thumbnail of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
Hide -
MR. LEHRER: Good evening. Leading the news this Wednesday, the shuttle astronauts successfully deployed the Hubble Space Telescope and Violeta Chamorro was sworn in as the president of Nicaragua. We'll have the details in our News Summary in a moment. Robin.
MR. MacNeil: After the News Summary, Correspondent Charles Krause [PROFILE - VIOLETA CHAMORRO] profiles Nicaragua's new president, Violeta Chamorro. Then Charlayne Hunter-Gault continues her series on Americans who have fallen through [SERIES - THROUGH THE SAFETY NET] the safety net, tonight, an underemployed Chicago couple trying to make ends meet, and finally arts correspondent Joanna Simon [FINALLY - MICHAEL MORIARTY] visits with the multi- talented actor Michael Moriarty. NEWS SUMMARY
MR. LEHRER: The most powerful telescope ever built was put into orbit around the earth today. The crew of the shuttle Discovery did it despite some hitches. One of the Hubble Telescope's giant solar panels failed to open. Two of the astronauts put on space suits and prepared for a space walk to fix the problem, but it wasn't necessary. The panel finally unfurled by remote control. The shuttle's giant mechanical arm then released the 12 ton telescope into earth's orbit. The Hubble Telescope can photograph stars and galaxies billions of light years from earth. Its 15 year mission is to send back pictures which scientists hope will give clues to the age and size of the universe. The first transmissions begin next week. Robin.
MR. MacNeil: Violeta Chamorro was sworn in as Nicaragua's new president today, formally ending 10 years of Sandinista rule. We have a report narrated by Tom Brown of Worldwide Television News.
MR. BROWN: It was an emotional day for all Nicaraguans. In a country that's only known the horrors of civil war for the past 10 years, they turned out by the thousands to witness the installation as president of Violeta Chamorro. Eleven heads of state had come to Managua to witness the power transfer, including U.S. Vice Pres. Dan Quayle. His arrival drew applause at first, then angry chants of "assassin, assassin", the reference to eight years of American support for the Contra rebels. Anti-American anger was tempered somewhat by an announcement earlier in the day from Washington of the first installment of a promised emergency aid package. The hours before Chamorro was sworn in also saw controversy over her plan to keep Gen. Umberto Ortega, the man on the left, as head of the military. A brother of the outgoing president, he led the Sandinistas' war against the Contras. Finally, the moment had come. The woman who surprised the world with her election victory over Daniel Ortega two months ago received the presidential sash from her predecessor and triumphantly looked to the future.
MR. LEHRER: Lithuania took steps today to break Moscow's economic blockade. Lithuania's prime minister said her government was seeking help from the other independence-minded Soviet republics in replacing the oil, natural gas and other supplies cut off last week. In exchange, she said Lithuania would supply milk and meat to areas experiencing food shortages. In Washington, Pres. Bush responded to criticism of his decision not to impose economic sanctions on Moscow. Yesterday Lithuania's Pres. Landsbergis accused the U.S. of selling out his people.
PRES. BUSH: I don't need any defense of the policies that we have taken with strong support from the American people.
MR. LEHRER: Also Sec. of State Baker told a Senate hearing Lithuania was a complex problem for the United States.
JAMES BAKER, Secretary of State: It is not easy to know exactly how hard to press or the degree to which we should refrain from taking specific action. Building a democracy is always a long and complicated process, and that is why the President and I feel, Mr. Chairman, that we must follow a balanced and measured approach to Lithuania and to maintain perspective to the extent that we can, maintain perspective on the numerous interests that we have at stake here, interests that are very important to the United States of America.
MR. LEHRER: Baker said the administration had not ruled out imposing sanctions later. In the Soviet Union, Pres. Gorbachev continued to have problems selling his economic reforms. He went to an industrial city in the Ural Mountains and got into a debate with a group of factory workers. The Tasse News Agency said they complained to him about shortages of meat, milk, and fruit. He told them the economy could not change unless they changed their attitude toward work. There was an attempted assassination in West Germany today. Oscar LaFontaine, the Social Democratic Party's candidate for chancellor was stabbed in the neck at a political rally. The assailant was a woman who approached him with a bouquet of flowers. She was arrested at the scene. Officials said the wound was life threatening. LaFontaine is running against Chancellor Helmut Kohl in December's national elections.
MR. MacNeil: A Lebanese Muslim leader today put a damper on hopes that more American hostages might be released. Hussein Masowi said the U.S. proved its bad will with yesterday's House resolution supporting Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Masowi said that could prevent the release of more Americans. Former U.S. hostage Robert Polhill posed for pictures today at the U.S. Air Force Base hospital in Wiesbauten. He was joined by his wife, two sons, and a group of nursery school children from a nearby U.S. air base. The doctors said he's recovering well and will fly back home to New York tomorrow.
MR. LEHRER: There was more violence in Colombia today. A car bomb in Medellin exploded near a truck carrying members of a special anti-terrorist squad. At least six people were killed; thirty-four others were wounded. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier this month, another car bomb in Medellin killed twenty people, including eight members of the anti-terrorist unit.
