“Remaking America”

Record unemployment, corporate avarice, empty houses but homeless families, dwindling opportunities in a politically paralyzed nation—these are the realities of America, land of the free and home of the perennially poor and the new poor: the former middle class.

In January 2012, Tavis convened a panel of thought leaders and advocates to explore how to restore prosperity in America. The nationally televised discussion, “Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity,” aired for three nights on PBS beginning January 16 through January 18.

Explore panelists’ bios, links to their work and a White Paper that details the Great Recession’s impact on the poor.

Remaking America – Panel discussion, Part 1

Remaking America – Panel discussion, Part 2

Remaking America – Panel discussion, Part 3

Inside This Feature

  • atrisk
    A White Paper requested by Tavis and published by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs has found that many Americans are poor or "at risk" of becoming poor due to the Great Recession, and they continue to struggle during the recovery.
  • suzeorman
    Personal finance expert, motivational speaker and nine-time best-selling author Suze Orman is a contributing editor to Oprah's O magazine and the host of her own show on CNBC.
  • majoracarter
    Environmental activist Majora Carter founded and served as executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, a non-profit that introduced Americans to the concept of urban green-collar job training and coined the phrase "Green the Ghetto."
  • michaelmoore
    Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore gained critical acclaim and popular success with his 1989 documentary Roger & Me.
  • ehrenreich
    Writer and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich is best known for her 1998 book Nickel and Dimed, in which she went undercover as a waitress, sales clerk and maid to reveal what life is like for the "unskilled" work force.
  • cornelwest
    Dr. Cornel West is a Princeton professor, provocative world-renowned scholar and a best-selling author, best known for his classic Race Matters.
  • escarra
    Feeding America president and CEO Vicki B. Escarra helped to build the domestic hunger-relief network into a billion-dollar organization.
  • roger_clay
    Attorney Roger A. Clay, Jr. is president of Oakland, CA-based Insight Center for Community Economic Development.
  • remakingamerica_creatingpathways
    As we enter 2012, the picture for many of our nation’s children is grim. The recently released Kids Count report found that 42 percent lived in families with incomes below twice the federal poverty line in 2009. That’s 31 million children. And with the economy’s slow recovery, that number may be even higher today.
  • Kathryn Huebner

    I am so glad you are there. We the little people need such forsight and leadership as I see in you. As an active boomer and love child from the 60′s I thought the youth of this country truly lost until I started watching you and I will be watching you and the others you have gathered for your program January 16, 2012. We can do more for ourselves but we must have true enlightened Leadership with, as Mr. Belefonte said, with the same moral center that is not found in our state or federal officials. I wait with baited breath! Right On! Mr. Smiley
    Warm Regards from “Keeping the Faith” in Phoenix

  • Debbie Niemeyer

    On Oct 6th, I went up to Michael Moore at a OWS rally, I basically mentioned to him that I was a house keeper..with a MA, but the worst part about my situation was more about being paid low wages based a low federal minimum wage. He agreeingly said that it was the wages and not just about jobs. I continued to follow Michael Moore towards CNN’s Susan Candioti and Tim Robbins where they were interviewed for CNN. I kept chanting to MM to bring up the wages. I was yelping and probably aggrivating as well. I went up to Michael Moore after the interview, and apologized for being redundant but that it was a serious issue. Michael Moore then said, “Yes, I KNOW, the lady with a MA who is a house keeper…I know.” My point is people is (if you happened to agree with the issue with low wages and the working poor in the US) DEMAND A SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE….because your liberal/progressive so called icons will not do it for you. The poverty line wage in the US is around 13 per hour…where do you think 7.25 falls? I can not honestly believe that so many Americans are oblivious to this endemic issue to poverty and THERE BEING a working poor culture in our country. What is wrong with YOUR HEADS?

  • LaVerne Williams

    In watching your Remaking America online last night, I want to thank you for your efforts for the sake of all humanity. As a 68 year old professional white guy who has been watching you and who believes you are providing invaluable insight into the leadership this country needs, may I suggest the following concerning the upcoming Jan 16-18 broadcast of this event on PBS TV (and upon the Smiley & West website). As it was unfortunately that Jeffrey Sacks could not be on the panel because of a prior committment, I believe the impact of your entire effort could be so much greater if you could include some of the comments Jeffrey made in your interview with him that is posted at http://smileyandwest.ning.com/forum/topics/hot-stuff-jeffrey-sachs , even if it is only a picture of him with voice over. Thank you so much.

