Mitchell Reports | June 22, 2012
>>> the face of poverty here at home in america is changing. according to the latest government data, families lost nearly 40% of their net worth in recent years. it is the largest, hardest generational change and it hits the middle class hardest. last fall, dateline nbc began following three middle class families as they confronted poverty for the first time. here is part of lester holt 's interview with one of those families.
>> looking at the unemployment check here and looking at the bills here, and this check doesn't add up to these bills. he's got to find a job.
>> needing every penny for rent, joyce puts on a brave face and heads to the sister carmen food pantry .
>> i can make banana bread . that's not too bad for my kids.
>> to make the experience more dignified for its clients, sister carmen designed the space to mimic a supermarket but there is only so much the center can do.
>> there's no mistaking this for safeway. it's a food bank .
>> exactly. it's a food bank . i'm thrilled and blessed to have sister carmen . but i hate coming back here. i hate it. i want to be able -- i want to pick what i want to eat. i want to feed my kids what my kids will eat and not have to worry about okay, but this is all we've got.
>> each time you come here, you're praying it's the last?
>> yes. i don't want to have to come back yet i know in two weeks i'll be here again.
>> christmas is only days away as joyce wraps the presents that sister carmen donated to her kids, she struggles to keep up the facade that everything is okay.
>> i'm trying to stay above water. i'm trying not to drown and not to sink.
>> joyce doesn't realize it yet, but a storm is coming.
>> lester holt joins me now. that is heartbreaking. it's a story being told all across america .
>> it is, and it's only coming to light now. the financial crisis started in 2008 but the people we're profiling in this story are middle class so when they lost their jobs, in this case the husband and wife lose their job, they had some savings. they had the three months or more in the bank so they got by. then they relied on family. now you're starting to see this wave, they've reached the end of their rope and now growing to food banks , now applying for medicaid and using food stamps . at the same time, they're experiencing this sense of shame like what am i doing at a food bank and what are my neighbors going to think. we did this story around boulder, colorado, upper middle class neighborhoods where people aren't poor. at least nobody thinks anyone's poor. they think they're the only one. we find out this is happening around the country.
>> when you look at this, we always read the monthly jobs data and long term unemployment which is so persistent and of course, we know in minority communities it's so much higher. but the fact is that people have been out of work for longer in this recession and post-recession than in comparable periods.
>> and they didn't think they would be one of those people. everyone of course was afraid for their job at the outset of this, and even when these individuals we profiled lost their jobs, they thought well, got a master's degree, i'm in good sthhape, i'll find another job. you go to the first interview, get a no, and go to the second one, and after awhile reality sets in and you start looking at the money coming in and the money going out and it's not adding up. these are folks that have had to make fundamental changes in their life. many of them have had counseling, the sister carmen we talked about, they basically sit them down and say you don't understand, you're poor now, you can't afford that cable package anymore, you need to downgrade your internet, stop going out to dinner, all these things they were used to. suddenly they're living in a middle class neighborhood but they don't have a middle class lifestyle anymore.
>> it also gets to the point of the savings rate , the fact that most people in america have not saved money for these kinds of eventualities.
>> or have been saving based on an outdated model, three months. with long term unemployment that just doesn't get it. that's the true cold reality .
>> lester holt , dateline is 8:00 tonight?
>> this will air sunday.
>> this is sunday.
>> this particular program airs sunday.
>> i have to get it right.
>> i never stop working.
>> i was going to say that. you're doing "nightly news" tonight, then "dateline." saturday --
>> i have to pick up your dry cleaning. there's that.
>> never ask you to do that. sunday morning and then dateline and sunday nightly. a man for all seasons.
>> i'm going to barricade myself for the weekend.
>> this is a heartbreaking story.
>> i hope people watch. i think folks will find something in this to relate to, either they are there or realize how close a lot of us are.
>> great to see you.
>> nice to have you in new york.
>>> in today's politico briefing, how