A June study
found that the number of people worldwide with more than $1 million to
invest soared to a record 12 million in 2012, a 9.2 percent increase
over the previous year. The number of ultra rich -- the 111,000 people
with investable assets of at least $30 million -- surged 11 percent.
The Stanleys and the Neumanns, meanwhile, are falling behind. Whatever your politics, please watch this film.
These two families, one black and one white, put a human face on the
polarized debate about what is happening to the American middle class.
Conservative viewers may feel that the two couples made mistakes --
failing to go to college, for example, or not moving out of a dying
industrial town like Milwaukee. Liberal viewers may see them as victims
of a globalized economy that rewards the few spectacularly and relegates
the many to low-paying jobs.
Whatever the cause, their spiral is startling.
When filmmakers Bill Moyers, Kathleen Hughes and Tom Casciato, first
visited them in 1991, the family's wages from union factory work
comfortably supported them. In the early 1990s, however, as Milwaukee
factories moved overseas, both of the Stanleys, and Tony Neumann, the
Neumann patriarch, lost their jobs. They took lower-paying work and, to
makes ends meet, Tony Neumann's wife, Terry, also had to enter the
Throughout the 2000s, the couples struggled on. Claude Stanley, the
Stanley patriarch, waterproofed basements, started his own home
inspection business and became a minister. By 2012, an illness has
saddled him with enormous medical bills and his business had failed. At
59, he was a city forestry department worker making $26,000 a year
trimming trees and collecting garbage. His wife Jackie became a realtor,
but never gained a foothold in a declining housing market. Only one of
their five children finished college, paying tuition with credit cards.
his layoff, Tony Neumann took a low-paying overnight factory job, and
rarely saw his wife and three children. His wife Terry worked as a
security guard, forklift operator and home healthcare attendant. By
2012, the couple, high school sweethearts, had divorced and lost their
home through foreclosure.
The children in both families fared even worse. Those who attended at
least some college had steady work. Those who did not had low-paying
jobs or no work at all.
Many also had failed relationships. As of 2012, one Neumann son was a
high school dropout who had fathered two children with two different
women. The other was unemployed and had fathered three children with two
different women. Defying stereotypes, the Stanleys, who are black,
proved to be a more stable family than the Neumanns.
In one of the film's most wrenching scenes, Terry Neumann visits the
house she lost to foreclosure, where she had expected to live out her
American dream. The family that bought it at auction for $38,000 looks
on as she tours the home, wondering what went wrong.