tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera April 5, 2016 9:00pm-9:31pm EDT
>> if i can't figure out a way to access some of that wealth, then shame on me. >> all week long al jazeera america is showcasing a selection of your stories. they include some of the most important issues we've covered on this channel for you, and there are few issues that matter more to my team and me than america's shrinking middle class. i've explained the brutal economic headwinds blasting middle income americans. those changes include technology, stagnant changes, the housing market collapse and a great recession that left many workers unemployed or earning a lot less than they were before. i brought you personal, emotional stories of families struggling to survive. now, the good news is along with the pain, there is hope. there's no better example of this mixed picture than philadelphia. a city where i spend about half of my time. the loss of philly's manufacturing base along with high crime, poverty and a poor
public school system have taken a huge toll. now, remarkably philadelphia's middle class has started to stabilize, but it's a different middle class than it was during the 1970s. it's less blue collar, more professionals. our story from two years ago begins in a south philadelphia neighborhood where that transformation is clear. fell philadelphia is a city beloved for reasons as diverse as the people that live here, celebrated in equal parts for its cheese steaks and rich history and many, many a "rocky" movie. here in south philadelphia lies a gem of a restaurant called victor cafe. [ singing ] it's as rich in history as the city itself, established in 1918 by greg destefano's grandfather.
as a matter of fact, part of the last "rocky" movie was filmed here. what did you love about filming? >> i loved the smallness of it when you don't get loss when a sporting team wins an event. it's such a celebration. we're an underdog city and fighting for respectability. we have a lot of great things here. >> describe what somebody in philly who is middle class feels like to you. >> i mean, what is middle class? it's families just working hard, struggling to make their payments, getting their kids in some kind of a good school. >> it's a middle class struggle common throughout the u.s., but philadelphia's story has a unique twist. in the last 40 years, the city has lost a quarter of its population, almost 400,000 people. 43% of that population loss was the middle class. nationwide the middle class has shrunk since 1970 from 60% of
the population to 51%. philadelphia's middle class has shrunk considerably more than the rest of the country to just 42%. >> this report was fascinating. >> larry wrote a comprehensive pour pew charitable trust on the decline of philadelphia's middle class. >> even there's a huge decline in the middle class for 40 years, if you look back from 2000 on it's pretty flat. it seems to have stabilized. >> the milgz class is a reflection of a city's economic health. it fuels the local economy like it's been doing here at philadelphia's italian market for the last 100 years. the middle class uses and pays for a city's services, and it serves as a stepping stone for those who want to climb the economic ladder. philadelphia's middle class carries a much larger burden than other cities do. for one, it's taxes support one of the larjest groups of low-income residents in the country, second only to detroit. not only that, but philadelphia
has fewer rich residents, just 9% of the population, to offset that burden. much lower than most u.s. cities. this is stretching philly's middle class, causing higher taxes and limiting how much money the city can spend on important services like police, fire, and updating its aging infrastructure. philadelphia's middle class may have hollowed dramatically since the 1970s, but there's a still solid albeit vibrant base in the city. this corner is one of those neighborhoods. traditionally blue collar italian-american, the area is now in the midst of a transformation as a new middle class of young professionals move in. they could be the foundation of a new middle class here. philadelphia magazine news director bryan howard bought a house here in 2009.
you could call him the face of the new middle class. how does this feel to you as part of a city that has seen decades of hollowing out of the middle class? >> this feels like a good middle class neighborhood. i like it. i mean, there are a lot of newer faces on my block, but there's also faces who have been there for decades. people who were born on the block and still live there. >> it's a tentative peace between the two faces of the middle class. young professionals have been buying up property in the neighborhood the past few years and bringing with it many changes. byob restaurants, hipsters and higher home prices. what do they think of guys like you? >> we get along, you know. i think there was a sort of feeling each other out period, you know, the first winter we were here. i didn't shovel my block right away, and i got some side-long looks.