  • Candylynn

    I am really looking forward to seeing Remaking America, cause I really think that “the poor” here in the US are looked down upon , and it is the middle class and the upper middle class is the ones looking down upon the poor!

  • denise ward

    I have a lovely little plan that would definitely target Wall Street and our so-called “leaders” in Congress:
    People are asked to sign up to pledge that should this following scenario escalate to a specific point, they agree to not pay their mortgages, student loans, credit cards and any other loans they may have. This pledge is very necessary because the action has to threaten the entire economy and that has to be implicit and no buts about it. There has to be the numbers for this to work. Step two is this movement takes a list of two or three demands that they want enacted RIGHT NOW. This could come in the form of 1. Reversing Citizens United 2. Full disclosure of all sources of political donations and 3. The removal of all Congressional pensions and health care benefits replaced by the same benefits the rest of us are offered. Other demands may also be put forth. These demands are then submitted to the banks that if by (such and such) a time our demands are not met (and this time would be a short timeframe say one month) a number of people (the number who have pledged) will stop paying any loans they have. The banks would naturally try to wipe their hands of it by reminding us that it is not them who make the laws, and to that we reply to go figure it out with their friends in Congress. It is my hunch that action would be immediate because we would be hitting them where it hurts them. It won’t be a war killing people in a foreign country and our own young men and women, no this would be a war where the bullseye is Wall Street and by default, Congress. This has the beauty of only hitting exactly who should be hit. While the protesters pocket the money that would have gone to pay for loans, and continue to go to work as normal and receive their income. They would be unidentifiable. No one could tell who was paying their loans and who wasn’t. No one would be shamed. No one would be able to be pepper-sprayed. And it seems plausible that it wouldn’t take long to get action and get some sanity back into the system. This would work like a dream if enough people signed on and pledged to go along with it until demands are met. Devious isn’t it!

  • denise ward

    Oh and a victory like that would essentially render our leaders “impotent”.

  • Carol Durante aka deliah davis

    I am so sorry I could not attend!

  • Denise Chicoine

    I feel blessed to have been at GW Univ., Lisner Auditorium for Remaking America. I would not have missed it! I met some wonderful people that night including those waiting outside before the event, those sitting around me, and a group of women walking to the Metro. All of us were commenting on the powerful energy present in the auditorium. You, Tavis, have a strong and loving presence, and the same is true for the panelists. I found myself smiling so much during the evening – I was so thrilled to be there. I had everyone I know watching, and they all were touched by different panelists for different reasons. You chose a terrific mix of experts, and I was so sorry to know that Dr. Sachs could not be there – he would have been an asset to the group. For me, Dr. West is the man. Being so close to the stage, Dr. West has quite a commanding presence. His moving words light a fire in me for social justice that won’t be denied, and I’m forever grateful to both of you for your commitment to this work. I come away from Remaking America a more informed human being who is dedicated to being a socially enlightened citizen of the U.S. and the world.

  • Dale Ezelle

    One comment that was made last night was, ”Obama feeds out of the same trough as the republicans”…but he really has to. For every dollar they give Barack, that’s a dollar their not giving to the the other side.



  • Kim Phillips

    Optimism and Hope. I have never heard it so articulately expressed. I was so sorry when it ended. The energy was palpable. I want to see the replay. I have called all of my friends and I am blasting this on FB. Lets get this movement started.

  • Larry Enge

    I, too, am being enlightened by your Remaking America. However, it seems that monetary policy is often overlooked in discussions like these. Back in he 1960’s, when I was a teen, my dad was a steel worker with a steady income. My mother did not work. Basic grocery shopping was an every two week affair. For $50 to $60 we could buy groceries for a family of 6 for those two weeks. That situation is vastly different presently. Inflation has lowered the value and purchase power of the dollar such that it takes many more dollars to accomplish the same level of feeding for a family of six. It is my understanding that it is the activity of the Federal Reserve in its support of the banking system and monetizing the debt of the government all through monetary expansion that results in the inflation that steals the value from our money. How can we address poverty in America without addressing monetary policy?

