosts Jon Meacham and Alison Stewart are joined by Robert Reich, former labor secretary in the Clinton administration, and Sara Horowitz, founder and CEO of the Freelancers Union, to provide perspective and offer potential solutions to the joblessness crisis.

For more on unemployment in America, check out this interactive guide to how joblessness cuts across age ranges. Watch our online interview with Don Peck, of The Atlantic magazine, about the consequences of joblessness for young people. And share your own stories from the recession in our Pitch Room.

Watch the individual segments:
The new poor

Need to Know profiles a Portland, Ore. couple who have lost their business and cannot find work. When we meet them, they’re selling off their possessions in an effort to avoid losing their home.
Generation jobless

Need to Know looks at two younger people, “millennials” as they’re called, who are struggling to start their careers. For more on unemployment across age ranges, check out this interactive guide to the jobless crisis. And watch our online interview with Don Peck, of The Atlantic magazine, about the consequences of joblessness for young people.
One step forward

As part of our focus on unemployment, we bring you a segment that first aired in September, about an experimental jobs program in Mississippi that’s giving hope to the unemployed.

Hardly working

Editorial cartoonist Steve Brodner wonders why big corporations are raking in big profits, even as a crisis of joblessness grips the nation.


  • JJ

    Excellent report. Many of our family members, neighbors and friends have absolutely no idea how bad it really is. We’re not alone as your stories showed. Bless you.

  • Rseal54

    So much hogwash. Liberal, wellfare, socialistic thinking.

    Nine out of ten businesses I associate with sing the same song; “We cannot get dependable, consensios workers. We are begging for good people who will show up for work with and attitude of trying to help the company grow”.

    Many will not even take a job offered, because it did not pay what they had made at previous job.

    If a person wants to work, there are jobs available paying liveable wages.

    The fact they lived above their means and bought expensive cars, live high and ran enormous amounts up on their credit cards, instead of saving, is just their stupidity. It is not the responsibilty of the rest of us to support them.

  • Willie

    I fail to believe that 9 of 10 companies that you associate are not able to find dependable people, where are they looking? They can’t be begging for good dependable workers because the dependable workers are begging for a job along with the not so dependable ones.

    How can you say that many won’t take a job if offered? Most times the salary is known before the position is even applied for, at least the salary range is known. Its no problem for the company because they can just hire the next person in-line.

    Your statement,”if a person wants to work…” is definitely not true. I applied for a position and was sent a letter that 403 other people applied for the same job. If there were jobs we wouldn’t all be applying for the same jobs.

    I don’t have any comments about peoples spending habits unfortunately, America is built on us spending too much money. You must know that when a large segment of the population is in a financial strain, it will affect all of us. We must always do something to raise the bottom.

  • Edward J. Dodson

    I respect Robert Reich for his sincerity. Unfortunately, he, like most other economics professors, looks at economic history through a clouded lense of economic theories that consistently fail the discipline. His self-described “conservative” counterparts have the exact same problem. Whether they trace their theoretical pedigree to Richard Ely, John Maynard Keynes, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman or John Kenneth Galbraith, their analysis suffers by a failure to recognize the power of land markets to drive the boom-to-bust nature of so-called business cycles.

    In recent years, economists focused on the environment have re-examined the operation of land markets (“land” defined broadly to include locations in our cities and towns, natural resource-laden lands, agricultural land, rivers, lakes and the oceans, as well as the broadcast spectrum and takeoff and landing slots at airports).

    What is so unique about land markets? Accepted economic theory for a century is that price clears all markets; this is the basis for the macroeconomic concept of general equilibrium. Supply curves under general equilibrum respond to changes in market price — the higher the price offered the greater the supply brought to the market. Well, the supply of land is finite (i.e., inelastic); so, the supply is fixed by nature and cannot be increased as prices rise. Every parcel of land or other type of land has some annual rental value, this rental value generated by aggregate demand. When this rental value is left untaxed, it provides the holder of land with an unearned imputed or actual income stream capitalized by market forces into a selling price. During periods of rising demand for land, the incentive is for holders of land to hold land from the market for speculative gains. Thus, the supply of land available for use is artificially reduced, and the price demanded for land is driven higher and higher — until the asking price for land is so high that businesses cannot afford to pay and still remain profitable. In the residential market, rising property prices require households to become extremely leveraged and vulnerable to any loss of income. For banks (or mortgage investors) the loss per incidence of default increases.

    In this way, land markets — with the accelerant of easy credit thrown into the mix — reach a speculative peak every 18-20 years, then collapse, bringing on a financial crisis, widespread recession, and (in today’s circumstances where the Federal government has accumulated a $15 trillion and growing debt) the potential for a collapse on the order of the Great Depression.

    Edward J. Dodson

  • Deezthree

    I thought the show was very reported. I go to job service, am on the internet daily, have taken more computer classes, have my continuing education credits up to date etc. etc. On my applications I even have stated that it is fine that I wouldn’t make the same salaray I had in my last job. At this time still no job. I can’t believe some of the things I have read on some of the internet sites by individuals who are not unemployed–it isn’t as easy as some think. When you are use to giving all you can for a job, dependable, on time and then get laid off due to reorginization and then read negative comments about the unemployed who want to work I think it is uncalled for.