MR. MacNeil: The U.S. and Japan reached a new trade agreement today. Under the accord, Japan agreed to lower tariffs and other barriers on American wood products. This follows similar agreements on U.S. supercomputers and satellites. Czechoslovakia's president, Vaclav Havel, went to Jerusalem today, the first European head of state to visit Israel. Israeli officials said they will ask Havel to allow his country to be used as a transit point for Soviet Jews emigrating to Israel. Havel offered to mediate Israel-Palestiniantalks, and he meets with Palestinian leaders tomorrow. Also in Israel today, Labor Party Shimon Peres gave up his attempt to form a new government. The previous coalition led by Yitzhak Shamir fell apart over whether to hold talks with Palestinians.
MR. LEHRER: Pres. Bush had an eye exam this afternoon at Bethesda Naval Hospital. It was done as a follow-up to last month's diagnosis of an early form of glaucoma. The President began using daily eye drops after the problem was discovered during his annual physical exam. Today doctors told him to discontinue their use. They said no further treatment was needed.
MR. MacNeil: Jazz great Dexter Gordon died today. The tenor sax player was suffering from throat cancer. Gordon was known for his deep resonant tone. [GORDON PLAYING IN "ROUND MIDNIGHT" 1986]
MR. MacNeil: Gordon spent much of the '60s and '70s in Europe with other American ex-patriot jazz musicians, a scene that inspired the 1986 movie "Round Midnight" for which he received an Oscar nomination as Best Actor. Gordon was 67. That's our News Summary. Just ahead Nicaragua's new president, Americans who fall through the safety net, and actor Michael Moriarty. PROFILE - VIOLETA CHAMORRO
MR. MacNeil: We begin tonight with a Nicaragua story. Correspondent Charles Krause profiles Violeta Chamorro a member of one of Nicaragua's most prominent families who surprised the World with her election as President two months ago.
MR. KRAUSE: It was a historic ceremony, the first democratic transfer of power in Nicaragua's history. Shortly after 10 this morning outgoing President Daniel Ortega and his family enter Managua's National Stadium. Whatever their future, it was a stunning admission of defeat for the Sandinistas. Few minutes later the President-Elect Violeta Barrios De Chamorro, Publisher of La Prensa, widow of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, made her way to the podium. Shortly before noon Dona Violeta became President of what she said would be a new democratic Nicaragua, a Nicaragua without political prisoners, without war with the Contras and without confrontation with the United States. Specifically she proclaimed a general amnesty and an end to the military draft. She also announced that she would keep Umberto Ortega as Chief of Staff of Nicaragua's Army. That decision reportedly against the strong recommendation of the United States represented today by Vice President Quayle. There was no sign of tension as Mrs. Chamorro assumed the Presidency that she won last February. Mrs. Chamorro's campaign centered on the same theme that she sounded today. At rallies and on television she promised peace, national reconciliation and economic recovery. But Oretga and the Sandinistas mounted what appeared to be a lavish and effective counter campaign. They accused Mrs. Chamorro of being a counter revolutionary, a tool they said of the United States. Almost every poll predicted Ortega would win. But on election night Mrs. Chamorro scored a landslide victory. It was one of the great political upsets of all times. Mrs. Chamorro told her countrymen that she was deeply moved, but according to those who know her best she was not surprised that she had won. Nicaragua's new President is said to be a woman of supreme self-confidence and determination.
ALFREDO CESAR, Chamorro Aide: It is very difficult to change her mind once you know, she has decided to do something, very difficult.
MR. KRAUSE: Alfredo Cesar is one of Mrs. Chamorro's closest advisors.
MR. CESAR: I remember many people had doubts whether she could even sustain even physically the campaign. When we nominated her and began the campaign there were a lot of rumors whether she could sustain that. And when she broke her knee and many people said she will not be able to campaign any longer and so forth but she did campaign from the wheelchair and she won. And what is behind us was purely determination which is something a leader has to have.
MR. KRAUSE: Umberto Belli is also a close advisor and a member of Mrs. Chamorro's inner circle. He recalls a conversation he had with Dona Violeta last year before she became a candidate.
UMBERTO BELLI, Chamorro Aide: She knew that this was going to be a sacrifice that it was something that was going to be in many ways beyond her capacity and she would need a lot of help and she was going to handle a lot of difficult situation, a lot of press interviews and this was going to be very demanding on her in many ways but then she said but I am the person, I am a person who symbolizes something, I am the person who could unite the opposition and I will go and I will do it for your generation, for you.
XABIER GOROSTIAGA, Sandinista Supporter: The problem is that she is not a professional politician to understand the complexity of the present moment. That is why I hope she will create a working relationship with Daniel Oretga and the Sandinistas in order that both of them will be able to reconstruct this country.
MR. KRAUSE: Xavier Diaga is a Catholic Priest and economist who is a leading supporter of the Sandanistas. He has also known Mrs. Chamorro and her family for 20 years. What is she like when you talk to her when you talk with her, when you see her?
REV. DIAGA: Extremely charming. Violeta is one of the most gracious ladies, women you can meet. She is tremendous too, she is very powerful and I have a lot of respect for her due to the sufferings of their own life and if she asks me one day what will be my key recommendation it's to think how many hours, days, moments, years of suffering she has in her life. This has been multiplied to all the families. If she has this visions of the sufferings of this country she will be a good President.
MR. KRAUSE: Violeta Barrios was born in to a life of wealth and privilege. She grew up on her father's ranch the Hacienda Amia. It is located on the shores of Lake Nicaragua in Ribas about a 100 miles south of Managua. As a young girl Violeta liked to fish with her father and ride with the cowboys. After attending Catholic boarding school here and in the United States Violeta returned home in 1948. She was just 19. It was then that her older brother Carlos who still owns the ranch introduced Violeta to his friend Pedro Joaquin Chamorro.
CARLOS BARRIOS, Chamorro's Brother: He was a heck of a good man a nice man and must have been very nice especially because Violeta fell deeply on love with him.
MR. KRAUSE: Mrs. Chamorro's younger sister Clarissa remembers the courtship.
CLARISSA MacGREGOR, Chamorro's Sister: He used to travel by bus and then he bought a very very old car and after one year she accepted him and said yes, so it started the relationship.
MR. KRAUSE: And then how much longer after were they married?
MS. MacGREGOR: A year more.
MR. KRAUSE: The wedding took place at the cathedral in Ribas, the date, December 8, 1950. Over 200 guest, the cream of Nicaraguan society, attended what was, in effect, a state occasion. Nicaragua is a country of political families and Violeta Barrios had married a prince.
RICHARD MILLETT, Historian: Pedro Joaquin Chamorro was part of what's been probably the most dominant single family in Nicaraguan political history. Moses dominated for several decades but the Chamorro family's history goes back in Nicaraguan politics a century and a half.
MR. KRAUSE: Richard Millett is a historian and leading expert on Nicaragua and the Chamorros.
MR. MILLETT: This is a rich traditional family. The kids went to private school, they traveled abroad. They didn't lack for creature comforts, but the power came much more out of their heritage politics and out of their control of La Prensa than it did out of accumulated wealth.
MR. KRAUSE: Throughout his adult life, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro had one obsession. He used the family newspaper, "La Prensa", to crusade against the Samosas, a rival family which held absolute political power in Nicaragua for almost 50 years beginning in the 1930s. While Pedro Joaquin lived for politics, Dona Violeta remained behind the scenes raising their four children. On January 10, 1978, word came that Pedro Joaquin had been gunned down in Managua. How did she react? I mean, what --
MS. MacGREGOR: Straight.
MR. KRAUSE: She's a very strong woman.
MS. MacGREGOR: Strong woman.
MR. BARRIOS: It was quite a shock, you can imagine. She was bound to have done some crying on the corner with somebody. Okay. She has an iron will.
MR. KRAUSE: She was strong at that moment?
MR. BARRIOS: She was strong.
MR. KRAUSE: The assassination was a political turning point for Nicaragua. The country erupted in protest. Within 18 months, the Samosas were gone, in their place the Sandinistas. In July of 1979, Dona Violeta returned to Managua as part of the first Junta, recognition of her husband's place in the pantheon of the revolution, but within just a few months in April 1980, she split with the Sandinistas and with the government. Umberto Belli was editorial page editor of La Prensa at that time.
MR. BELLI: They were taking many decisions in the Junta without consulting her. That was one reason. And the other reason was she saw the victims totally left of the regime, the establishment in every block of every Nicaraguan city of the Sandinistas, the push on the military in the party and so there were a lot of people who were expressing concern about the radicalization of the revolution and she knew what was going on.
MR. KRAUSE: Since she broke with the Sandinistas a decade ago, Dona Violeta has dedicated her life to the legacy of her late husband. Early on she assumed his place as publisher of La Prensa where she still has an office. She's never been directly involved in running the paper, but over the years, Mrs. Chamorro's fought hard to keep the paper alive when on several occasions the Sandinistas tried to close it down. Here home, where Dona Violeta often meets with her advisors, is filled with mementos of her late husband. She hopes one day the house will become a museum in his honor. She's also fought hard to keep her family together. Mrs. Chamorro's eldest son, Pedro Joaquin, Jr., is one of her closest advisors. Her youngest daughter, Christiana, is an editor at La Prensa, but her two other children, Claudia and Carlos Fernando, are militant Sandinistas who believe their mother has distorted the legacy of their father. Nonetheless, the family remains close.
CHRISTIANA CHAMORRO, Daughter: Usually, you know, when the family comes down, we talk about everything with a lot of respect and not intending to change the mind of the other one because we know perfectly where each one of us.
MR. KRAUSE: Nicaragua is a country torn by political passions. The fact that Mrs. Chamorro has been able to keep herown family together was a part of her appeal during the campaign. But now that she's president, many observers question whether she'll ever be more than a symbol of opposition to the Sandinistas.