  • Alexis

    Love the series but would really, really like someone like Barbara in particular to address the euphemization of the unemployment reality: specifically, the popular cliche for the long term unemployed is “those who have given up looking for work.” The truth is that what has happened is they have fallen off the unemployment rolls because their benefits have expired – not because they have “given up looking for work.” This is part and parcel of the systematic marginalization of 150 Million Americans in poverty – blaming them for their own misfortune – e.g., “victim blaming” which I now see as the Great American Pastime. Oh for the days when BASEBALL was the “Great American Pastime.” It started with blaming “those who didn’t deserve to own their own homes getting subprime mortgages and causing the entire world’s finances to fail ” (yes – early on in 2007-2008 those “baddies” caught all the blame!) and has progressed to blaming those who can’t find work as having “given up looking.” There really needs to be change in this type of victim blaming at all levels of the media, first, and over time a change in the smug, arrogant attitudes of those more fortunate toward those who are less fortunate. Thank you for a wonderful series!

  • Perry Redd

    I attended the panel discussion at Georgetown University in DC and believe that the discussion is sorely needed. With the Republican primary contests vocalize the demonization of the poor, this panel aired realistic snapshots of “the other side of the tracks”–even if none of the panelists were poor. Advocates of poor people’s (the majority of this country) issues is a front-burner discussion that should strongly and significantly impact the elected leaders–including cheif executive–we choose to re-make public policy. I look forward to the next forum–with marching orders–and plan to bring as many new minds to the table. Thank you panel for your humbling discussion and to Ms. Orman for “doing something!”

  • Mikey, Molly, & Cast of Thousands

    We are sooo glad you are broadcasting this forum now and often. We the People need such forsight and leadership as we understand how the greedy rich operate. As active boomers and love children from the 60′s we thought the youth of America truly lost until we started watching you and and the others you have gathered for your “Remaking America” program beginning January 16, 2012 on PBS-TV stations, YouTube & other various media. We can do more for ourselves but we must have true enlightened Leadership as Mr. Belefonte has said, with the same moral center that is not found in our state or federal officials. We feel what Michael Moore has said about slavery making the Greedy most powerful & super rich is the truth, the whole truth, & nothing but the truth. We will be glad when We the People take back our government from ther horrible Hitller style style ethics, mentality & lobbyist that has America by her throat at present, and btw only hope that we freeze their off shore bank accounts in our process!

    Need We Say More & Much Regards,

    Michael, Molly, & Cast of Thousands

  • Chris Rottler

    Giving voice to these facts isn’t always easy. Thank you for your leadership. Please keep up the good work.

    I am adjunct professor at the Univ. of Vermont, teaching Community Development Finance. I’ll be sharing these videos with my students today.


  • Don Wahl

    I know there is a large part of our population that would be glad to leave the fellowship of silent, helpless onlooking if they could have faith in a fellowship that had some sort of plan or movement that could bring a more promising future for those of us who are in or near poverty in America. I know there are more personal ways to serve our community at the local level. What are some viable ideas that could be brought into our national consciousness?

  • william choate

    MY solutions for remaking America and restoring confidence in the System,
    if it were possible: (1) 5th Amendment Grand Jury indictments of banking
    and local government fraud, waste, abuse, and public corruption. (2) Restore
    the practices we resorted to for surviving WWII, school class daily scripture
    reading and prayer, and (3) Focus on legitimate productivity, not jobs.

  • Brandt Family

    All we have is each other. Purchasing as little as possible will affect the system sooner or later. We were a middle class family. Cost of living, loss property taxes affected our families ability to live and work in California. We took a chance and relocated and are surviving. Sharing with others, trading services, using Goodwill and not buying new is one way to not only survive but also send a message “Things need to change”. Until they do we will halp each other survive and not feed the system. Don’t buy new houses, cars, things not needed. We have done it for three years. We walk instead of drive and have lived in a 26 ft trailer for the past two years. I agree the system is a mess. In time those who didn’t oversee issues to protect Americans will be out of a job soon enough. Money can’t buy all things. People make their own choice. Companies need Americans to buy their product and so do other foreign business folks. Limit what you buy, share with our neighbors and friends. You might have an extra tool or onion they might have extra bread or meat. Blame game is so old. Time to work together and send a clear cut message. Vote and share. I have faith it will work and has worked.

Last modified: October 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm