Lee Russell/Library of Congress

Children looking at posters in front of movie, Saturday, Steele, Mo., August 1938.

Profiles: Charles MacArthur

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 

Born 1928
Western New York state

I had never been down to the rail yard, but everybody told us about some code on the rails where you could get food. We lived right next door to the church in the parsonage. Dad was a Methodist minister.

I went to the movies. Four times in a year was the most we ever could afford to go to the movies. And it cost 12 and 15 cents for admission, so money was terribly tight. The two things we wanted to see ... cartoons were shown at that time once every couple of movies. Whenever a cartoon came on the screen, all of the kids would cheer. Now when I see cartoons on television I say “What, a damn cartoon again?”

Interview by Michael Lawson

This profile was produced with help from sources in the Public Insight Network from American Public Media.

What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.


Back Story

The authors talk about What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele talk about the project, and why they decided to revisit a book they wrote two decades ago, in a series of video clips produced by the Workshop.

Nation's Story

Who pays the taxes?

Who pays the taxes?

We feature charts, maps, photos and other visualizations that reflect the state of the economy as part of our What Went Wrong project. This column chart shows the growing disparity between what individuals and corporations pay in taxes. In the 1950s, the difference was 22 percent. Recent figures show the difference is 62 percent.

Rags to rags: Economic mobility hard to come by

New Pew Center on States report confirms that moving up the American economic ladder is difficult, even though most people have more income than their parents.

Homelessness takes it toll on Florida's youngest

Florida, as a center of the housing boom, still struggles to recover from the Great Recession. Financial stresses and widespread foreclosures have placed families in precarious situations, resulting in a spike in child homelessness. Susannah Nesmith reports in the Broward Bulldog.

Older workers face challenges in Silicon Valley

An advanced degree and experience in the tech sector should be a ticket to a job in today's economy. But older workers in the heart of the new economy, Silicon Valley, are finding their resume is not the issue. Aaron Glantz reports in The Bay Citizen.

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Read an Excerpt

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

Check out the first chapter of Barlett and Steele's 2012 book here.