  • Deezthree

    Sorry for the spelling errors in my first comment. The show was well reported and I had enjoyed it.
    To me at this time being unemployed is a very personal thing to me.

  • Thomasmatt64

    Thank you very much for the discussion. This great country of ours is going broke so rapidly. No body want to talk about the truth behind it. I have respect for Mr. Robert reich. Even Mr. Robert Reich couldn’t speak out strongly against the corporations sending all the technologies with manufacturing while transfering trillions of $ to our enenemy the Communists against which we fought so hard during the cold war. The big corporations are the real traitors. They are like the Judas of our time, they sell this great country for few $$. All this crap because the CEOs and people around him can make billions at the expense of this great country because they can buy the media and the politicians. Anybody got a soul and common sense will agree with me. God Bless USA the greatest Country in the world ever.

  • Peggy in Michigan

    I worked for a Tier 2 car part manufacturer for 26 years; I never missed a day of work. Then they filed for bankruptcy and went out of business. Since then 2 years ago I have been going to school under the Michigan No Worker Left Behind Program for Medical Administration. I look every day for a job paying anything to keep up with bills. There are no jobs. Every job that I have applied for has at least 400 to 500 people also applying. It is very discouraging to say the least. When I graduate next fall I will have more outstanding bills because of student loans. I do not have much unemployment left from the part time job I had 6 months ago. Then I will be left with no choice but to ask for welfare from the Government who has helped the Automotive Companies move their production facility’s and Supplier’s out of this country into Mexico. The older you are the harder it is to get a job.

  • Mega-broke

    In this harsh unforgiving economic climate, everyone has a tale of woe, myself included.

    I voluntarily left a job as an education administrator in June ’08 to move back east to be closer to my brand new granddaughter! Needless to say, I have not worked in my profession since, despite having several degrees, including a Ph.D. and the holder of a Teaching License in Special Education. I left my last academic position blissfully unaware of the impending national economic crisis.

    I am now homeless, sleeping in my car (and for the smug criticizing jerks who question my personal financial savvy regarding the lack of home ownership; my home was used to satisfy a divorce settlement), but still searching for work, despite a chronic life threatening illness and no more medical benefits. I am 55 years old and so I hesitated filing for bankruptcy while trying to hang on to a positive/optimistic mind set. I even took a job as a tech center customer service rep for 6 months before the company downsized and I was let go. Now I don’t even have the money needed to file bankruptcy.

    I have easily sent out more than 450 resumes and registered/applied with at least 3 dozen school systems from NY to CA. I belong to (at last count) 18 internet job search services and find each day just a bit more difficult than the one before, in trying to NOT give up.

    I have had 4 interviews this year, with 2 having no further response, and the other 2 dismissing me as being over-qualified or having lost out to someone who had a better employer perceived organizational fit. Though I am an expert in adolescent behavior issues, am an excellent teacher, with former students from several continents intent on maintaining contact, and have taught at all levels of education, including University and High School, I find myself competing against younger, less experienced applicants who always invariably get the position.

    With no savings left, I find myself playing a game of hide and seek with the bank, who wants the vehicle I still owe money on, but which has become my home, and I am therefore more than reluctant to relinquish. I get to the local library several times a week and am able to wash and brush my teeth and use the internet to job search.

    As the cloak of defeat and madness slowly envelopes me (and yes, homelessness pushes an individual over the edge into insanity, though I imagine the reverse is a prevalent factor in explaining homelessness as well; kind of like one providing an explanation for the existence of the other, in either direction!) I have been toying with the idea of writing a daily blog on surviving homelessness on the streets. But that would mean somehow managing to get to the library daily, or trying to borrow someones computer access, regularly, creating more potential threats to an already diminished and virtually non-existent sense of self-esteem.

    For the smug self righteous; I came from a single parent family, with no male role models and after dropping out of high school, got my GED and continued forward, working, taking out student loans, until I managed to become the first member of my family to graduate from college and the only to earn a doctorate (only in America!). And yet here I am, after a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice, unemployed and homeless with no prospects on the horizon.

    Sympathy, by the way, is the last thing I want. I would prefer a job.

  • Alene Cisney

    In today’s report, if I understood you right (I’m hard of hearing), you mentioned that liberals don’t seem to be as active as groups like the Tea Party. In fact there have been hundreds of liberal rallies in the streets that you never heard about because they were not reported on — due to the declining number of newspapers and the increasing control of media by large corporations.

    Seattle is now a one-newspaper city, represented only by the largely conservative Seattle Times. Although I live in Kitsap County, a 1 1/2 hour commute each way, I attended nine events in Seattle over three months (September through December) last year. Only one of those was reported by the Seattle Times, and then only because the mayor and a U.S. Representative were there.

    Here is a list–

    Sept. 3: 3000 people (not all on our side) attended a healthcare rally at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle. (One TV station did a very short and mediocre segment on this.)

    Sept. 8: Mad As Hell Doctors Caravan — Twenty-six cars of supporters joined the Doctors’ caravan from Portland to Seattle. On their arrival they put on a single-payer healthcare program at the Langston Hughes theater that attracted 500 people.

    Sept. 13: Medicare4All rally at Westlake Center – about 40 people

    Sept. 21: Global Climate Wake Up Call – Four venues in Seattle, out of 2600 events in 134 countries around the world. (I was at the noon rally at Westlake)

    Sept. 22: Western Washington “Sick of It” healthcare rally at City Hall, 4th Ave and James St. (I had to miss this one at the last minute, having come down with a bad cold after the climate rally, but sent a letter to be given to Maria Cantwell),

    Oct. 24: International Day of Climate Action at the Seattle Center (where the Space Needle is). There were 5,200 rallies like ours in 181 countries around the world. Ours was the largest in the US, with over 600 participants. Most people have never heard of it.

    Oct. 28: “Mobilization for Healthcare for All” sit-in at the Regence insurance office downtown (9th and Howell). Six people were arrested, including one doctor. I was one of the 40+ people outside in the supporting rally.

    Dec. 12 (noon): Rally to support Obama’s health care plan at Occidental Park, with 200 attendees — the only one to be reported on by the Seattle Times (because Mayor McGinn and Rep. McDermott were there). See article at

    Dec. 12 (evening): Global Candlelight Vigil for the Copenhagen climate talks, supported by 1Sky, and TckTckTck, held at Greenwood Park – about 300 people.

    Of course there were countless more events throughout the year by groups that I don’t belong to, or scheduled at times or places that didn’t work for me. Imagine all the other cities and towns where newspapers and TV stations simply prefer to disregard clamors for causes that their owners don’t support!

    Can you please make some acknowledgment of the thousands of us who have taken to the streets to support universal healthcare, a green economy, a strong approach to climate change, etc., only to be ignored? People like me keep trying, and can only hope some day to be heard.

    Thank you!
    Alene, Manchester WA

  • John

    It was touched on briefly in the show, but what is really undoing the American economy is globalization. “Free trade”, mass immigration and the globalization of our financial markets have been bringing our living standards down for 30+ years. If our political leaders and ruling class keep dancing around this, we will have a third party eventually.

  • Steve

    Are you working right now? Have you gotten a job in the current economy?

  • Jim S

    All in all, a good report, especially the stories on real people. That generally changes minds and spurs action more than facts.

    The report stated that boomer (i.e., middle aged) workers are having an especially difficult time finding jobs (although the official unemployment percentage for this group doesn’t reflect it). It was my experience at the company I worked for (before I was “offshored”), that late-middle aged workers were deliberately being forced out (generally, they were pressured into early retirement), so I agree.

    However, no reason for this trend was advanced. Let me offer one: benefit costs are much greater for older workers. Many employee pension plans are still back-loaded, that is, they provide more benefits the longer an employee is with the firm. This means that the lion’s share of contributions occur in the last few years of employment, when an employee is in his/her 50s or 60s. Also, and this is probably a more important factor these days, given the fact that most companies have dumped their traditional pension plans, the cost of medical coverage is dramatically higher for older workers. This is probably an especially decisive factor at small firms, but would still be a serious issue at large firms, because no doubt a company with a lower average age of their employees could save a tremendous amount on health insurance.

  • pat

    A very well done topic which deserves considerably more documentation. We have lost our social safety net where either the military or prison are the only avenues of escape. There are reasons people are standing on our street corners holding up signs asking for “help”. And today’s college graduates are burdened with a debt that will take a life time to pay.

    Please do a followup that shows the hoops one must go through to gain gainful living wage employment, collecting food stamps, and when homeless searching for a place to eat and sleep. Please include the people that are working outside the realm of unemployment insurance coverage and the many people that are working for sub-minimum wage.

    We currently have a government that will help us to the cliff to push us over.

  • Faunasue

    It’s extremely discouraging to hear this and other reports about the inability of workers who are desperately are trying to obtain a job. But, I believe “we have seen the enemy and it is us”. For many years Americans have been living beyond their means. We have become a nation that does not know the meaning of delayed gratification. We want the American dream and we want it now. It had become so easy to obtain credit for any and everything and we bought it like mad.

  • Jim S

    Your interview with Robert Reich and Sara Horowitz was generally constructive, but Mr. Reich’s description of the “stagnation” of wages was misleading. He stated that wages hadn’t gone up, and that households were coping by borrowing. If wages, and presumably he means real wages (as I’ve observed a number of similar interviews and articles that make similar claims and refer explicitly to real wages), have essentially remained constant, why have households had to make adjustments? Their wages are keeping up with inflation. Now, Mr. Reich did, in so many words, indicate that families were under more pressure because companies are reducing benefits and passing more costs onto workers. But in doing so, he emphasized that companies are passing “risk” onto employees. Of course this is true, but what is probably more important is that companies are providing less in the way of real benefits to their employees.

    The way I see it, benefits are just as much a part of one’s compensation as wages, just harder to measure in terms of value. This data being hard to gather, economists generally ignore it. Nevertheless, I think it’s clear that with benefits included, wages and household income aren’t “stagnating,” they’re falling.

    I don’t know if this “stagnating” terminology is deliberate, to dampen the anger of the working class by making them think they’re treading water when they’re drowning, but it’s certainly deceptive and makes it difficult to have an informed debate on this issue.