ALFREDO CESAR: So what you have there is a leader. You've got a political leader. It is not a symbol. She also is a symbol, but she is a political leader in all the sense of the word.
MR. KRAUSE: Mrs. Chamorro's supporters hope she'll be able to lead the country toward peace and national reconciliation, but her task will be enormous. The Sandinistas and their labor unions have already threatened to fight the new government's plan to privatize the economy. The Contras have yet to disarm and desperate poverty remains a way of life. But today Mrs. Chamorro seemed confident as she began her six year term as Nicaragua's president. After the inauguration, she laid a wreath on the spot where her husband was killed 11 years ago. Once again, she looked to him for inspiration and support.
MR. MacNeil: Still to come on the Newshour, Charlayne Hunter- Gault on people who have fallen through the safety net and a man who believes in doing his own thing. SERIES - THROUGH THE SAFETY NET
MR. LEHRER: Now Part 4 of Charlayne Hunter-Gault's Wednesday night series, "Through the Safety Net". There is growing debate over whether the United States is developing a permanent underclass, people who have fallen through the social safety net and remain at the bottom, almost untouched by programs for the poor. Throughout this series, Charlayne has been reporting on some of the people who fit this profile, single mothers, the chronically underemployed, the homeless, mothers addicted to crack. Tonight she looks at Will and Marilyn Butler from Chicago. The family lives on Mrs. Butler's salary because her husband has been employed only sporadically for the last 10 years.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: At first glance, this neighborhood of sturdy houses on Chicago's far West side looks like any working class community in America, but this is Austin, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago, and most of the people who live here are like Will Butler. He's not working class, because he can't find work. Butler is a 35 year old man with a lot of obligations and almost no way to meet them. That's because he can't find a steady job.
WILL BUTLER: Every job I've just about had has either left the city or they just folded up, so that kept me out of work and you know, you don't get no time in on the job, so when you go to another job, the people will look at your resume and they'll say, well, this guy, he can't even hold a job, you know. And these people over here are saying, well, why don't you get a job? But how can you get a job, if they won't give you a job?
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Although Butler doesn't have a high school diploma, his resume starts out well enough, but since 1979, when Schwinn Bicycle sold out and moved to Mississippi, Butler has been chronically underemployed or without a job at all.
MR. BUTLER: I think I've having a hard time because people don't really want to open their doors.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But some doors have opened for Will Butler's wife and that's kept the family off welfare. While he has gone as long as three years without regular employment, Marilyn Butler has supported the family by processing tax payment checks on the graveyard shift at a bank.
MARILYN BUTLER: I work at nights from 11 o'clock PM to 7:30 AM Sunday night through Thursday night. Four times a year we go into peak and I work from 8 o'clock at night until around 8 or 8:30 in themorning, constantly working, no days off. I have to, you know, pay the bills, feed the household, make sure, you know, everything's working, make sure my car is working to get to work because I don't want to be on public transportation, you know, late at night alone in Chicago, so it's all on me, everything.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Marilyn Butler works night in case her husband gets some kind of job so that she can be home in the daytime for their two children. The family sorely needs the extra pay or night differential Marilyn Butler gets for working past dawn. In the past, the bank has made a mistake and left the $65 differential out of her weekly paycheck. That left about $260, and it had to go a long way.
MRS. BUTLER: Living from paycheck to paycheck, when that small amount of money wasn't on my check, it threw me behind and we actually didn't have food on our table so Bill had to go out and, you know, work on some people's cars. I think he installed a kitchen sink for someone in order to get food on the table because I had mailed out the checks for the bills already so they were about to clear and we ended up with no funds and no food on the table.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Does that happen a lot?
MRS. BUTLER: Yes, it does, not, I'll say about four times last year, but it does put us in a financial bind.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Do you get mad at your husband for that?
MRS. BUTLER: No, because he tries hard. You know, every morning when I come in and he goes out, good luck, honey, you know, he does try very hard to find something and it's just society doing it to him. That's the way I feel.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Four of the women on Marilyn Butler's shift are in the same boat, supporting families because their husbands can't find jobs. It happens all the time, according to Shirley Nelson, who does employment counseling for Community Linkages, Incorporated, a community services agency.
SHIRLEY NELSON, Employment Counselor: About twenty, twenty-five people come in per day. These are our applications that we have each client come in, participants to come in and fill out a profile sheet and most of them are males looking for anything. There's a lot of companies that's closin' up, movin' out of town, and people can't relocate. They can't afford to relocate.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Will Butler is one of those who came to Community Linkages for help. He'd originally signed up in January. It was two months later when Shirley Nelson called him in to talk about an opening at a direct mail company. [SHIRLEY NELSON TALKING TO
MS. NELSON: A medium sized company that's looking for someone who can drive a stick shift and it pays $6 an hour. Would you think you'd be interested in something like that?
MR. BUTLER: Sure, that's a start.
