In his State of the Union address, President Reagan focused heavily on the concerns of the middle class, requesting patience with the nation's economic problems and offering new programs to broaden educational opportunities, provide jobs and contain inflation.
At the same time, he called on the middle class to make some sacrifices--including a six-month delay in cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, a one-year freeze on federal pay and pensions, and a willingness to accept a standby tax increase.
To get a sense of how his address was received here, six Washington Post reporters watched the speech at the homes of some middle-income residents of the Washington area.
While the selection was not scientific and their opinions clearly cannot reflect the full range of opinion, the people interviewed were chosen from specific segments of the population: a couple just starting out, a working mother who is raising two children by herself, a retired couple, a laid-off worker, a mid-level federal worker, and a man with a small business.
Here's how they reacted:
After spending five hours yesterday at unemployment offices in Wheaton and the District of Columbia, Thomas Kinder, 47, was anxious to hear President Reagan say he will spend money to create new jobs.
"That would tickle me pink," said Kinder, one of 200 men in his 929-member union who is out of work.
But he was disappointed by the message. "America is not on the mend," he said last night after watching Reagan on TV. "I don't want to say the president is misleading us, but he's not speaking to skilled labor."
Kinder, a lifelong Rockville resident, has been out of work since Dec. 17, when he and his fellow mechanics finished the sheet-metal work at the new Washington Square office building at Connecticut and L streets NW.
"It disturbs me when he tells us how good this country is doing," said Kinder, who did not vote for Reagan. "How can it be, when we're still out of work? Members are calling up our business agent begging--begging for work because they're going to lose their homes."
Few of the president's points convinced Kinder. Leaning forward in his chair, Kinder grew frustrated at the continuing applause and what he said was Reagan "grandstanding for every group across the board. He's just saying things to please the public. That tax cut doesn't help us any. The high tech is for younger workers.
"The future doesn't look good at all," Kinder said. "I can't find that rosy picture he [Reagan] sees."