    Another point I would like to make is that conservative thinker Kevin Phillips makes a very good argument in his recent book, “Bad Money,” that the federal government is deliberately under-reporting inflation, depressing the Consumer Price Index (CPI), in order to save money on entitlements and to deceive the public that things aren’t as bad as they really are. Mr. Phillips describes a number of gimmicky changes to calculation of the CPI that were instituted in the late 1990s, that appear to be understating the inflation rate by about 3% per year. Over a ten year period, this would cause the general price level to be understated by 26%, and therefore real wages to be overstated by 26%.

    The bottom line is that with the collapse of employment benefits and the misreporting of inflation, wages and household income aren’t “stagnating,” they’re falling off a cliff. This may also explain some of the rage – of course misdirected by demagogues and corporate media – that were seeing around the country. People know that they’re getting shafted, they just don’t know exactly how and by whom.

  • Abcdefg

    This is part of the problem. I suppose the propaganda is working. Trying to get the working class to blame themselves when banks and the corporations constantly bend their own rules to extract your wealth (such as the recent foreclosure scam).

    In essence what you are saying is that the rabbit is to blame for taking the carrot, not the person dangling the carrot in front of the rabbit. Had the rabbit known that the carrot was a trap the only way you could ever get the rabbit to take it is out of desperation.

    It is becoming increasingly clear that the fine prints, the lack of regulation, and the inherent shady practices of “the system” makes up the majority of the problems we have today.

  • Abcdefg

    I hope you succeed and that people will realize that the Tea Party movement — which seem to have questionable funding from the private sector and elites — is not the same as the much more pronounced and under-represented Populist movement across America.

  • Anonymous

    This was a good look at the problem that helps to put a human face on such sad situations.

    One thing the report and discussion did not address, however, is the role the breakdown of marriage and the increase in single mothers raising children without the assistance of fathers in the household has had on poverty. One telling statistic:

    The poverty rate for married couples is just 5.8%. For families headed by a single mother, the rate is 30.7%. It’s more than five times higher for single mother households. I’m not sure how we can address this problem (blaming gays is surely not the answer), but it should not be ignored in the discussion of rising poverty and income inequality.

  • Patmasters

    I use to enjoy and help fund PBS but it’s clearly growing into a highly editorialize Federal Government mouthpiece. More Government, more taxpayer monies, more programs, more over-paid government workers etc. Look at all the “Social Democracies of Europe. High unemployment, over taxed people, bankrupt economies and now growing protest and even violence. In the honest words of President Reagan, ” Government is not the solution, It is the problem”. Government Socialism can not and does not work anywhere in the World, without the heavy-hand of an oppressive Government and reductions in personal freedom.

    I will re-fund PBS when you truly present a well rounded debate and include both sides of an issue. Robert Reich’s “progressive” ideals and Fabian Society type views should have been balanced with views from a conservative, faith loving commentator; instead of another college or government paid employee. The “learned elite” always think they know best for people and society, when in fact they are filled with unproven theory and often-times, useless BullSh*t. Tax cuts for ALL do grow revenues and provide for Free Market Job Growth.The unsustainable government type jobs are always temporary, drain the budget rapidly and ultimately are a HUGE PONZI against our grandchildren’s future.

  • Jim S

    A very provocative report – the issues keep churning in my mind…

    There was a consensus among those you interviewed that it’s very important that workers be very flexible, that they take any kind of job they can get. While this is inarguable for those that are in desperate straits, I think there are deeper issues and questions that need to be addressed: For whom should we be working? Whom should the economy serve? Do citizens exist merely to meet the capricious needs of profit-maximizing multinational corporations? Do we really expect people to move across the country at the drop of a hat, just for the privilege of making 20 bucks per hour with lousy benefits, and every expectation of losing that job in short order?

    I guess I don’t buy into that whole “Who Moved My Cheese?” thing. I think it’s time for people in the place we like to call “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” to stand up for themselves, confront corporate power, and create an economy and way of life that works for everyone, not just corporations and the privileged few.

  • Max

    The problem is that our politicians are serving the special interests, and the wastefull PORK (blantant corruption) in out governmental system, and until this changes nothing will help the middle class.
    Hell, we had the previous administrations outsource our entire manufacturing base offshore to other countires, and then the last administration skyrocket the price of oil (for his buddies in the industry), along with a stupid Iraq war which bankrupted our country.
    I lost my Airline job at age 55, with the later “OIL PRICE RUN UP” era, and low and behold, they stole our pensions also. Now unemployment at my age I find myself out of work in my own country. My dream along with others has been shattered.
    What needs to change again is the political system. Our politicians are working for the wrong people…(Corporations)!
    Also the “blocking” tactics by the republicains over the last two years has done nothing but futher hurt our country. The nastieness and political posturing makes me sick!
    Welcome to the third world country America!!!

  • Anonymous

    After watching this program I cannot help but wonder, how can they talk about unemployment in the USA without even mentioning the fact that millions of manufacturing jobs have left this country in the last 40 years. Reich mentions that the “middle” class wages have not increased in the last 30 years, yet does not connect that to the loss of manufacturing jobs. Without jobs making things, the economy of the USA is done.

  • Anonymous

    The current economic downturn has not the way out as the Great Depression. The manufacturing jobs that provided the way out of the GD are gone. I see no one in government or the private sector acknowledging this fact.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that PBS could use some more balance in its programming, but I disagree about your analysis.

    Many social democracies have lower unemployment than the US, lower deficits, and less income inequality. They also have far less violent crime than the US. The unemployment rate in Norway is 2.8%. In Switzerland, it’s 3.6%. In Sweden, it’s 7.4%.