MS. NELSON: I have to ask this. It's sort of personal, but we have to ask this. And I want you to be sincere because I'm going to send you somewhere and they're going to do a drug test.
MS. NELSON: Now, think about it. I want you to be sure. When they do the drug test, if you don't have any drugs in your system, you will have the job.
MR. BUTLER: Fine, send me.
MS. NELSON: No problem.
MR. BUTLER: Send me, send me.
MS. NELSON: That's what I want to hear. Great.
MR. BUTLER: Send me.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: An interview was set up for the next day, but with no guarantee Butler stuck to his routine. He looks for work almost every day. Frustrated by fruitless searches in the city, he now drives twenty, twenty-five miles out into the suburbs. He says he might reluctantly accept a minimum wage job in the city, but not such a long way from home.
MR. BUTLER: $3.45 or whatever they're paying, that's only gas for half the week. What about the rest of my bills, you know, so a minimum wage job out in the suburbs would be just a waste of time.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: On a recent day, part of Butler's routine involved checking on job applications he'd made months earlier. He was hoping to find a warehouse job as a forklift operator starting at $8 an hour. His first stop was the warehouse of the Osco Drugstore chain where the sign out front said they were hiring. The personnel manager who could look into his earlier application wasn't in, so Butler filled out another one and he got the man's number to follow up.
MR. BUTLER: Well, at least they give me a number to call.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Then it as on to Entenmann's. The company is hiring thanks to the success of its new fat and cholesterol free products. Butler joined a long line of black men waiting to apply. In front of him in the line was Rhyine Burdine. Despite a bachelor's degree and a paralegal certificate, he's also had trouble finding steady work.
RHYINE BURDINE: It's a lot of running around. You go through interviews. You know, you take tests and all this kind of stuff and then you start to get a little disappointed because you spend that you don't have to, you know, do these things and you don't see no results.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Butler decided to get a little assertive and went to the front of the line to check on his application.
MR. BUTLER: Excuse me. No, I don't want an application. I want to check on an application. I put in one about three weeks ago. Now who would I have to talk to about it?
PERSONNEL EMPLOYEE: The department. But what we're doing is accepting them right now. When we will be actively hiring, we will contact you.
MR. BUTLER: How soon is that?
PERSONNEL EMPLOYEE: It just depends. It depends on our needs and you know, your qualifications, so we will contact you though. I can't give you a definite date.
MR. BUTLER: Have you called anybody in the past three weeks?
PERSONNEL EMPLOYEE: We've been calling some people, but --
MR. BUTLER: Well, that's when it was turned in.
PERSONNEL EMPLOYEE: As I said, we will contact you. We've been getting an awful lot of applications, as you can tell, and my supervisor has been going through them and giving me some back to call for interviews.
MR. BUTLER: Okay, now, if I wanted to talk to your supervisor, would I have to make an appointment?
PERSONNEL EMPLOYEE: Yes, but see, we'll contact you.
MR. BUTLER: Can you give me a number? I'd like to talk to him anyway.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Butler persisted until he got a phone number, then a name. The last stop that morning was the Jewel Supermarket chain. They refused to let our cameras in, but they did give Butler an interview of sorts. Our microphone picked up the exchange.
MR. BUTLER: Do you have any positions open now?
JEWEL PERSONNEL EMPLOYEE: Well, not today, but that changes every day.
MR. BUTLER: Right. I've filled out lots of applications and I get no response to none of them.
JEWEL PERSONNEL EMPLOYEE: We receive thousands of applications a year so we'll get you an interview, Mr. Butler, in the next round of interviewing that occurs sometime in the next four to six weeks, I don't know when, because right now we don't have any open job orders.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Back home, Butler tried to call the name he had been given at Osco Drugs.
OSCO EMPLOYEE: [On Phone with Butler] Okay. He's in a meeting right now. Could I take a message?
MR. BUTLER: He's in a meeting?
OSCO EMPLOYEE: Yes. Can I help you with something?
MR. BUTLER: Yes. I would like to make an appointment to follow up on the application that I filled out.
OSCO EMPLOYEE: Okay. What we do is we review those applications and then we call the people we're interested in for interviews and we should be calling people in the next couple of days.
MR. BUTLER: In the next couple of days?
MR. BUTLER: Well, do I have to make an appointment to come see him?
OSCO EMPLOYEE: No. What we do is we call the people we're interested in for interviews.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Another variation on the frustrating refrain, "Don't call us. We'll call you."
MR. BUTLER: When you fill out an application, all these people do is probably take it and throw it in the garbage as soon as you leave.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Do you ever get discouraged?
MR. BUTLER: I can't let anger take over.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Yeah, but do you get angry?
MR. BUTLER: Oh, I'll be angry but there's nothing I can do. My motto is I don't have time to do time, because I know if I hit this man, I'm going to jail.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Despite his anger, Butler has never been in trouble with the law, and despite temptation, he has never succumbed to drugs, the refuge of so many of the unemployed. Do you think your children are going to have a better chance than you, or do you think they're going to have some of the same problems?
MR. BUTLER: To a point, they might still have the same problems because for one, they already got one strike against them because they were born black.
