Archive for July 7, 2011

Reunion Jitters

A massive reunion of old farts is happening this weekend in Reston Virginia, home to hundreds of us who grew up awkwardly but mostly happily in the 60s and 70s, in various states of consciousness. We’re all 50-somethings now and while the reunion is a great concept, it’s rife with degrees of anxiety.

First of all, I remember when I used to travel light. Not anymore. I will be attending the reunion with my girlfriend, Millie; my son, Charlie and Suki The Dog (turns out the Reston Sheraton accepts pets). My own friggin’ posse, for Christ’s sake.

Here are the questions and encounters I most fear:

So how you been?

This puts you in a position of sorting through 25 years of memories and life events and is not possible to answer honestly in less than three and a half hours.

Have you met your son, Levon?

You know, I remember that it might once have been cool to name your son after an Elton John song, but I don’t remember this particular kid. This can’t really be my son, right? Cute little fella (he’s now 34 and weighs 280 pounds). Funny! Ha ha! Buh-bye, now.

Remember that night on the 16th fairway of the North golf course?

This is when my girlfriend, Millie, shoots me a look full of daggers and I clear my throat repeatedly, hoping it drowns out the description of the actual event that occurred on the 16th fairway of the North golf course. Suffice to say nothing really good happens on a golf course late at night. Well, ok, it was good…then.

Remember when you drove your car ON the plaza early one morning?

This is when I check my calendar quickly and do some fast arithmetic to come up with the exact day the statute of limitations might have expired. It’s no longer acceptable to drive your car drunk on an actual sidewalk as I understand it, but for those remembering the alleged incident- it is, apparently, completely hysterical.

Remember the time we did mushrooms and jammed all night?

This is when my 19 year-old son, Charlie, shoots me a bemused look and I clear my throat repeatedly hoping it drowns out the description of what may have been ingested that night so long ago. I later point out to my posse how yummy Portobello mushrooms are nestled in a bed of lettuce and a creamy wine sauce.

Yes, the possibilities are endless. I may or may not report back.

Social Programs: Disconnect Between Congress and the Public

As Democrats and Republicans go hurtling toward draconian deficit reduction with their hair on fire- new polling suggests they do so at their own risk. Solid majorities don’t want anyone messing with the grand social safety net.

Here are the major findings according to Andrew Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center:

On the broad question of whether it is more important to reduce the budget deficit or to maintain current Medicare and Social Security benefits, the public decisively supports maintaining the status quo. Six-in-ten (60%) say it is more important to keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are; only about half as many (32%) say it is more important to take steps to reduce the budget deficit.

Most Americans also oppose making Medicare recipients more responsible for their health care costs and allowing states to limit Medicaid eligibility. About six-in-ten (61%) say people on Medicare already pay enough of their own health care costs, while only 31% think recipients need to be responsible for more of the costs of their health care in order to make the system financially secure.

So where is this great clamoring for deficit reduction that both parties seem convinced is rampant? And where is the anti-government fever that is also seen as a given?

Republicans face far more serious internal divisions over entitlement reforms than do Democrats. Lower income Republicans are consistently more likely to oppose reductions in benefits – from Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid – than are more affluent Republicans.

Overwhelming numbers of Americans agree that, over the years, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have been good for the country. But these programs receive negative marks for current performance, and their finances are widely viewed as troubled.

The negative marks for current performance, by the way, come from those who haven’t actually been using these programs much. Those who do- the elderly- think they work just fine:

People ages 65 and older are the only age group in which majorities say the three major entitlement programs work well; seniors also overwhelmingly say it is more important to maintain Social Security and Medicare benefits than to reduce the budget deficit. Those 50 to 64 also broadly favor keeping benefits as they are. Younger Americans support maintaining Social Security and Medicare benefits, but by smaller margins than older age groups.

It’s ironic that most lawmakers seem to fear the wrath of the public if they don’t cut these entitlement programs. Based on these polling numbers anyway, what they may need to fear are the political consequences of creating gaping holes in the public safety net at a time of genuine economic uncertainty.