    Furthermore, while tax cuts may stimulate some growth, they don’t stimulate enough growth to “pay for themselves,” at least not unless the cut is from extremely high levels, such as 90% marginal tax rates. With all due respect to Ronald Reagan, he expanded the government and the deficits markedly. So did G.W. Bush. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have a credible plan for balancing the budget. The GOP’s Pledge to America would increase the deficit even more then the Obama Administration’s plans. Neither party is willing to even put Social Security or Medicare on the table for review.

    We won’t be able to get our budget under control until we tackle the enormous and outsized proportion of our GDP that goes to military spending and health care. We spend twice as much or more in those two areas (as a percentage of our economy) than other industrialized countries, and don’t achieve better health or security for it.

  • Cit

    I would like to see a story about how high the top wages have grown. Executives used to make somewhat more than $100,000 per year as a good wage. Now many top executives are making $10 million and $12 million per year. Plus they get huge millions of dollar bonuses. How have the board members gotten away with approving such high pay, and really who is worth that kind of money per year? Many of the wall street group made that kind of money, and look how incompetent they really were! I have wondered for years how these wages could have gotten that high, and if members of the boards that approve them get a piece of that pie. I have worked in near top management, and have never been able to figure out how the top earners can justify their salaries. (Or how the board of directors approve such unbelievably high pay)

  • Jane

    Probably the reason the media doesn’t follow your protests or rallies “health-care, greensociety or climate change” is because more then half of American’s don’t want any part of these liberal agendas. Folks in the Tea Party rally for American’s and their rights and NOT the government take-overs taking place these days.

  • Jim S

    The problem is government taking over everything, it’s corporations taking over the government.

    That’s why corporate profits keep rising while pay and benefits for workers keep falling. That’s also why we have Gilded Age-level inequality, with the top 1% holding over 37% (actually, it’s probably higher given the ability of the wealthy to hide assets offshore) the wealth, and the bottom 90% making do with less than 30% of the wealth.

    You Tea Party folks are being used by Big Money, by billionaires (like the Koch brothers) and multinational corporations that have no loyalty to anything or anyone, just a voracious appetite for higher profits, whatever the cost to society. Wake up.

  • Jim S

    I meant for the third word of the first sentence to be “isn’t” rather than “is”

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think what you say is accurate. If most Americans don’t want the “liberal agenda” of big government and health care, why do the folks at the Tea Party rallies rarely hold signs saying, “Take away my Medicare! Get big government out of our lives!” or “Take away my Social Security! We can’t Afford it!” The vast majority of federal government spending is consumed by entitlements (Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security), defense spending, and interest on the debt. The Tea Party never seems to argue that we should make drastic cuts in entitlements or defense spending, and the GOP Pledge to America takes those off the table.

    Both parties seem to like big government, so we need to either talk about cutting Medicare/SS/Military and/or figure out where to raise taxes to pay for the big government we want.

  • Anonymous

    I would add the ridiculous reporting of a “constant” 9.6% unemployment rate. They actually report this in the same paragraph where they report a huge monthly increase in unemployment and a tiny number of new jobs. Yet they report that the unemployment rate is unchanged?

  • larry schleininger

    Horowitz,Reich elites discussing the economy. How is it possible to remain impartial and unbiased speaking from the elevated positions they occupy in society? I can tell from the lukewarm responses and especially Horowitz talking about developing alternative energy in China that shipping jobs and money over there and impoverishing American workers is perfectly alright. Oh horror of horrors populism and patriotism. The Chinese have it, the Japanese can have it but not politically correct here. Who do you think is gonna fight the next war? It ain’t gonna be their socio-economic group and mine is going to need the manufacturing right here.

    Larry Schleininger

  • Jim S

    I guess lack of balance is in the eye of the beholder.

    I think that the mainstream media present a corporate viewpoint that is out-of-step with that of the general public.

    To me, the purpose of public media is to give voice to perspectives one can’t find in corporate media, not to parrot the corporate media. Left-of-center arguments just aren’t popular with corporate advertisers and wealthy or corporate owners of mainstream media outlets, so they are generally left out. Instead we get centrist versus right-wing viewpoints presented as the only two viable perspectives. Of course, the whole idea that there is a straight, neat, left-to-right spectrum of political thought is a distortion itself. Many perspectives don’t fit on such a line.

    Furthermore, I don’t feel public media are obliged to give equal voice to perspectives that are unequally supported by the facts. Many right-wing arguments depend on propaganda and elision of inconvenient truths.

    And before you give up on PBS, think about who’s going to do investigative journalism if they don’t. For-profit media don’t like to do true investigative journalism (except on a micro scale that doesn’t threaten big advertisers), and they will never do much of the fine work that we’ve seen on “Need To Know,” “Now,” and “Frontline.”

    PBS isn’t perfect, but it’s never been needed more than it is right now.

  • Anonymous

    Frontline is fantastic. Probably my favorite PBS program. I agree that PBS should be an alternative to the well-funded perspectives that receive corporate and union backing, but there are non-liberal perspectives that are not well covered in the mainstream media. PBS would do well to add a principled libertarian perspective to its programming. Principled libertarian perspectives (as opposed to the selective ones favored by corporations only when it suits their interests) are even more unpopular with corporations than liberal ones and have thoughtful, academic proponents.