MRS. BUTLER: It makes me mad. It's frustrating to me. And it's easier for a black woman to get a job than a black man and I really think our society has put the black man in that position.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What would happen if you lost your job?
MRS. BUTLER: We'd lose everything. As a matter of fact, we would be one of the homeless, I'm pretty sure, if I lost my job.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: No one knows the plight of people like the Butlers better than William Julius Wilson, a professor of sociology and public policy, and the author of "The Truly Disadvantaged", the widely acclaimed study of the poorest segments of the black urban population. We spoke with Wilson in his office at the University of Chicago. I asked him if there were a lot of men in Will Butler's situation.
WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON, Sociologist: Yes, especially in cities like Chicago where they've suffered significant declines in higher paying jobs in the manufacturing sector, due to the relocation of industries out of the central city, increasing technology and automation. De-industrialization has had a devastating effect on minority males.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: More than others?
PROF. WILSON: More than others.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: You know, there are people who are just not sympathetic to that argument. They see the want ads, they say there are jobs out there and that these people just don't want to work.
PROF. WILSON: Well, you see people who make that claim haven't really done the research. Our study shows, for example, that people express a very strong desire to work. They would much rather work than be on welfare, but it's quite clear that they find it much more difficult to find employment, steady employment, than people in other neighborhoods and other communities. An overwhelming number of people in our sample, even people who have been out of the labor force for years, want desperately to work. There are minimum wagejobs, but people experience the frustration of trying to support themselves and their families with jobs that pay considerably less than minimum wage really in many respects. Sure, if you look hard enough, you'll find such work, but you also have to deal with the fact that rents have been skyrocketing, the cost of food has increased significantly. The general cost of living has just increased, you know. A sharp decline in real wages has just really hurt the poor and made it all the more difficult to survive in an already difficult situation.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But as you probably know, there are those who argue that the underclass, so-called, is a very small group, almost insignificant, and that you could really just write them off with no cost to society.
PROF. WILSON: You take the 10 largest cities in the United States and if you just focus, for example, on the minority population, that's blacks and hispanics who tend to be disproportionately concentrated in extreme poverty areas, you're talking about about a third of the population in these 10 largest cities. You're talking about 37 percent black that live in extreme poverty areas in these cities and about 27, 28 percent hispanic. Now that's a fairly significant number. You're talking about close to a million people. I consider that to be very significant. And I think we also have to recognize that the number of people living in these areas has grown and I think it's reasonable to conclude that the size of the underclass could expand and there are a number of people who are now in marginal working class positions that could slip down into the underclass.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Why haven't the federal anti-poverty programs touched these people?
PROF. WILSON: Well, a lot of these programs did work. You're talking about some of the training programs that helped people find jobs and so on, but there really were minimal efforts. In order to deal adequately with the problem of poverty, you have to combine job creation strategies with reforms in education, with creative job training efforts. These things have to be done all at once. Oftentimes, individuals would enter job training programs and then experience the frustration upon finishing those programs and finding no employment because we're in a recession. The periodic recessions of the 1970s certainly discouraged a number of inner-city residents who were involved in a lot of these job training exercises.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: How serious is that kind of discouragement, and do you see it having effects in the community?
PROF. WILSON: I think it is discouraging. Resignation has set in among a lot of people. They go out and they experience repeated frustrations and they kind of just throw up their hands in despair and to some extent give up. Now a lot of them hold on as long as they can. Many of them sort of resort to street life because they can't make it. That's why the homeless population has increased so much in inner-city neighborhoods. Others resort to crime. But the fact is that it's becoming increasingly difficult for the typical resident to meet what we consider to be mainstream expectations.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Is it getting worse?
PROF. WILSON: It is getting worse. Let me give you one example of what I'm talking about. Take the community of Oakland, which is the poorest inner-city ghetto neighborhood in Chicago, just North here of the University of Chicago. In 1950, in that neighborhood, there were 70 employed males for every 100 females ages 16 and over in 1950. By 1980, that figure had plummeted to 19, 19 employed malesfor every 100 females 30 years later.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What are the social consequences of something like that?
PROF. WILSON: There are a number of social consequences. One is a sharp increase in the number of poor, single parent families, because these young men are not in the position to support a family and research shows that the chances of moving out of poverty if you are a female headed family are significantly less than the chances of a married couple family moving out of poverty.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: There's been some research recently that says a rising tide is lifting all boats and that this surge is going to sweep away the underclass.
PROF. WILSON: Well, there is some research, for example, that shows that a full employment economy definitely will improve the situation of those at the bottom of the economic, socii-economic ladder. But it is also the case that the economy is changing and the nature of the jobs demand more education and training than ever before and despite the fact that there'll be a lot of jobs available, people are so poorly, a lot of people in poor neighborhoods are so poorly trained and are coming out of inner- city schools where they've been crippled and lack the ability to read and write adequately, they're going to be outside this labor market.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What does this say about this country that we have a group of people like this piling up at the bottom?