>> they get from a middle class that's historically been blue collar, mosting manufacturing and mid-level office jobs. that's changed now. in 1970 philadelphia's work force was roughly equal parts blue collar jobs and white collar like finance and real estate. in the last 40 years, manufacturing jobs plummeted to just 10% of the city's work force, while white collar jobs have almost doubled to 53%. >> people with a long-term investment in the neighborhood can get priced out. >> brian took me on a walk of his neighborhood to show me how much it's changed. >> an old school barbershop over there, mexican and what else do we have? >> we have fountain porter over here, which is a bar, and this is a cigar shop, which has the oldest cigar shop in south philly. >> yes. >> so does this work? >> make sure you get that one! >> we got it. >> all right. >> clearly, he doesn't mind the new philly.
the guy yelling is a regular at the cigar shop as as he likes to be called anthony. he's lived here his entire life. you could call him the face of the old middle class. now you have a whole bunch of different people moving in. you have young professionals moving in. does that keep the neighborhood solid? >> yes, they have kept our neighborhood solid. it's changed because their aspect is a little different than ours. >> because of their age? >> because of both. both. >> coming up, i'll take you to a black middle class neighborhood in philadelphia. you hear from residents fear they'll be the first to slip down the economic ladder. later, one man's plight to find beauty and meaning in a sea of abandoned homes that used to be a vibrant middle class neighborhood in detroit.
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philadelphia offers a vivid example of stark and stunning decline of the middle class in major american cities, but interestingly philly's black middle class has grown dramatically since the 1970s. that's a good thing. even so, many in philadelphia's black middle class don't feel like they're on equal financial footing with their white counterparts. lower median income and fewer resources have forced some black communities in philadelphia to get resourceful, and you can see this happening in an area called windfield. it's a largely black middle class neighborhood in west philadelphia. how the community has kept itself together over the last 40 years as nearby middle class areas hollowed out. [ singing ]
it's sunday morning at pin memorial church in the winnfield neighborhood of west philadelphia. [ singing ] >> frances has been going to this church for decades. she moved to winnfield in the '60s when the neighborhood was primarily jewish. this church used to be a synagogue. >> back in the 1800s it was mostly angelo saxton, and in the '60s the african-american community which is now 94% of african-americans. i was the second black family to move on diamond street. >> winnfield is one of the philadelphia's few predominantly black middle class areas. it looks like every area that's middle class. many blocks have block captains who keep an eye on what's going on, whether it's garbage collection or snow removal or crime or deciding who is holding the block party this year.
winnfield has a strong identity. it's a tight-knit community spread out on curving treelined streets with beautiful old stone homes. it's not unusual to see scenes like this in winnfield, someone actually sweeping the street. a mile away blighted homes and abandoned businesses make up the landscape. tell me why this area has maintained itself in a way other areas haven't in philadelphia? >> well, you have, for instance, the winnfield residents association. it's one of the oldest residential institutions in the city. maybe in the country. they have marched and walked and had block captains staying up all night with candles, candlelight marches. you have individual block clubs that formed because of crime. >> philadelphia's middle class is more diverse than in the 1980s. back then 74% of the middle class is white. that number decreased to 54%. now blacks make up 42% of the
middle class. austin says the general feeling here is there's a difference between white and black middle class in philadelphia. >> when you look at the median income, it's such a wide gap from blacks to whites that you never catch up to what whites are making because you don't have those opportunities. >> income varies in philadelphia between white middle class and black middle class by neighborhood. the median income for winnfield is about $40,000 a year. in nearby rocksboro a white middle class neighborhood the median income is over $60,000. larry ikele studied this for the pew trust. he said blacks don't have the same kinds of jobs as white middle class. fwloo people in the black middle class tell you a lot of that is generated by public sector jobs
and related jobs and some african-american analysts and scholars will tell you that they haven't made as much progress in private sector, and they would like to see that. >> some economists believe it makes it harder for black middle class citizens to climb the economic ladder or send their children to better schools. some of the communities where philadelphia's black middle class are living aren't gent fieing, so their home values aren't appreciating. they say the resilience of winnfield is due to the vigilance of residents and organizations like the winnfield residents association. >> do you think that's the answer to success in predominantly white neighborhoods, too? >> when you look at white neighborhoods it may not be publicized as much. they quietly work together to solve their problems. they have the resources that often african-american communities don't have. they have to work harder to get to that level. they may have a network of
relatives who are judges and lawyers and indian chiefs. so they can get things done. whereas, african-americans may not have access to that community. >> philadelphians wore about their standing in the middle class. pew charitable trust found that 59% of black philadelphians fear they will slip out of the milgz class compared to 41% of white middle class residents. the former mayor, michael nutter, a long-time resident of winnfield is keenly aware of the problem. >> so african-american community wealth i think over the last few years generally has gone up. not as much as some communities. we're also seeing immigrant wealth going up as well. the biggest challenge the city faces across the races in most instances is actually poverty. we're not only seeing that in the city, but even poverty rising in our suburbs around the city of philadelphia. so that has been an inner generational challenge for this city this region.