  • Lisa Smith

    At 50 years of age I am now on Unemployment. I am currently going to school thanks to the Unemployement’s 599 program and will be certified for the Microsoft Works – Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook programs. I have 2 years college and 15 years of experience. I am in excellent standing in my class yet for the first time in my life I do not feel confident that I will get a job afterwards. Since the competion is fierce. I know I can not expect the $25/hr rate I earned at my last job. I will work for less today and will take any job I can get. In 5 years I have gone from being “middle class” to poor. Today I am widowed, and live in a small 1 bedroom in an unsafe neighborhood thanks to the Section 8 program and I get Food stamps to keep me from going hungry. I remember when “outsourcing” jobs worried me and companies began to downsize today I feel that though I am far from an expert part of the problem began when downsourcing began. Today we have to work for what ever we can get and at any rate while other countries grow in wealth the US economy is suffering – we need our jobs back

  • Jane

    The Tea Party has made suggestions to modify Medicare and Social Security and don’t talk about it being stopped. As far as millionaires and “all” their money…do you understand how many jobs with benefits they create for American’s? If they want to put their money in foreign banks for their own protection, so be it. They earned it and have a right to keep their earnings safe from the government. Also, many wealthy folks give thousands to charities and donate to the poverty that is worse then ever today in this country. Wealth produces jobs for American’s who work for them and since when is it wrong to be prosperous in this country?? Wake up…

  • Andy Weil

    Solution to the economic problem today.
    1. Define the problem:
    Poor people and jobless need more money. They need it now-not in two months or 2 weeks after they have lost everything.
    2.The solution.
    Create jobs:
    Pay companies to hire people who need jobs.
    (After all, the government is already paying for many who are NOT working – Let them have the pride to work for it).
    A percentage of unemployed qualified persons could be paid by the government to help match companies with prospective job hunters.
    That would be a start anyway!

  • Andy Weil

    Solution to the economic problem today.
    1. Define the problem:
    Poor people and jobless need more money. They need it now-not in two months or 2 weeks after they have lost everything.
    2.The solution.
    Create jobs:
    Pay companies to hire people who need jobs.
    (After all, the government is already paying for many who are NOT working – Let them have the pride to work for it).
    A percentage of unemployed qualified persons could be paid by the government to help match companies with prospective job hunters.
    That would be a start anyway!

  • bnyc

    Occupations projected to have the most new jobs through 2018:
    Registered Nurse
    Home health Aides
    Customer Service Reps
    Food Preparation & Serving Workers
    Personal & Home Care Aides

    Uh! Oh! Nothing in manufacturing. Nothing in technology. Nothing in Education. Nothing in Ecology..

    How will these jobs advance us in the world economy?

  • Jude

    I have been told that with a Ph D you are more costly to the school system. Thus, you are not considered. They are looking to get the most for the least amount of money. I feel your words. Can your child bring you in to their home. I am wondering why you moved closer to your child and grand child and they are not there for you?

  • Jude

    I wonder what your life is like to make such comments. I do not know one person that is not affected by this economic situation. These are all educated people that work hard from varied industries. I wonder how you protected yourself from this situation. I have a job but I worry about making my bills. Food is so expensive. I have cut all the fat in my budget but still have problems making bills. I work so many jobs, that I am tired and stressed. I am happy for an HMO. I just had a 20 grand operation that cost me about 200 dollars. I felt blessed with that bill. I do not wish anyone hardship but where do you come from are you an earthling? Where are those jobs you mentioned?

  • anonymous coward

    @Rseal54, tell that to the moms raising kids all alone, who are living in poverty. your statement is hogwash.

  • Naturelady10

    Do you know who educates their workers and who paves the road for them and provides transportation systems. They did NOT earn it all. And when they paid the relevant taxes, we grew the middle class.
    Alan Greenspan apologized for believing Reagonomics. It was a farce. Sorry!

  • Naturelady10

    And p.s. Don’t you think the Tea Party has been put out there by corporations? How else do you get people to vote against their own good. Isn’t that why they want anti-government? So they can make yet more profits by not paying and providing benefits to employees and polluting as much as they want. (And isn’t tea party a silly name anyway as they had representation and simply lost an election….and they kept quite when $3 trillion was spent on Iraq and Afghanistan.)
    When the top one percent has more wealth than the body 95%, it’s not a democracy.
    And why should the wealthy decide who gets their crumbs instead of the old way when we all decided via voting.

  • Jim S

    I agree, Frontline does some wonderful work, although I remember some silly, alarmist shows they did that advanced Bush/Cheney’s ludicrous propaganda campaign for war in Iraq.

    Personally, I find many libertarians to be a bit absolutist, self-serving and naive in their inability to see the limits of markets for solving society’s problems; but yes, principled libertarian perspectives should be given a voice.

  • Jim S

    Beautiful job putting this information together, T_Chen. I had thought of doing so myself, but decided I was too busy. Had I done so, I would have been hard-pressed to do such a fine job as you did.

    It’s a shame that so many Americans have been brainwashed to fear socialism. Of course, the democratic socialist systems are a big threat to corporate profits, so the corporate media do everything they can to make sure that Americans don’t get the real story on their achievements.