PROF. WILSON: I'll tell you what it says to me. To me, it says that our country is not committed to the principle of equal social worth, that is to say that every man, woman and child in this rich democracy should be, should live according to the standards of civilization, that is to say, they should be able to be above -- they should not be in poverty, they should have a job and they should be able to make enough money to support themselves and their family. It says to me that our country is not committed to that principle. Our country is not committed to the idea of social rights for citizens. We talk about political rights, we talk about civil rights, but we don't talk about social rights, the right to be free of poverty and economic degradation. There are some societies in our world that are committed to that principle. Western European democracies are committed to that principle, but we are not.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: So where is the hope that we won't have a permanent group of people living at the bottom? I mean, because what signs do you see that there is any real interest?
PROF. WILSON: All right. I tend to be somewhat of an optimist, but there is one sign that I have noticed that I think we should emphasize, not lose sight of, and that is the growing awareness among our leaders in business, in education, and in the government that the problems of poverty, joblessness, labor market efficiency, and the quality of the work force are interrelated and that unless we address these interrelated problems, America will face an economic crisis within a few years. And I think that once you put it that way, then we're not talking about just the problems in the inner-city, we're talking about the problems of a nation. And we don't treat inner-city blacks and inner-city minorities and inner- city whites in isolation and separate them out for special separate treatment. We develop a comprehensive program which includes them, a program to make America more competitive in the international market. I think once you approach it that way, you're much more likely to get meaningful programs started that would ultimately improve the chances in life of those who are truly disadvantaged.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But you can't do it without a program or spending lots of money.
PROF. WILSON: We have the money. When we talk about spending in American society and we look at the amount of money that we shelled out to bail the savings & loans companies. Look, we can find the money. You sell this to the American program by saying you're spending money not just to improve conditions just for a group, a specific group in the inner-city, but you're spending money to put America in a more competitive position so that you have real economic returns down the road. It's an investment. That's the kind of strategy I think you need, the kind of rhetoric you need in adopting such a strategy.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Are you saying that racism is a factor?
PROF. WILSON: Certainly it affects the way people perceive some of these problems and they say, well, I'm not going to worry about this, but if you clearly show them that this will have an effect on the overall economy and it will have an effect on our future lifestyle --
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Everybody.
PROF. WILSON: Everybody.
PROF. WILSON: That's right. Then I think you can begin to realistically think about or you can begin to be I think optimistic about efforts taken to address these problems.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, William Julius Wilson, thank you.
MR. MacNeil: A postscript. With the help of the Community Linkages Agency, Will Butler has finally gotten a job as a driver for a direct mail company. Next week, Charlayne profiles a crack mother in a New York suburb. FINALLY - MICHAEL MORIARTY
MR. LEHRER: Finally tonight a profile of a most unusual actor. His name is Michael Moriarty. Joanna Simon reports.
MS. SIMON: He's equally at home in a nightclub, on a stage, on a conductor's podium, or starring in a television series. Will the real Michael Moriarty please stand up?
MICHAEL MORIARTY: In a country of specialization, they would call me scatter brains and say jack of all trades, master of none, he's been a butterfly from here to there and he does this and this. Fine, I'm a butterfly or a scatter brain, I don't care what they think. It doesn't matter, as Horwitz says, what they say doesn't matter.
MS. SIMON: In 1974, Michael Moriarty rose to national prominence when in the course of three months, he won a Tony Award on Broadway, an Emmy for a television performance, and starred in the highly acclaimed film "Bang the Drum Slowly". [SCENE FROM MOVIE]
MS. SIMON: After this enormously successful debut, it was assumed that Moriarty's film career was guaranteed. Offers poured in for leading roles, but one after another he turned them down. You could have gone the way of most Hollywood leading men, with fame, fortune, a Mercedes, a swimming pool, and yet you didn't do that. Why?
MR. MORIARTY: I didn't want it. It's not enough.
MR. MORIARTY: Well, it's been proven it's not enough. I've seen superstars. I've met them. I know them. For me it's not enough. I would not have written the music I've written. I would not have written the plays I've written. I would not have one whole arm of my creativity, writing and music, two of them. I wouldn't have them. I'd be so busy building a career and protecting my career, staying in the fast lane, staying up there with the front runners. I didn't know at the time there were a lot of things I had to work out and put in order in my personal life.
MS. SIMON: Moriarty speaks openly about his troubled past. He grew up in Detroit, a chronically depressed child of alcoholic parents. It wasn't until a trip to Florence, Italy, in his early 20s that he says he first experienced real happiness. But his sense of euphoria soon got out of control.
MR. MORIARTY: The sense of trapped started leaving me and I saw the potential for life. In the hands of someone like Michelangelo or DeVinci, I saw the potential, this vast wide open range of things you could do and say and be, so it was like a pressure cooker coming off. The top came off me. I was telling the world about God, about life. I was talking to them about the truth and this and that, so I actually had a, you know, a Shaman experience, they call in Eastern religion, I had seen the truth finally. And it is always described as being dangerous if you're not in the right atmosphere. And I came back and I was not among truly understanding, completely understanding people and they put me in a situation that was wrong.