>> philadelphia is poorer today than it was 1970s when 15% of the population lived below the poverty line. that number is now 27% among the highest in the nation. she's optimistic. she says many people that left winnfield in the past are starting to return and reinvest in the neighborhood. >> you see them moving back because of the taxes and blatant racism that they have happened. these are middle class people who decided it's much better to come back here. they're working to fight to make the school system better, to make changes because they have that courage and that passion. [ singing ] >> some sad news since we first ran this story back in 2014. frances who invited me to sit at her kitchen table and talk about her experiences about being black and in the middle class died last august at the age of
75. our condolences to her family and thanks for her contribution to the community she helped build in winnfield. drugs, crime, gangs. these are a few things that abandoned houses attract when middle class families move out of big american cities, and detroit has a real problem. 139 square miles of abandoned buildings. it's ugly, and it's a major headache for the city. coming up, we introduce you to one man that thinks it's pretty beautiful. >> every monday night. >> i lived that character. >> go one on one with america's movers and shakers. >> we will be able to see change. >> gripping... inspiring... entertaining. no topic off limits. >> 'cause i'm like, "dad, there are hookers in this house". >> exclusive conversations you won't find anywhere else. >> these are very vivid, human stories. >> if you have an agenda with people, you sometimes don't see the truth. >> "talk to al jazeera". monday, 6:00 eastern.
only on al jazeera america. >> these people have decided that today they will be arrested. >> i know that i'm being surveilled. >> people are not getting the care that they need. >> this is a crime against humanity. >> hands up... >> don't shoot. >> hands up... >> don't shoot. >> what do we want? >> justice. >> when do we want it? >> now. >> explosions going on... we're not quite sure - >> is that an i.e.d.?
>> al jazeera america brings you independent reporting without spin. >> not everybody is asking the questions you're asking me today. >> we give you more perspectives >> the separatists took control a few days ago. >> and a global view. >> now everybody in this country can hear them. >> getting the story first-hand. >> they have travelled for weeks, sometimes months. >> what's your message then? >> we need help now. >> you're watching al jazeera america. one of my missions since al jazeera america launched was to really understand what's happening to the milgz class and why it's shrinking. one major reason was high unemployment during the great recession, and then there is
something economists call underemployment. two years ago i got into a cab driven by a guy who was underemployed. jay stein was working as a new york city taxi driver, but not by choice. a few years earlier he had a good job working in the online sales industry firmly in the middle class. when his job went under, jay decided to start driving a cab. his salary was cut in half, but he didn't give up on the american dream. you have been doing this seven months now in. >> seven, eight months, yeah. >> how do you feel about this? >> i don't like it. it's very difficult work for a lot of hours for very little money. i was earning 125,000 plus, plus, plus commission, expenses. now i'm earning maybe $60,000 gross. it's a 12-hour day hustle. >> how long did you think you'd be doing this? >> hopefully today is my last
day. >> i'm glad we got you. you're working pretty hard to get something else? >> yes, absolutely. when somebody wants to meet with me, i'll make myself available and go off duty about an hour before the interview, get to a parking lot, throw the cab into a parking lot, change in the cab, get up to the interview. after the interview is over, get back in the cab and go back to work. >> did anybody ever have occasion to ask you whether you felt you were part of the middle class? >> not recently. >> were you before this job? >> i considered myself to be middle class, yeah. >> you still do? >> yes, i do, however, there are certain issues i'm dealing with, namely lack of discretionary income. i stopped saving. in other words, my life isn't on cruise control. to me, that's the definition of middle class. you can save, you can think forward, you can think sometimes in the future. emergencies come up, and you can take care of them. other than the bills getting
paid, i have no opportunity to enjoy what life has to offer. if there's an emergency, which account do i raid to pay for that emergency? >> you sound like a guy who understands the american dream. has a piece of it, and has had a setback and wants to get back on the road to achieving it. what's the road map for that for you? >> the road map? i'll continue to drive a cab to pay bills. this is not going to be forever for me. i didn't go to college to drive a cab. i'm optimistic about the future, because we're in one of the wealthiest cities in the world. if i can't figure out a way to access some of that wealth, then shame on me. >> since that story aired in 2014, jay stein decided he'd had enough of the daily hustle of a cabbie's life. he moved to florida where he now hustles in a new way. he brokers e-mail data to advertisers. he struggles economically.
quote, he hustles his rear-end off, only this time there's way more sunshine. the last story is to detroit, a city whose middle class is devastated by the near collapse of the u.s. auto industry and the largest municipal bankruptcy in american history. the most startling symbol of detroit's decline is urban blight. entire neighborhoods once home to middle class auto workers are abandoned and decaying. in 2013 almost one-fifth of all city structures were blighted. since then, several thousand homes have been demolished, but the blight remains overwhelming. we found one man in detroit who sees beauty in the epidemic. tony is a detroit native who spepds a lot of time taking stark photos of the city's decay and distress. >> i'm tony mica. people know might know me as tony detroit. as of right now, i have over
350,000 followers on instagram. the pictures i post of detroit are basically pictures that i see every day just being a detroiter. old architecture, homeless people, abandoned buildings, burned-out buildings. when i walk out the front door, it's really different than any other city, big city in america, i believe in the sense that even on a saturday night, it's pretty desolate. looking through my instagram account, you can pull up pictures of many different areas of the city. here's one from southwest detroit. a lot of the houses look as if it was abruptly abandoned, clothing in the drawers, food in the refrigerator. one of my favorite interior abandoned houses. also there's the abandoned brewster projects. the brewster projects was opened in 1935. it was the first low-income
housing in the country. the history is still here. smoking robinson played basketball here and lived here. lily tomlin, aretha franklin, a lot of motown lived here. the few incidences where i was really threatened was in the brewster center. a lot of gangs, which is why they're tearing it down. the eco-system that comes from a blighted community is firstly drugs. we are on the east side of detroit on euclid street. it's pretty much overrun with crips. it's one of the most blighted parts of the city that i've known. they're either boarded up, burned down, or they're -- whoa. hold on. bumpy ride. they're turned into drug houses. i don't think anybody lives on this block whatsoever. , which is why the road is in
disrepair. okay. this is not good. the people in the doorway. okay. it's one of the most dangerous areas of the city. the street of hollywood on the east side of detroit appeals to me more so than any other street in the city because of the abandoned houses on this block. you can tell that such heart and soul was put into the making of it. just left to rot. we're at the house on euclid street off of euclid and brush. it's been my favorite house to shoot because of the old architecture of the outside of it. anybody home? hello? the first rule as you go into an abandoned building, always announce yourself. you don't want to startle any squatters. a baby's toy at the foot of the stairs. everything i capture is basically as i find it. very seldom do i move an object.
detroit has changed me. for people who say, oh, i only photograph the negative of detroit, i beg to differ. i think i show the world that, hey, look at me. give me some help. come at me all you want, but detroit is my life and my love, and i will never, ever talk bad about her. >> tony now has more than 400,000 instagram followers, and he still photographs abandoned buildings both in detroit and beyond. that's our show for today. i'm ali velshi. thank you for joining us.