    A good example is in the realm of health care. As you point out, these countries deliver about the same quality of health care as we do, cover their entire populations (or very nearly cover them), and do so at the half the per-capita cost that we spend here. I found it amazing during the big healthcare debate leading to the passage of the democrats’ bill, that so little attention was paid to alternative systems in Europe and Asia, and that what attention there was, tended to be dismissive. A classic example was John Stossel’s propaganda piece on ABC, that gave the impression that it was extremely difficult to find a doctor in Canada. Ridiculously, the notion was advanced that it’s somehow unpatriotic to copy good ideas from other countries.

    Frontline was one of the few shows to take on honest, objective look at how other countries were dealing with the healthcare issue. Essentially, they uncovered that other countries, through bitter experience, had learned that free markets don’t work for healthcare (for a number of technical reasons, some related to insurance markets in general, and some peculiar to healthcare), that government intervention is necessary in this arena. I can’t remember for sure, but I believe they found four commonalities amongst the four countries (Germany, Switzerland, Japan and Taiwan, I believe) they visited: (1) Everyone was required to participate, and for those that couldn’t afford coverage, the gov’t chipped in; (2) Private insurers (if they had a role in basic care in a give country) were not allowed to turn anyone away or charge more for anyone; (3) All providers had to abide by a government-negotiated, standard price schedule for covered treatments; and (4) Providers had to offer a standard baseline of care. What a shame that so few Americans got this message, and that we got stuck with a very flawed bill, designed more to serve the medical industry than to serve the public.

  • Jim S


  • Anonymous

    Other than tax breaks for the extremely wealthy, and the ability to destroy the ecosystem with inpunity, what “rights” is the Tea Party rallying for?
    Hmm…torte reform? Which is the ability to thwart justice when you have caused grevious harm to an individual or group of individuals?
    What government take-overs are you referring to?
    It is true the government has given away enormous sums of money to large banks, insurance companies and one car company, but who is running them? The private sector. Where did, the money go in the case of large banks and insurance firms? Much of it, as I recall went into the pockets of the very rich. Did they earn this money? Did these obscenely wealthy people use it to create jobs? To make loans to hard-working Americans who are not obscenely wealthy and are trying to start a business? To refinance underwater mortgages? It seems to me that these tasks would have been better accomplished if the government HAD taken over these banks and insurance companies. Does this sound “anti-business” to you?
    Something to think about.

  • E148

    I will tell you. I for one will have paid into soc sec for 50 years or so. If the government wants to give my money back with interest, in lieu of soc sec payments for the rest of my life then so be it. I wish that they would.

  • E148

    The actual unemployment rate is 17-20%. The government exaggerates (under-reporting is an exaggeration to make them look better) everything. My question is how can government begin to really solve a problem, any problem, if they cannot even determine the scope of the problem– if their numbers are wrong? Also, why do they have different unemployment stats?

  • E148

    The Need To Know program misled me. The story about the STEPS program in Mississippi mentioned that Texas was one state that had a similar program. Well I just found out that this was based on the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and money for that ran out in January (in Texas). STEPS in Mississippi may be currently running but here in Texas it has not been for almost the whole of 2010.

  • E148

    Personally I go first got laid off 8+ years ago. I was out of work for about 1 1/4 years and took a job at Target making $8/hour. I am sorry that is just not a livable wage. They do not lay people off. They just reduce your hours. I was working about 11 hours per week. I quit to work as a contract worker making $14/hour (I had not made that little since the mid-80s) and still significantly less then I made when I first got laid off. I got laid off after about 6 months. Out of work for another 1 1/2 years. Took another temp job for again $14/hour. That lasted 10 months. Out of work for 8 months and took another contract job that lasted only 2 months. That was almost 3 years ago. I have not worked since.

    The jobs that are out there are health care and retail sales and not much else. Retail sales do not pay much. Health care requires a few years of college. I already have 9.1 years of college at 30 semester hour per year. I had been an Electronics Tech for almost 30 years. I went to college in my 30 and early 40s and got three more college degrees ( AS Mathematics, Bachelor of Liberal Studies in Computer Information Science, and a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems– that was 10 years ago) and I cannot get a job.

    Where are the jobs?

  • E148

    FYI, WWII got us out of the great depression. Building war machines, bullets, etc got us out of the Great Depression. Things like the Tennessee Valley Authority helped but very little. I am not advocating WWIII.
    But you are right the manufacturing jobs have gone overseas as have most of the so-called high-tech jobs.

  • E148

    Yes unfortunately age discrimination is rampant in this society. I have been unemployed for 6+ out of the past 8+ years. By the way I had unemployment benefits for less than a year of that 6+ years and have not had any for several years now. But when I did it was not anywhere near as much as I got paid when I worked. So, it is not a disincentive to work. I am not addressing that to you. It is just for those people that think that unemployment payments cause people not to look for work.

  • E148

    Much of the world’s economy is based the US buying their products. While I do believe that spending beyond our means is bad (particularly when people are losing their jobs), the world expects us to buy, including US companies. It is ironic that that businesses need us to buy but apparently not work?