MS. SIMON: Moriarty wound up in a mental hospital where he was given 10 electro shock treatments.
MR. MORIARTY: And they said whatever is going on inside that head, we're going to stop it. Well, at the end of it, I had no memory, I had no ability to communicate past two or three sentences, so I came out a basket case and they sent me home.
MS. SIMON: Moriarty returned to his family and slowly recovering began to concentrate on an acting career. He spent four years at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and three years working odd jobs in New York, waiting for his break. His spectacular 1974 debut was followed by another success, a second Emmy and a Golden Globe award for his portrayal of a Nazi colonel in the television mini-series "Holocaust".
MR. MORIARTY: [In "Holocaust"] We have committed no crimes. We have merely followed the logic of European history. A case can be made for Auschwitz. I'm a lawyer, you know. I understand these things. No shame, gentlemen, no apologies. We must make clear to the world that we stood between civilization and the Jewish plot to dominate the world.
MR. MORIARTY: That's the object of art, is to tell the story of the human heart and the human heart has one part of it that's been corrupted, and if I could tell that story and warn people and say the consequences of this are enormous and you're own self-loathing will be unending as you wake up to what you've done, I mean, what more could an audience do as terms a gift to an audience?
MS. SIMON: As an artist, Moriarty is still wrestling with his own demons, using his autobiographical play as special providence to better understand himself.
MR. MORIARTY: [Reciting Poem] At 23 years of age, I saw God. I spent the next 24 years coming to some understanding of what I saw. My remaining years shall be spent in an ever expanding ecstacy, a celebration, an ever growth of testament to the possibility of Eden, to the certainty of an eternal bliss.
MS. SIMON: Moriarty wrote that poem while waiting for services in Westminster Abbey in a Johanne Sebastian Bach score that he always carries with him. While he studied jazz piano, now he's teaching himself to play classical music by practicing Bach's preludes and feuds.
MR. MORIARTY: My first love is music and I heard that as an infant in the cradle. I heard Rockmanonov, Beethoven, Brahms and Art Tadum and Nat King Cole when he had his trio, so I had this extraordinary wide range of music coming in to my ears.
MS. SIMON: As a result, there's an extraordinarily wide range of music pouring out of Moriarty. For starters, he composes and performs jazz and recently could be heard on weekendsat the Ballroom, a New York City cabaret. He's also taking his first steps as a composer of classical music. To add to his long list of talents, he's also a teacher, holding acting classes in the New York City apartment where he and his wife live. Moriarty says he can't limit himself to doing just one thing for the rest of his life. [MORIARTY TEACHING ACTING]
MS. SIMON: What drives you to do all these things?
MR. MORIARTY: It's harder for me not to do them. For me to not speak and sing and say what I am would be such a labor. Do you realize it would be much harder for me to sit on what I am than to just get out of the way, so I just get out of my way and then it just comes up and it's so easy. People say where do you get all the energy, where do you get all the time? That's not even a question I have. I just live and the stuff comes out.
MS. SIMON: While his writing, music and teaching come first in his heart, for now, acting is still the way Michael Moriarty makes his living. He's currently filming a new NBC television series, Law and Order, to be aired this fall and he stars in two feature films about to be released. But for all his success, Moriarty has also suffered an emotional toll; the devastating breakdown and resulting electro shock treatments haunt him to this day.
MR. MORIARTY: I think there were better ways to deal with it, but if there had been better ways, I wouldn't have the life I have now. So whatever price I paid is the right price because I can't imagine anyone in the whole wide world now or ever having a richer or more miraculous life than I have now and have had. RECAP
MR. MacNeil: Once again, Wednesday's main stories, a new era in U.S. space exploration was launched with the successful deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope. Ten years of Sandinista rule ended in Nicaragua with the inauguration of Violeta Chamorro as president and Pres. Bush defended his decision not to impose sanctions on Moscow for its crackdown in Lithuania. Good night, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Good night, Robin. We'll see you tomorrow night. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
Producing Organization
NewsHour Productions
Contributing Organization
NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/507-c53dz03q1b).
Episode Description
This episode's headline: Profile - Violeta Chamorro; Series - Through the Safety Net; Finally - Michael Morarity. The guests include In New York: ROBERT MacNeil; In Washington: JAMES LEHRER; CORRESPONDENTS: CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT; CHARLES KRAUSE. Byline: In New York: ROBERT MacNeil; In Washington: JAMES LEHRER; CORRESPONDENTS: CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT; CHARLES KRAUSE
Asset type
Film and Television
War and Conflict
Politics and Government
Copyright NewsHour Productions, LLC. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License (
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
AAPB Contributor Holdings
NewsHour Productions
Identifier: NH-19900425 (NH Air Date)
Format: 1 inch videotape
Generation: Master
Duration: 01:00:00;00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” 1990-04-25, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 24, 2024,
MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1990-04-25. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 24, 2024. <>.
APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from