  • Cit

    I agree with E148. They keep calling the social security thing an entitlement. I too paid for that through forced witholdings on my paychecks. Now that I am almost old enough to get hopefully some of that money back by getting social security benefits, I keep hearing that it is some type of charity or something. Funny that is not what they kept calling it while they were forcing me to pay into it all these years for the sole purpose of paying some of that money back to me at a later date. I could have invested that money way better myself if I hadn’t been forced to contribute all these years. Since that wasn’t an option, I want my benefits in tact when I am able to collect.

  • Anonymous

    FYI Like I said the manufacturing jobs got us out of the great depression. FYI The factories changed from building cars and other things to building war machines, even if there is a WW3 where are the factories?

  • Vts4

    I’m afraid you picked the wrong couple to use as an example. I believe in individual responsibility when it comes to managing money. How could they have collected all that “stuff” and not have owned their own home?

    Robert Reich hit the nail on the head when he chastised Americans for using their homes as their own personal ATMs.

  • Anonymous

    The growing life spans mean that most will take from SS more than they put in, even adjusting for inflation. However, the SS problem is relatively minor compared to Medicare. Medical spending has doubled many times over since the late 1960s when Medicare was enacted, and seems to grow typically between 5-10% annually. Medicare patients generally draw much more out of Medicare than they contributed. That, much more so than SS, is the huge entitlement problem that neither Tea Party candidates nor Democrats have a realistic solution.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think Robert Reich was “chastising Americans for using their homes as ATMs”. I think he was trying to weasel his way out of the Clinton economic policies which encouraged this behavior by saying he (and they) were only following Alan Greenspan’s directives thereby expunging himself and his colleagues from any responsibility. Although Reich has some good suggestions on what we maybe should do moving forward, none of them, in my opinion really get to the heart of the matter (which might require addmission on his part of doing the wrong thing). We need to reform our trade policy, strenghten & enforce our anti-trust laws, and regulate the financial sector.

  • Anonymous


  • Cit

    You do not speak for me. I want health care reform, as do everyone I associate with. We ran our own business and have been buying our own health insurance for about 8 years. We just got another 24% increase in cost to have that insurance for ourselves and they reduced the coverage of services by 30%. We have a huge deductible because that is the only way we could buy it, and we have no drug coverage on that policy. My friend in WI ran their business for about 15 years, and was forced to close their business because their health insurance premiums for just the two of them increased to over $48,000 per year for their insurance. They could not pay that, so she was forced to take a $10 per hour job just because it came with health insurance! So don’t tell me that most Americans are happy with their health care. I don’t buy it. I don’t mind paying my own insurance, but I do mind getting ripped off every month for something that costs way too much for what I get for it. My husband had a serious hand injury about 5 years ago, and a one hour out patient surgery at the so called hand specialist billed over $28,000 for their services. My husband does not have full use of his hand for that fee. The last appointment I had for a pap test, the bill was $847.00. I was in the office 10 minutes. Please tell me how I should be satisfied with that? I was afraid if I got sick the insurance company would drop my coverage because I forgot to mention something on my application that happened sometime in my life. The application wanted everything you had from birth. Hard to remember every little sniffle you have had in 54 years. I checked over 8 different health insurance companies when I selected the policy I bought, and they all had stringent applications. So please don’t tell me that health care isn’t necessary to be reformed in this country. They should open up the medical schools to anyone who is smart enough to get in, and stop making it such a closed field. I know so many people who have been financially ruined by one sickness. Really, how can one hours time be worth $28,000? That was 5 years ago, maybe the cost today would be $50,000 for that unsuccessful hand surgery.

  • MCWaller

    You missed Reich’s point. Some have claimed that the green economy will provide the jobs the current economy is losing. Reich is saying that ain’t happening. The Chinese are not only manufacturing the green technologies, much of which was developed in America, but the Chinese are also buying the products and the government is investing in developing the manufacturing sector for green technology. He’s not saying it’s alright that this is happening.

  • Anatol85

    you must be a millionaire that is a given dont think for a second that im suppose to feel sorry for you. Fact is we the ones in the bottom or middle pay all of your taxes that you intellectually dont pay I admire that but dont nag because the realities is that we at the bottom do more then u guys in every category especially in charity. So check yourself and your facts before you give such a deameaning statement. Yes u need money to create money but you need a brain to keep it from running out. Maybe u should live like the ones down here and experience the treatment so have some facts to write on. grow up!!!

  • Producer, NTK

    Thank you for your response. It was not our intention to mislead you. Our narration states that “across the country, thirty two other states have implemented similiar programs.” This is heard over a map graphic which has Texas highlighted along with other states. We were including past and currently running programs that were all funded with stimulus money (ARRA money), which we explain is how the STEPS program was funded as well. I hope this clears things up.

  • Mega-broke

    Actually they too are struggling and basically, newly married. She has a Masters degree in Community Mental Health and is struggling to find consistent employment with benefits as opposed to the occasional pay for services. The husband is ex-military and has his own ideas about how things should be, so I just choose not to interfere or become an imposition. It is tremendously difficult but they pretend to be happy, so I let them be and aoid creating issues for them. And yu are absolutely correct with regard to my credential being aiability; at both the secondary and post secondary levels where the inexperienced youngster has become a desired commodity.

  • E148

    Not really. People are looking for help/answers. You report this as something that is current— across the country, including Texas. Your reporting just gives us false hope, until we go off and investigate it ourselves.